‘Do not let Sri Lanka off the hook’ – Freedom from Torture

The British Charity Freedom from Torture, has stated that the Sri Lankan government’s commitment to eradicate torture cannot be trusted and call upon the international community to ensure that it is held accountable for any breach of the UN Convention Against Torture. In a statement released on Friday, the group said, “It is clear as day under international law that torture is wrong in all circumstances , whoever the victim – be they combatant or civilian, man or woman. Allegations must be investigated; torturers must be held to account. " " Let us hope that governments around the world do not let Sri Lanka off the hook if the government fails to achieve the justice it has promised through its own means." "Given the shocking cases of torture we have documented – survivors arriving at our door in the UK with the resulting mental and physical scars still fresh – the government's word on torture is not something we can hold in any regard. ” It comes after the UN Committee Against Torture meeting concluded this week, where Sri Lanka’s abuses were once again under the spotlight.

Parliament passes expropriation bill

Sri Lanka’s parliament has passed the controversial nationalisation bill, clearing the way for the government to take over 37 companies. The "Revival of Under-performing Enterprises and Under-utilised Assets Act" allows the takeover of companies that are deemed to be underperforming by the government. Opposition leader Ranil Wikremesinghe and the influential Buddhist clergy have spoken out against the new bill. The 37 companies to be nationalised include several companies with foreign capital and businesses owned by supporters of the main opposition. See our previous articles: Supreme Court...

India raises fishing issue with Rajapakse

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse on Thursday, where he raised the issue of the Sri Lankan Navy’s frequent attacks on Tamil Nadu fishermen. The 45-minute meeting took place on the sidelines of the SAARC summit in the Maldives, and comes as Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai ended a three-day trip to Sri Lanka, where he also discussed the issue with the Sri Lankan President. Last week, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa wrote to Manmohan Singh, urging him to “take a strong stand” against Colombo and "convey its serious apprehension through tough words and action", after a recent spate of attacks by the Sri Lankan Navy. The letter read , “I am constrained to point out that all the concerns of the Centre and Government of Tamil Nadu in this regard have only fallen on deaf ears where the Sri Lankan authorities are concerned .”

Free press campaigners condemn Sri Lanka's proposed media regulation

The Committee to Protect Journalists has criticised the Sri Lankan government's announcement to enforce regulation of the media, in a statement released on Thursday. CPJ said, "The CPJ is concerned by the Sri Lankan government's announcement of an upcoming set of guidelines and code of conduct for journalists and media organizations, and believes these regulations will only increase the government's control of the media ." Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia program coordinator, said, "Website registration rules, the blocking of websites, and now talk of media guidelines are indicators that the pressure on...

'Sri Lanka's Killing Fields' - More evidence to be aired

Channel 4 has confirmed that they are working on a follow up to their critically acclaimed documentary “Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields" which will reveal new evidence of war crimes committed by Sri Lankan Government forces. The film, entitled “Sri Lanka's Killing Fields : War Crimes Unpunished”, will contain contemporaneous documents, eye-witness accounts, as well as photographs and videos revealing the final events of the war, and will be screened in the new year. Jon Snow, who presented the first documentary said , 'I'm very proud that the new year will see a follow up to our widely-acclaimed...

UN: Secret detention centres in Sri Lanka

The UN Committee against Torture (CAT) has said that several secret detention centres exist in Sri Lanka, with torture and killings widespread. Vice Chair of the CAT, Felice Gaer, said an independent investigation is needed to look into the allegations. "Sri Lanka Army and affiliated Para military groups have run and made possible to run secret facilities which torture and extra judicial killings, have it is claimed, perpetrated" she said She informed the session that the UN Working Gropup on Disappearances holds Sri Lanka as haing the second highest number of disappearances in the world. "While many of these cases have been clarified there are more than 5,000 that haven't been" said Miss Felice Gaer.

International human rights groups urge UN to act on Silva

Ten international human rights organisations have urged the UN to suspend the diplomatic credentials of Sri Lanka's Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN and former army commander, Shavendra Silva, following the overwhelming evidence of war crimes made against him. The organisations consist of SPEAK Human Rights and Environmental Initiative, UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic at American University Washington College of Law, Center for Constitutional Rights, Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School, Human Rights USA, World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, TRIAL, Campaign Against Criminalising Communities, Society for Threatened Peoples Writing in a joint letter to the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, the ten organisations said, “ Overwhelming evidence showing that the Government of Sri Lanka perpetrated war crimes and crimes against humanity compels the suspension of General Silva’s credentials ,” “Permitting General Silva to retain his credentials would send a message to lawbreaking governments around the world that the United Nations will not defend the cause of justice and that it will shelter war criminals and perpetrators of mass atrocities.” "Sri Lanka should not be rewarded with unlimited immunity for war crimes for militarizing its diplomatic positions . "I urge you to encourage the Credentials Committee to recommend to the General Assembly that General Silva’s credentials be suspended, and thereby ensure that the victims of torture and war crimes have their day in court ." Silva is facing a lawsuit in a New York federal court for war crimes, including torture, extrajudicial killing and the intentional shelling of civilians during Sri Lanka’s armed conflict. On Tuesday, attorneys filed a response to the Sri Lankan General, Shavendra Silva’s motion to dismiss the war crimes indictment made against him arguing diplomatic immunity. The lead counsel in the lawsuit against Silva, Ali Beydoun, who is also, director at American University Washington College of Law’s UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic and a Senior Partner at SPEAK Human Rights & Environmental Initiative said, “ The United Nations has a war criminal within its ranks. This is a moral and legal offense ,” " Silva should not be allowed to manipulate diplomatic immunity to use it as a shield for his crimes. ” “As the largest international body protecting peace and justice, the United Nations has a duty to allow a full investigation into General Silva’s war crimes.

EU express ‘concern’ over website bans

In a statement released Tuesday morning, the EU Heads of Mission in Colombo stated their concern over the growing lack of media freedom in Sri Lanka, after a recent crackdown on anti-government websites. The statement adds to the growing pressure on Sri Lanka, after the US and other free media organisations criticised moves by the Sri Lankan government stifling media freedom. A recent spate of website bans took place on the island after it was claimed they insulted government officials. The full EU statement said, “EU Heads of Mission in Colombo view with concern the recent blocking of...

Sri Lanka ‘acting’ to curb torture – Peiris

A Sri Lankan delegation, led by Mohan Pieris, told the UN Committee Against Torture on Tuesday that they are acting to curb torture committed by its security forces. He told the panel that the Sri Lankan government agrees “110 percent” that there must be no tolerance for torture. Their claims come as several human rights organisations, including Amnesty International and Freedom from Torture, released reports which include damning evidence of systematic state sponsored torture camps. Yolande Foster from Amnesty International said, " There is no longer an independently functioning unit...

Supreme Court backs government's expropriation bill

Sri Lanka's Supreme Court has backed the government's contentious expropriation bill . The court ruled that the controversial legislation, which would allow the government to acquire enterprises and assets deemed to be underperforming is consistent with the country's constitution. Parliament was informed of the court ruling on Tuesday. Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody said, "The Supreme Court has informed its decision that, subject to the drafting of errors, the bill has not been found inconsistent with the constitution," Weerakkody did not elaborate on the 'errors' identified. The bill is...