24 June, 2024

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Crackdown Over Civil War Anniversary: UN Report Calls For International Prosecutions For Enforced Disappearances

Sri Lankan authorities have threatened and detained Tamils commemorating those who died or went missing in the country’s civil war, Human Rights Watch said today. On May 17, 2024, the United Nations human rights office issued a report calling for international prosecutions and other accountability measures to address the thousands of unresolved cases of enforced disappearances in the war, which ended on May 18, 2009.

“The Sri Lankan government is in denial about atrocities its forces committed during the civil war, so it tries to silence victims and their communities instead of providing truth, justice, and reparations,” said Elaine Pearson, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “It’s clear that more international action is needed to bring relief to victims and prevent a recurrence of abuses.”

Prior to the May 18 anniversary, police in Sri Lanka’s north and east attempted to disrupt commemoration events. In Trincomalee, they detained four people for seven days for serving “kanji,” a rice porridge symbolic of the starvation conditions many civilians suffered at the end of the war. The authorities also obtained court orders to prevent some relatives of forcibly disappeared people and others from attending events. At some locations, police intervened to prevent events from proceeding, or to block people from reaching them.

In the war’s final months in 2009, the Sri Lankan military bombarded “no fire zones” it had designated, killing tens of thousands of Tamil civilians, while the retreating separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) used civilians as human shields. After the LTTE’s final defeat, the Sri Lankan army forcibly disappeared an unknown number of people; many are believed to have been extrajudicially executed.

Enforced disappearances are defined under international law as the arrest or detention of a person by the authorities followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty, or to reveal the person’s fate or whereabouts.

On May 17 the UN Sri Lanka Accountability Project, established in 2021 to collect evidence of international crimes for use in future prosecutions, published a report on enforced disappearances in Sri Lanka. It found that in 15 years there has been no “tangible progress in realizing victims’ rights,” and therefore “there remains a real risk of recurrence.”

The Accountability Project said that foreign governments should “use all available forms of leverage” to press the Sri Lankan authorities to ensure truth, justice, and reparations for victims. It also calls for “investigations and prosecution [in foreign courts] using universal jurisdiction,” and “the appropriate imposition of targeted sanctions.”

Under the legal principle of universal jurisdiction, countries can prosecute individuals for serious international crimes committed elsewhere. While no country has yet issued an arrest warrant in relation to enforced disappearances in Sri Lanka, prosecutors from several countries have contacted the Accountability Project seeking evidence that may support future cases.

Since the 1970s, tens of thousands of people have been “disappeared” in Sri Lanka, about 90 percent of them believed to have been abducted by state security forces. The Sri Lankan government has previously acknowledged that between 1988 and 1990 alone around 27,000 people were forcibly disappeared. Victims include people deemed to be members or supporters of opposition armed groups, as well as journalists, and human rights defenders.

Many relatives of the disappeared, often their mothers and wives, have campaigned for years to press the government to provide information about what happened to them and to see those responsible brought to justice. The relatives often face harassment and surveillance from security and intelligence agencies.

A woman campaigning for justice for her husband, who disappeared in 2000, told Human Rights Watch in 2023 that, “Since my husband was abducted, I lost my freedom to do routine activities.… Even if I go to the market or temple, [security officers] ask, ‘Where are you going?’”

In September 2023, a judge fled the country, having received death threats after ordering the investigation of a mass grave that had recently been accidentally uncovered. Among those appointed in recent years as commissioners of the Office of Missing Persons, the government agency that is supposed to establish what happened to the disappeared, was a former senior police officer who had responsibility for units accused of carrying out enforced disappearances.

Although reported disappearances have declined in recent years, in the absence of reform or accountability, the practice remains entrenched within security forces. On March 14, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka asked the attorney general to investigate evidence that police had held a man in secret detention in April, assaulted him, and threatened to kill him.

The Sri Lankan government should immediately carry out the UN report’s recommendations, Human Rights Watch said, including acknowledging the scale of enforced disappearances, pursuing prompt and credible investigations, seeking international technical assistance to investigate mass graves, establishing an independent prosecutorial authority, and repealing legislation that enables abuses, including the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

Foreign governments and UN agencies should also implement the report’s recommendations, including “using all forms of leverage” to press the Sri Lankan government to act, providing technical assistance for exhumations, pursuing prosecutions abroad under universal jurisdiction, and stricter vetting of Sri Lankan personal involved in UN peacekeeping operations, Human Rights Watch said. “Sri Lanka has a horrific record on enforced disappearances that causes profound suffering to victims’ families and puts the country at risk of future violations,” Pearson said. “It is vitally important for the UN Human Rights Council to renew the Sri Lanka Accountability Project’s mandate in September, and for prosecutors around the world to make use of the evidence gathered to bring those responsible to justice.”

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Latest comments

  • 20
    3

    To expect GoSL to take actions against its own officials of the Defence Ministry is not going to happen.The Tamil Speaking SL citizens are hoping for the rest of the world start to take actions against those responsible for the heinous crimes against humanity.
    It is really sad that the North and East areas are being OPEN PRISON for Tamil Speaking SL citizens. They need a Federal State or Autonomous part of SL.

  • 5
    11

    An international effort was launched in April 2009 to register the innocent people and LTTE members trapped in Mullivaikal and evacuate them from the war zone by ship with the presence of international countries. Countries like India and USA including the UN Secretary-General were encouraging that effort from the background and to provide the necessary cooperation. Arrangements were made to evacuate innocent people and to take those who wanted to countries willing to accept their asylum claims. Unfortunately the project was rejected by LTTE leader Prabhakaran, when Eric Solheim was ready to conclude the final agreement. Had all the activities would have been carried out through formal records with the presence of the International Community, it would have avoided incidents such as the loss of life, torture and disappearances that are now being alleged to have taken place in the final days of the war and they would still be alive. Due to poor decisions taken by Prabakaran during the last years of the war number of murders took place on the pretext of traitors. Mention should also be made that had measures be taken to convert Palaly as an International Airport with the assistance of Japan, such disappearances would not have taken place for which Lalith Athulathmudali & Gamini Dissnayake were promoting while Mavai Senathiraja was talking non-sense about Tamil homeland at that time.

    • 9
      3

      What a nonsense from Ayathurai?

      • 2
        9

        Ajith,
        It is not non-sense. It is very difficult to digest the truth. I do not know whether you have confronted with such behaviours of terrorists. But I have been moving with the Sinhalese and also with the suspected agents of those LTTE terrorists. Do you know how I would have felt when my friends were murdered by these terrorists. One line of thinking only. Never cared to look after the people whether they are Tamils or Sinhalese. It is also a pity that Mavai short IQ.

        • 7
          3

          Ayathuray,
          You only worried about what happened to you and your friends by LTTE but I lived in Tamil, Sinhala, Muslim people, before , during the period of war, Indian military and the terrorism of Sinhala military, Sinhala racists, and Indian military, LTTE and Other Para military groups and I have witnessed the sufferings of the people under these terrorism. Who asked about IQ of Mawai. Don’t under estimate the terrorism of India. India used 35 Tamil youths groups by giving arms and training to fight Sinhalese military and then gave arms and training to Sinhalese military to kill the Tamils.

          • 3
            5

            Ajith,
            Don’t think you only lived among the Tamils, Sinhalese, Sri Lanka Military & Indian military. Even I lived among them together contacts with higher authorities after witnessing their sufferings. In fact, I wrote articles suggesting for peace. I know how the IPKF was harassed by the LTTE. I know how Premadasa assisted the LTTE openly by sending arms straight from Colombo harbour to the Vanni region. Mawai could have maintained silence. As for India, it is the only country which always monitor the activities of terrorists. Recently the arrests of 4 muslim terrorists was a case in point. It is a pity Sri Lanka couldn’t arrest those four terrorists even at the Colombo Airport.

      • 3
        3

        I complete agree with you AYATHURAY RAJASINGAM is a retarded person it is not Tamil living with Sinhalese is a problem the problem is Tamil Homeland is force fully
        colonized with the Sinhalese by all Sinhalese leaders and obviously Tamils can’t live
        with the colonized Sinhalese.
        But at the same time those who worship Prabaharan as Tamil National Leader
        don’t have any brain. How can any one can call Prabaharan is a great leader after thirty years of suffering loss of lives especially young Tamil Youths left Tamils in a much worsened condition than thirty years

        • 4
          1

          Navam,

          “But at the same time those who worship Prabaharan as Tamil National Leader don’t have any brain.”
          I thought your brain is much better than those who worship Prabhaharan as Tamil Leader. You don’t need to worship Prabhaharan or any other leaders. You yourself told that Tamils can’t live with the colonised Sinhalese. At least Prabhaharan was able to stop colonisation of North East for at least 30 years. Most of the colonisation happened during the period before Prabhaharan and after Prabaharan. The diminishing of Tamils economic condition started from the independence and Tamils have lost their lives and businesses and unemployment grow day by day in the name riots, colonisation etc. Rather than blaming Prabhaharan why can’t you think yourself what can you do improve the living standard of those living in worsened condition.

    • 4
      3

      Naman and AR, Whatever the past of mistakes of all people, If you leave it behind and accept this homeland of Sri Lanka, you could have a better future and peace of mind. Otherwise, you will have to keep howling till death overtakes you.

      • 4
        1

        dtg
        You should advise God Almighty to patch up with his nemesis.
        Their contest has gone on for too long.

      • 1
        4

        davidthegood,
        Absolutely correct. when proposing peace proposals or evacuating the refugees, one should act with spirituality in mind. This is what Ban-ki-Moon was trying to formulate process of saving the trapped innocent Tamils.

    • 3
      5

      Just a rectification. Lalith Athulathmudali & Gamini Dissanayake together with some prominent figures both in Sinhalese and Tamil gave the LTTE an option in the year 1992 for a settlement, but Prabaharan was adamant. It was during this time that Palaly was to be converted as an International Airport. Mavai Senathirajah insisted Tamil homeland will be lost. Error is regretted for not mentioning the year. It was published in the DUNF’s publication ‘EAGLE’.

      • 5
        1

        “Lalith Athulathmudali & Gamini Dissanayake together with some prominent figures both in Sinhalese and Tamil gave the LTTE an option in the year 1992 for a settlement,”
        May we know what the option was?
        LA & GD were both out of power and what could they offer that was deliverable?

      • 4
        0

        Ayathurai,
        SWRD also proposed Federalism, SWRD agreed with Selva, Dudley agreed with Selva, JRJ proposed for District Council, Chandrika proposed for Union of Sri Lanka, Norway Proposed for Federalism Mahinda proposed for 13Plus, India brought 13, Ranil proposed for something etc.
        Who was Lalith & Gamini? Are they prime Ministers of Sri Lanka? I understand they were in Jaffna during the burning of Jaffna library?
        Why can’t they implement any of them now? Why can’t they appoint a Governors for Northern and eastern Province from TNA? Why can’t they implement 13 in full?

    • 1
      2

      “Arrangements were made to evacuate innocent people and to take those who wanted to countries willing to accept their asylum claims.”
      What arrangements to transfer a few hundred thousand people trapped in a small plot of land?
      Can you furnish a few factual details instead of fibbing?
      We seem to be in an age of fairy tales, counter fairy tales, counter counter fairy tales and so on.

  • 2
    13

    If our security forces and political leadership at that time wanted to wipe out so called Tamils from northern part of Lanka They could have easily done that when most of so-called Tamils were cornerd at Nandi cadal lagoon area for 2- or 3-kilometer area in length & around 500 meters wide small area. 4 5 bombs from air could have done that. Instead of such masker our forces and politician advised our forces to rescued them under LTTEs heavy fire. It is a human rescue operation without even taking recausens for their lives. That was why It was called Humanitarian operation No such humanitarian’s military operation took place anywhere in the world in the military operations history

    • 9
      6

      The end of war in 2009 was a victory for LTTE and Tamil people. Within 15 years the country became bankrupt and now Rajapaksas have thrown away from country. Now the Sinhalese fundamentalist are begging around the world and finally they were fed by Tamils of Tamil Nadu.
      Like Ramayana Hanumar burnt Sri Lanka, Hundreds of Fundamentalist homes were burnt by Sinhalese in 2022. Do we need evidence to prove that the Fundamentalim

      • 2
        4

        “The end of war in 2009 was a victory for LTTE and Tamil people. “
        So it will be celebrations on the day after mourning of the deaths.

        • 1
          2

          “Nakkura Naikku Chekenne Sivalingam Enna.”
          Those who claim that they don’t understand English only to play their nasty “Nakkals”, after having earned from SLFP-Slap Party Aanduwas causing pain to the Tamils should understand the language the proverb is in. Some don’t have shame. By the convulsing power of their foolishness, they do anything that they believe is destroying their enemies.

        • 4
          2

          I know you celebrated “kiribath” war victory with your kings but those kings who brought bankruptcy now chased away by the same people.

    • 1
      4

      Adivasiya, The tamil and sinhala people in SL have always lived in all areas without trying to wipe out. It was mainly around and after Mullivaikal that some short lived unnecessary difficulties arose and some wrong deeds happened. My vision is unity and not separatism.

      • 1
        5

        Absolutely correct.

        • 4
          1

          What is right?
          Tamils in Colombo were dragged from homes and burnt in streets and sent others by ships to northeast in 1958 or black July in 1983 ?

  • 2
    5

    We do not have to worry about LTTE pay list commentators’ comments. So called AJITH must be one such man. I think he is looking for a pay hike as his children who are studying in Europe may be required more money. Anyway, that is not our issue. that is up to them to sort out, coming back to his comments I must say JVPers burnt some houses belongs PA parliamentarians that is type of JVPers. Spreads of hate among publics is their pleasures. Still PA is leading among villages.as MR is responsible for defeating LTTE and giving general public their rights

    • 4
      1

      Adivasiya,
      “So called AJITH must be one such man.”
      I am happy that my comments touched your hearts even though you are a paid commentator by former King Family. It is robbed money by your Kings which was proved by your supreme court. The fact is the people who burnt those MPs are not JVPers, they are the true Sinhalese people who knew well these houses are built using the robbed money from people. MR is responsible for not only defeating LTTE but also Sinhalese as well.

  • 0
    1

    As long as India, Japan, America, EU and other democratic countries pamper the Rowdy Royals & Evil Emperor’s government, JVP will prosper, here on, will prosper with the Ceylonese support. One time a terrorist organization under the leadership of Wijeweera like criminals and was responsible for the death of 12-15 thousand Sinhala Buddhist civilians, and another 60-120 thousand Sinhala youths at the hand of the barbarian Rapist Army, now a well-respected, re-born, model democratic party. All in the past the criminals who washed the government’ ministers called themselves “Communists”, now are washed out by reality. Taking Trotsky’s idealism to their evil deeds in the name of saving Up Country Tamils, N. M. Perera, Covin, Pieter Keuneman became third grade souls in politics, while JVP came from violence to honest democracy. A unique history within Ceylon political parties!
    Now the Sinhalese don’t want labels, but sincerity in what the politicians say and do. Siritunga Jayasuriya, Wickrama Baku all are honest but failed to make real doers follow them. Tamil Parties in the North and East failed to accommodate people’s concern but compromised too much to win the international hooray. Now there is a suspicion within Tamils that in the coming election, not even one MP could identify him or her as the one from famous, past Tamil Party, the TNA. Evil did such an enormous blow to TNA with the Secret Solution.

  • 0
    1

    Somewhere in 2017, the HRW warned that the West’s neglect of the cheat of Evil’s Secret Solution was destroying the TNA, so if the TNA lost, Tamils would stand to face serious danger. What an experiences forecast was that in the international politics. Sampanthan Aiya, the farmer, cut the neck of his favorite pet lamb only to give a feast for his unscrupulous Muthalalies. Now the lamb (Federal Party) is gone and the Muthalalies are saying that they have a lot to benefit from competitions, so they don’t want Tamils’ connection, which makes suspension on them within the Tamils’ competition. Especially Sampanthan Aiya sacrificed Tamils on the feet of Evil and West for nothing. Sumanthiran, who was keeping TNA out and negotiating the secret solution with Evil, declared that he would quit politics if he could not have the secret solution finalized. But, after dissolving the TNA, he sued the federal party through agents to make him the leader of FP. It sounds like he expected him to be automatically installed as the leader of FP, once he had killed the TNA. The disappointed Sumanthiran PC is now seeking revenge to destroy the Federal Party by promoting Evil in the North East.

  • 0
    2

    Sumanthiran did not win the general election last time but was brought into TNA by the current Federal Party President for personal benefits. The votes stolen for Sumanthiran was from the only woman candidate who had a chance to win in TNA. She deserved it after Rowdy Royal killed her husband because he was working hard for Tamils and Yahapalanaya Evil used a Sinhala only Speaking Jury to dismiss the case for the name’s sake of that “Evil was the one Saved the Rapist Armies”.

    Don Stephen, after he had got the Soulbury constitution ratified cooli Tamil Ministers, said to their face “Tell me if they are Tamils, I can buy them with a cup of coffee”. After defeating LTTE in Wanni with the international governments supplied bombs and planes, Rowdy Old King said, “I will use them to destroy them. TNA, on which the Tamils depended for their protection has now become the most dangers traitor of Tamils. While the Southern politics constructively move forward, in the North, Sumanthiran, Sritharan, Mavai, Vijaya Kala all are spearing read carpet to Evil and adoring the Evil as the Angel who saved the country and the Rapist Army.

  • 0
    1

    When in 2015, India and West were installing regime change with Chandika and Sampanthan Aiya, we wrote these prophetic words on the Rosetta stone of Ceylon politics called “CT”. They are still preserved in the Library of Congress. At that time, we were the only ones dug into JVP saying” Your Communism will not work, work with Sinhalese to change their mind towards civility.” Now JVP has come with the swore to make a change. The biggest revolution in Ceylon political history is, even if eventually JVP abandons Systemic Change, but has used it to milk votes, by a victory overturning the UNP-SLFP union will be a historical event.
    Long after from the time of the attempt of using unattainable democracy with the Universal Franchise of Sinhalese, JVP dragged the middle class to re-create democracy. Middle class Sinhalese and the erudite leaders have to act. They need to blow the war conch high inviting the laymen to join them in the revolution. Unlike the British lower class who have grown up from their Lords’ Magna Carta, Sinhala laymen cannot lead, though it was wrongly expected by the universal Franchise, but they can vote. Now the ball is in the hands of the Sinhala Middle class.

  • 0
    1

    They are people who have to take charge of JVP, guide to destiny, and bring the desperately needed changes for Ceylon. The classical example of what the educated people should not do is Vasanthi, the UOJ VC, used the University Letterheads to bully staff and students to vote for the Rowdy Royals.
    They must make sure JVP gives a final blow to the notorious, unscrupulous UNP-SLFP union criminals who used politics to spend $400B in war they created and deposited 30-40 billion in Western stock markets and banks. One side the Tamils and Sinhala Children demised in the Aanduwas created wars and on the other side, these suckers sucked in billions for them and for the foreign agents who were floating massive White Elephants. What a sheer waste of people’s toil and pain.

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