30 June, 2022


No Serendipity For Sri Lanka

By Nicolas Beger

Nicolas Beger

The recent impeachment of Sri Lanka’s Chief Justice, Shirani Bandaranayake, has re-focused international attention on the country. Catherine Ashton, head of the EU’s External Action Service, has expressed “considerable concern”. However, the problem with Sri Lanka runs deeper than any single case. Despite the Sri Lankan Government’s claims of progress on human rights since the conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), also known as the ‘Tamil Tigers’, ended in 2009, the reality is very different.

For 30 years Sri Lanka was ravaged by civil war between the government and the LTTE, during which tens of thousands of civilians may have been killed. The war is over, but human rights violations persist. In 2011, the government lifted its state of emergency, but retained the repressive Prevention of Terrorism Act. The authorities also introduced new regulations, which maintain detention of LTTE suspects without charge or trial. And political activists, journalists, human rights defenders and others who criticise the government still face intimidation and smear campaigns, and some have been subjected to enforced disappearance.

The Sri Lankan Government has also failed to ensure accountability for alleged crimes under international law committed by its armed forces during the conflict. Allegations include indiscriminate attacks, some with heavy weapons, which resulted in civilian deaths, enforced disappearances, torture and extrajudicial executions. The LTTE, too, allegedly committed crimes under international law, including forcibly recruiting adults and children as combatants and using civilians as human shields. This goes beyond war crimes: in 2011, the report of the UN Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, stated that credible allegations supported a finding that various crimes against humanity had been committed by both sides during and after the conflict’s final stages.  The country’s Lessons Learnt & Reconciliation Commission recommended independent investigation and prosecution of these violations. The government responded with a National Plan of Action, but its proposed actions often mention existing mechanisms or procedures that we consider ineffective. It also asks agencies associated with violations to investigate and police themselves. This fails to meet international legal standards. How can anyone expect perpetrators of human rights violations to investigate themselves properly?

Here in Brussels, certain MEPs seem strangely determined to ignore the truth. At a hearing of Parliament’s human rights sub-committee last November, the ‘Friends of Sri Lanka’ group said the EU should offer a message of “sympathy and good will” to the Sri Lankan Government, and casually dismissed abuses as “mistakes”. Yet these MEPs have been confronted with evidence of arbitrary detention, torture, enforced disappearance, extrajudicial execution and other human rights violations. The Friends of Sri Lanka consistently deflects any criticism of the country’s human rights record, effectively acting as the Sri Lankan Government’s mouthpiece in Brussels. Why do they continue to defend the indefensible?

Fortunately, this group is heavily outnumbered by other MEPs who aren’t willing to ignore ample evidence of alleged violations. But overall the EU must be more vocal about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka. With the Sri Lankan Government continuing to commit grave human rights violations and refusing to ensure accountability for past crimes, the country is heading in diametrically the wrong direction.

The EU must extend its scrutiny and criticism of Sri Lanka beyond individual cases like the Chief Justice’s and focus on widespread violations of human rights. It must use all its influence with Sri Lanka to ensure justice for past violations and an end to the many present ones so that the people of Sri Lanka can enjoy the future that they deserve.

 *Nicolas Beger, Head of the EU office, Amnesty International

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 0

    Individuals in any democracy is guaranteed individual rights and freedoms. This is also guaranteed in the UN Charter.

    Because of their vulnerability, women are granted “Womens’ rights” and any child is entitled to the “Rights of a child” as prescribed by the UN.

    In Sri Lanka(SL), these individual rights have been grossly violated by the GOSL in the North-East(NE) for more than 50 years, leading to economic destruction and the genocide of Tamils by the Sri Lankan state.

    And now, the GOSL is trumpeting to the International Community about its “Economic dvelopment of North-East”; which is not self determined by the people of NE but imported and imposed in a manner the colonialists did in the last century.

    The former president Franklin D. Roosewelt of the United States of America, who is adored by the current presdident Barack Obama, said ” True individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence”.

    Obviously, it is only the independence of Tamil Eelam(TE) that can produce development geared by its citizens, that can also provide economic security and individual freedoms to the people of TE.

    • 0

      Sam clearly the Tamils are the aggrieved party. In the event of the Island being divided and given the Historic ill will between the 2 major nations the reality of a TE will not be peaceful. Given huge border that will come into existence, there is no doubt both countries will become police states. The army will come to dominate the governments in both states and consume a huge part of the national budgets, just like in Pakistan. That is just the tip of the Iceberg.

      It is safer for the Singhalese and Tamils to have each other in the same country to each others benefit as a check against our own weaknesses. Even though the Tamils have got the raw end of the deal, a quick tour of the southern districts show that all this excessive Sinhala Bhuddist Nationalism has had no positive effect on the quality or standard of life among the Sinhala rural folk. Building and roads should not be considered as quality of life indicators. Sooner, I think, rather than later both communities will realize that whole is way greater than sum of the parts. Now that, would be the best case scenario.

  • 0

    We have had a sample experience-a nightmare- of what would be ‘Tamil Eelam’, before the LTTE was defeated by the Mahinda Rajapakse government. Please do not hold out hopes about what ‘Indigenous/ non-imported’ development would be in the Tamil Eelam of your dreams. We have been so badly bitten once and fear even the thoughts of your Eelam. Please do not try to experiment with us as your guinea pigs.

    Please work towards establishing the Tamil Eelam you are dreaming of in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada and start developing it on the non-imported model you are suggesting. Let us see the results first. Wish you the best on that endeavor.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    • 0

      The above was a reply to Sam Thambipillai.


      • 0

        65-yr nightmare has not ended for the Tamils:

        ‘’Each and every Government which held office from 1948 till the present bear culpability for the failure to achieve good governance, national unity and a framework of peace, stability and economic development in which all ethnic, religious and other groups could live in security and equality. Our inability to manage our own internal affairs has led to foreign intervention but more seriously has led to the taking of arms by a desperate group of our citizens. we need to rectify this bad governance. We have already missed several opportunities in the past. We need to have State reform; we need to have rule of law established; we need to ensure non discrimination amongst our citizens; we need to have devolution of power and a tolerance of dissent and a strengthening of democratic institutions’’ – Jayantha Dhanapala’s submission to Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission(LLRC), August 2010

        ”But that truth cannot excuse human rights violations that currently afflict the nation as a whole; or for that matter obscure the looming threat of the cultural and political colonisation of the north by the Sinhala Buddhist majority” – Biased and Prejudiced Collection on Sri Lanka, *Gananath Obeyesekere, Economic & Political Weekly, VOL 47 No. 04, 28 January-03 February 2012

        ”Conflict-affected areas remain highly militarised, which has made progress towards achieving durable solutions more difficult. The military has become an important economic player and a key competitor of local people including returnees in the areas of agriculture, fishing, trade, and tourism. It has also been involved in areas that would normally come under civilian administration. It continues to occupy private land, thereby impeding IDPs’ return. The government has failed to make durable solutions a priority, and humanitarian organisations have faced funding shortages and restrictions on programming and access” – Sri Lanka: A hidden displacement crisis, Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, 31 October 2012

    • 0

      When are you setting up that fund for the ex-CJ that you talked about, we are waiting…..

  • 0

    For European standards, what happened in Sri Lanka is simply a heinous crime. Why the EU is not more vocal? France tacitely cooperated with the Sri Lankan secret service for the killing of a LTTE leader on French soil, the UK makes a lot of noise, but is more interested in striking deals on oil exploration in the Mannar Basin (Cairn and Vedanta, publicly lobbied in India by prime minister Cameron) and in arm trade (former Minister of Defence, resigned precisely for inappropriate conduct also with regards of Sri Lanka). Isn’t it time to respect the basic principle starting at home, instead of crying against developing countries? Syria, Libya on one side and Sri Lankan and Bahrain on the other.

  • 0

    No serendipity for the EU either. Unemployment in Spain is 26% yes more than a quarter of the working population does not have jobs and 60% among the youth under 25. Shocking. Unemployment in Greece is 25%. Unemployment in Portugal is 16%. There are constant demonstrations in these countries to massive cuts in subsidies. In Spain, Portugal and Greece and other EU countries there are now food banks for the poor. Very sad and upsetting. In Greece some pharmacies do not have medicines cause the govt has no cash to buy medicine or pay the pharmacists. There is EU wide recession with no growth in the economy in sight. Many youth in Spain and Portugal are leaving for jobs in South America! Others are becoming farmers because they cannot afford to any longer live in the cities. There is massive economic discontent.

    So there is definitely no serendipity for the EU. Why does not Amnesty International do something about these instead of poking their unwanted noses into Sri Lanka’s business?

  • 0

    We have the serendipity of the fools. So we can close our eyes and sleep under a tree thinking in our ignorance that we are in the wonder of asia. Country may go to the dogs but as long as its not us, why should we care? Selfishinity?

  • 0

    It is a known fact that Sri Lanka commits crimes after crimes. As for the battle against the LTTE, both the Government and the LTTE had committed serious war crimes. But after the war, the behaviour of Sri Lanka Armed Security Forces coupled with the assistance provided by MR was in directly a genocide war on the Tamils on various pretexts – by way of illegal arrests by Armed Security Forces and Police and keeping them in detention without producing to courts, interfering in the civil administration and Universities, changing the names of Tamil places and destroying the temples, threatening the journalists and NGOs, etc. It was something similar to the war waged on the Jews before the 2nd World War. Moreover, EU’s concern over abuse of human rights was justifiable as Sri Lanka had failed to ensure accountability for alleged crimes. MR has links with ME countries where uncivilized form of punishments without due process of law takes place. EU has a Human Rights Charter and a European Parliament – by which all member States are committed to respect human rights. But in SAARC neither it has a Human Rights Charter or a SAARC Parliament. It is only Regional Association (it can be described as an Association of beggars) where the real unity among the members are suspected as majority of the member countries lean towards China. One can imagine how India watched silently when a specific are densely populated with Tamils in Sri Lanka was bombed by Pakistan, China and Sri Lanka, without having any regard to the lives of innocent citizens. Had there been SAARC Parliament with a Human Rights Charter, would there be such a massacre of innocent civilians. Asian countries have to learn a lot from the EU in the formation of an Asian Union in future. Finally, the SC and the AC had given their verdicts that the impeachment of Dr.Shirani Bandaranayake was totally an illegal exercise. However, the President proceeded to impeach her illegally and the manner in which she was removed from her official residence demonstrated that there is an absence of Law and Order, in addition to the threats and assaults on the Judicial Officers. It must be mentioned that MR breached all Commonwealth values to which Sri Lanka has committed to abide by it by way of approving at various conferences. The year 2013 began with the rape of an actress by four men, two of whom belonged to the Air Force and more and more rapes occurred within the course of this month. Finally now it ended with the breaking of an arm of the Parliamentarian of the Opposition Party by another Parliamentarian of the ruling party over an alleged remark of the illegal kasippu business carried on by Chamal’s relative. What was more surprising both Parliamentarians had Government Security guards. Where is Law and Order and can justice be expected. It is time UNHCR declare Sri Lanka as a terror State like Libya, Egypt or Iraq., while CHOGM take adequate step to kick Sri Lanka from its membership.

    • 0

      Genocide is a very big word. Don’t bandy it about like one would use any other term. It is counter productive to the original intention, when the idea to use the term was thought of as a good idea.

  • 0

    Nicolas Berger is pissed off that a few MEPs are on the side of the great majority of Lankan inhabitants who happen to be the the rural poor who are doing OK in the current Economic Boom resulting from the peace and freedom in post Nanthikada environment.

    But he seems to give thanks for having the majority MPs on the side of the anti Lankan fronts both local and overseas.

    And prays that the EU members extend their intereference in Lanka.

    Their Economic intereference already left thousands of poor rural women in the Rag trade without their daily bread.

    The few remaining are about to get done too as one poster boasted in an earlier column.

    And Nicolas wants more.

    Lucky, Lankans don’t have power stations ,and ports ,financed or supplied by these EU members.

    But the AI mission statement says they are all about promoting Human Rights!!

  • 0

    If India did not block last UN resolution, USA would have brought in Greater sanctions against Sri Lanka, and President Rajapakse would have not Impeached CJ Shirani Bandaranayake. But due to India blocking full UN sanctions against Sri Lanka, Rajapakses used it for their advantage to suppress Citizens.
    But this year it’s going to be much different, and Rajapakses will be brought to Hague.
    Now MARA wants to scrap 13th amendment using foul mouthed Wimal Gonwansa..Read this web..

    Sixty Five (65) years after Independence, our main foreign exchange earner is our women working in ME as slave labor while Raja paula and govt.goons going in BMW, Mercedes Benz and Lamborghinis at the expense of poor Rizanas who are dying in ME daily. 6000 free trade lost and 200 factories closed in last three (3) months alone due to MR showing big head to EU and loosing GSP status. More job cuts to follow. 70% people live in Veddha like houses with Coconut leaf and tin roof cadjan houses. 50% children malnutrition and 40% under employed. Crook Gonwanse built his third house costing 70 million rupees
    Please watch following Web.

    Basil Rajapakse [Edited out]

    This is what the Raja paula does with their goons to poor peoples money when all Govt.corporations run including Air Lanka, Mihin, CEB, PC, CTB, Railway etc..run at Billions of Rupees loss while we pay the highest Rates for Electricity, Gasolene water and House gas in the whole of South East Asia.

    Hambanthota Crooks ever ruined our country. It’s time for UN to Impeach the whole Rajapakse Govt.

    Please don’t post anonymous blog links- CT
    Part of this comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy

  • 0

    Amnesty and EU mind your own stupid business. There is a saying in sinhala ‘anunge weda gena vivechanaya kara kara innawata wada, thamange weda tika hariyata karapan hiwala keya hada’

    and for those who do not know sinhala, it is a sinhala folk tale and it means instead of wasting one’s precious time and energy mindlessly critisising the work of others, do your own work and and what you are doing mindfully and diligently for the greater good o others and set a good example rather than hanging around like rasthiyadu karayo (those time wasters who hang around at street corners) critisising others.

    This is an apt saying applicable for a number of groups the EU, US, India vis a vis Sri Lanka and Amnesty, Human Rights Watch ad other INGOs.

    • 0

      First please tell this to your friend President Rajapakse.

      Tell him not to put monster cut outs of him around the country wasting our money.

      Tell him to leave the Police, Judiciary, minorities, armed forces, reporters and journalists to do their jobs and not to harass them.

      Tell him not to be a coward with white van abductions, arbitary arrests and impresenements, and night time raids on opponents houses and shoot and ru away.

      Tell hi mot to rig votes and bribe opposition MP’s to cross over to his side.

      Tell him not to Breed the parliament ministries every six months with phony ministries burdening already burdened tax payers.

      Tell him not to import Lamborginis with slave Middle East foreign currency earned by poor Rizanas.

      Tell him not to appropriate Profit making opposition party private businesses making bogus claims to punish them.

      Please tell him to Mind his own business and not to be an Alibaba with robbing Tsunami, other people’s money, land houses and businesses and leave others alone.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.