Killings go on but on lesser scale: US country report on Lanka

The US government’s Sri Lanka country report on Human Rights Practices 2011 states although the number of unlawful killings decreased from the figures of the previous year, there were reports that Government affiliated military or para-military groups continued with such killings. The report complied under seven major headings pointed out three such killings - two by the Police and one by the STF.

It further accused the Government of killing and assaulting civilians by “unknown actors suspected of association with pro-government paramilitary groups” associated with Government Minister Karuna and Eastern Province Chief Minister S. Chandrakanthan alias “Pillaiyan,” in the East and the EPDP led by Minister D. Devananda in Jaffna.

“While some killings were criminal acts, other appeared to be politically motivated, targeting persons believed to be LTTE sympathizers,” it said.

The report stated that though enforced, involuntary disappearances also declined from the previous year, still such disappearances continued with many of them politically motivated, targeting civil activists and LTTE sympathizers. Among reported incidents is the disappearance of Lalith Kumar Weeraraj and Kugan Muruganadan.

According to the Police there had been 1,700 abductions reported in the two years 2009 and 2010 mainly carried out by extortionists. The UN Working Group Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances noted 5,653 “outstanding cases” as at the end of 2010.

The report also stated that no progress had been shown in connection with thousands of disappearances, including that of the journalist and cartoonist Prageeth Ekneligoda, who disappeared on January 24, 2010, just before the General Election and the disappearance of Stephen Sunthararaj, the project manager at the Centre for Human Rights and Development.

The report alleged that the Government failed to publish the findings relating to any disappearances or whether indictments were handed down or anyone who had been involved convicted.

The report stated that there are credible reports that the security forces tortured and abused citizens although accurate statistics on reported torture cases have not been published. The report stated that the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has complied 1,500 cases of Police torture from 1982 to 2011.

It mentioned various torture methods employed at the Boossa detention centre where LTTE suspects were kept. It also noted that there were “credible allegations” that the Government maintained undisclosed facilities where LTTE sympathizers were tortured and killed.

The conditions at the prisons did not meet international standards due to over crowding and lack of sanitary facilities, the report said. “According to the prison officials and civil society sources, prisons designed for approximately 11,000 inmates held approximately 32,000 prisoners.”

The report pointed out that the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) has sweeping powers similar to the emergency regulations that had lapsed on August 31, 2011.The PTA empowers the detainees to be held for up to 18 months and indefinitely for pending trials.

There is widespread impunity particularly for the cases involving torture, corruption, human rights abuses and attacks on the media institutions. It alleged that the Government “consistently failed to solve attacks on journalists,” including that of the 2009 killing of Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunga, the 2010 abduction of Prageeth Ekneligoda and the July 29 attack on the Uthayan news editor Gnanasundaram Kuhanathan.

It also alleged the Government failed further inquiries into high profile cases investigated by the 2006 Presidential Commission of Inquiry, including the 2006 killing of 17 local staff members of the French NGO Action Against Hunger (ACF) in Mutur.

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