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US State Dept 2012 report details on-going abuses against Tamils

The 2012 US State Department Human Rights report, released on Friday, detailed the abuses that took continued to place through out last year, as well as pointing out that "a disproportionate number of victims of human rights violations were Tamils."

See here for full report. Extracts have been reproduced below.  

Executive Summary:

"The major human rights problems were attacks on and harassment of civil society activists, persons viewed as Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) sympathizers, and journalists by persons allegedly tied to the government, creating an environment of fear and self-censorship; involuntary disappearances as well as a lack of accountability for thousands who disappeared in previous years; and widespread impunity for a broad range of human rights abuses, particularly involving police torture, and attacks on media institutions and the judiciary.

Other serious human rights problems included unlawful killings by security forces and government-allied paramilitary groups, often in predominantly Tamil areas; torture and abuse of detainees by police and security forces; poor prison conditions; and arbitrary arrest and detention by authorities."

"There were restrictions on freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, and movement. While citizens generally were able to travel almost anywhere in the island, there continued to be police and military checkpoints in the north, and de facto high-security zones and other areas remained off limits to citizens. Authorities harassed journalists critical of the government and self-censorship was widespread."

Long-standing, systematic discrimination of Tamils:

"Both local and Indian-origin Tamils maintained that they suffered long-standing, systematic discrimination in university education, government employment, and other matters controlled by the government. Tamils throughout the country, but especially in the north and east, reported that security forces and paramilitary groups frequently harassed young and middle-age Tamil men."

Paramilitaries:

"Unknown actors suspected of association with progovernment paramilitary groups committed killings and assaulted civilians. There were persistent reports of close ties between progovernment paramilitary groups such as the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) and government security forces. Whereas these groups served more of a military function during the war, often working in coordination with security forces, they increasingly took on the characteristics of criminal gangs as they sought to solidify their territory and revenue sources in the postwar environment."

"Progovernment paramilitary groups and gangs affiliated with political parties inhibited freedom of expression, particularly in the north. Members of the EPDP reportedly were involved in harassment and intimidation of journalists in Jaffna."

Disappearances:

"Enforced and involuntary disappearances continued to be a problem."

"Some abductions included government critics, former LTTE cadre, and other targets, leading observers to conclude the involvement of the government or government-allied forces in several cases."

"There was no significant progress made with regard to the thousands of disappearances from past years. The government did not publish the results of any investigations into disappearances, nor did it publish information on any investigations, indictments, or convictions of anyone involved in cases related to disappearances."

Intimidation, torture and sexual assault by Sri Lankan security forces:

"There were credible reports that police and security forces tortured and abused citizens. The Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) allows for confessions from torture to be admitted as evidence."

"In the east and the north, military intelligence and other security personnel, sometimes allegedly working with paramilitaries, were responsible for the documented and undocumented detention of civilians suspected of LTTE connections. Detention reportedly was followed by interrogation that sometimes included mistreatment or torture. There were reports that detainees were released with a warning not to reveal information about their arrest or detention, under the threat of rearrest or death.

Human rights groups claimed that some security forces believed torture to be allowed under specific circumstances. Several former LTTE combatants released from rehabilitation centers reported torture or mistreatment, including sexual harassment, by government officials while in rehabilitation centers. Police endorsed incorporating a full human rights curriculum and lesson plan developed by UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights into police training curriculum during the year.

There were reports that individual cases of gender-based violence perpetrated by members of the security forces occurred in areas with heavy security force presence, but others stated that military officials were responsive to reports of such incidents and showed a willingness to prosecute the offenders. Some observers suggested that there was reluctance by victims to report such incidents in northern and eastern areas where security forces were prevalent. There were a number of credible reports of sexual violence against women where the alleged perpetrators were armed forces personnel, police officers, army deserters, or members of militant groups. A number of women did not lodge official complaints due to fear of retaliation."

"Reintegration of former combatants released from rehabilitation remained challenging due to intensive surveillance by the military, social stigma (some people were afraid to associate themselves with ex-combatants who regularly had to report to the army), employment difficulties, and psychological trauma."


Tamils and a fair trial:

"There was no procedure in place to address the legal status of former LTTE combatants held in rehabilitation centers. Lawyers who defended human rights cases sometimes were under physical and verbal threats."

"The law requires court proceedings and other legislation to be available in English, Sinhala, and Tamil. In practice most courts outside of Jaffna and the northern parts of the country conducted business in English or Sinhala. A shortage of court-appointed interpreters restricted the ability of Tamil-speaking defendants to receive a fair hearing in many locations, but trials and hearings in the north were in Tamil and English. Few legal textbooks existed in Tamil."

Land grab and Sinhala colonisation:

"The law provides for the right to privacy; however, the government infringed on these rights, particularly when conducting cordon and search operations in Tamil neighborhoods. Security forces conducted searches of property and engaged in wiretapping and surveillance of private citizens with little judicial oversight. Seizure of private lands by various actors remained a problem across the country. There were reports of government-aided resettlement of Sinhala families from the south into traditionally Tamil areas."

"Limited access continued near military bases and the HSZs where civilians could not enter. The defacto HSZs extended in an approximately 2.5-mile radius from the fences of most military camps and restricted access to those trying to earn their livelihood, affecting Tamil agricultural lands, particularly in the Northern Province."

Vilification of activists:

"The government attempted to impede criticism throughout the year, including through harassment, intimidation, violence, and imprisonment. For example, state-run media vilified activists and journalists supportive of the March 22 UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution on Sri Lanka. State television programs focused on thinly disguised photographs of activists marked as “traitors” and pledged to expose them. The government monitored political meetings, particularly in the north and east. There also were credible reports that civilian and military officials questioned local residents and groups who met with foreign diplomats regarding the content of their meetings."

"State-run media led a widespread campaign against human rights defenders, particularly those engaged with UN processes, including the 19th session of the UNHRC beginning in February in Geneva. Press freedom activists and organizations, human rights defenders, and political activists were accused in the media of being part of a conspiracy against the country by bringing the ongoing violations of human rights in the country to the attention of the international community."

"Throughout January the state-run Independent Television Network repeatedly broadcast footage of press freedom activists participating in protest campaigns during the September 2011 UNHRC sessions. The broadcasts alleged that the activists were associated with or had sympathy for the LTTE and claimed some were paid by LTTE remnants."

Respect for Civil Liberties:

"On November 28, Jaffna University students clashed with security forces during student demonstrations on campus. The students were demonstrating in response to the military’s entry into Jaffna University dormitories a day earlier to discourage commemoration of “Heroes Day,” the unofficial day of remembrance for the LTTE. During the demonstration security forces, including both the police and army, charged at the students with batons and beat some of them. Twenty students were reportedly injured in the clashes, with seven needing hospital treatment."

Resettlement of IDPs:

"Many IDPs resettled in the Mullaitivu District reported the government provided land that had been hastily cleared of land mines and unexploded ordnance, did not have adequate shelter, water and sanitation, health and education services, or provisions to continue their livelihoods. The resettlement process was in some cases dangerously rushed by government authorities."

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