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US State Dept reports on ongoing human rights violations in Sri Lanka

The 2016 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, released by the US Department of State, reports that “arbitrary arrest, lengthy detention, surveillance, and harassment of civil society activists, journalists, members of religious minorities, and persons viewed as sympathizers of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE),” are the most pressing human rights issues in Sri Lanka.

With respect to several of these concerns, the report commented on the role of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

“The PTA gives authority for government authorities to enter homes and monitor communications without judicial or other authorization, and there were reports the government did so.”

In addition, under the section examining torture and other cruel treatment, the report stated, “There were credible reports that police and military forces abducted, tortured, and sexually abused citizens. The Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) allows courts to admit as evidence any statements made by the accused at any time, and provides no exception for confessions extracted by torture.”

Despite the development of a circular that set procedures for arrests made under the PTA, the report stated that there continues to be unconfirmed instances of “threats, illegal detentions, torture, and abuse continued and that authorities targeted individuals involved in the transitional justice and reform process.”

Furthermore, “There were reports that authorities released detainees with a warning not to reveal information about their arrest or detention, under the threats of rearrest or death.” 

Mobilization against such human rights abuses were also acknowledged in the report, “Dozens of Tamil prisoners across the country, including former LTTE cadres, undertook three hunger strikes as of October, demanding an immediate resolution to their protracted detention.”

The report also enumerated a wide list of other concerns taking place on the island, including: threats against civil liberties, corruption, discrimination against vulnerable groups and the government’s attitude towards the investigation of human rights violation by international and non-governmental organizations.

On several instances the report described the disproportionate impact of human rights abuses on vulnerable groups. For example, in reference to rape and domestic abuse, the report stated, “Language barriers between service providers and victims also were reported in the north and east, where Tamil speaking victims lacked access to Tamil speaking service providers.“ Further, in reference to child labor, the report stated, “Children displaced by the war were especially vulnerable to employment in hazardous labor.”

The Human Rights Reports are released annually and cover nearly 200 countries – including any country receiving foreign assistance from the United States.

See full report here.

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