17 April, 2024


Rajapaksa Govt Is Good At Throwing Bones To The International Community – Human Rights Watch

The Sri Lankan government has made no real progress in holding accountable those responsible for the execution style slaying of 17 aid workers seven years ago despite renewed international calls for action.

On August 4, 2006, gunmen executed 17 Sri Lankan aid workers – 16 ethnic Tamils, four of them women, and a Muslim – with the Paris-based international humanitarian agency Action Contre La Faim (Action Against Hunger, ACF) in their office compound in the town of Mutur in eastern Trincomalee district. The killings occurred after a several-day battle between government forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for control of the town. The ACF team had been providing assistance to survivors of the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

A member of the French aid group Action Contre La Faim places a wreath in front of the photographs of his 17 slain colleagues at their memorial in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka on August 11, 2006

“The Rajapaksa government is good at throwing bones to the international community, but not at taking serious measures to find and punish those responsible for serious abuses,” said James Ross, legal and policy director at Human Rights Watch. “If the families of 17 aid workers can’t get justice for their loss, it’s hard to be hopeful for anyone else.”

In July 2013, the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in apparent response to increasing international pressure, took long overdue steps by directing state lawyers and investigators to review the case and prepare a comprehensive list of witnesses. This was one of several recent moves by the government to adopt previously disregarded recommendations of its Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) in 2011, created following the defeat of the LTTE in May 2009.

The University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) has published detailed findings on the Mutur killings based on accounts from witnesses and weapons analysis that implicate government security forces in the area at the time. The group reported that two police constables and naval special forces commandos were alleged to be directly responsible, and that senior police and justice officials were linked to an alleged cover-up.

In July 2007, the Presidential Commission of Inquiry, established after the Mutur killings to investigate 16 major human rights cases, exonerated the army and navy in the massacre and instead blamed LTTE forces or Muslim militia. Families of ACF workers who wished to testify to the commission reported security forces personnel. The commission’s full report to President Rajapaksa has never been made public.

In March 2013, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on Sri Lanka, reiterating the concerns of a 2012 council resolution, which focused on the lack of accountability for human rights violations. The council called upon the Sri Lankan government to “conduct an independent and credible investigation” into alleged rights abuses and “take all necessary additional steps” to meet its legal obligations to ensure justice and accountability for all Sri Lankans.

The Sri Lankan government has long had a poor record of investigating serious human rights abuses, and impunity has been a persistent problem. Despite a backlog of cases of unlawful killings and enforced disappearance going back two decades that run into the tens of thousands, there have been only a small number of prosecutions. Past efforts to address violations through the creation of ad hoc mechanisms in Sri Lanka have produced very few prosecutions. On July 26, the government announced yet another commission to look into cases of enforced disappearances.

On May 23, 2009, shortly after the LTTE’s defeat, Rajapaksa and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a joint statement in Sri Lanka in which the government said it “will take measures to address” the need for an accountability process for violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law.

In April 2011, a panel of experts authorized by the UN secretary-general issued a comprehensive report on violations of international law by both sides during the final months of the armed conflict. It called on the Sri Lankan government to carry out genuine investigations and recommended that the UN create an independent international mechanism to monitor the government’s implementation of the panel recommendations, conduct an independent investigation, and collect and safeguard evidence.

The UN high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, is scheduled to visit Sri Lanka in late August. Human Rights Watch repeated its call for the UN secretary-general or other UN body to create an independent international investigation into violations by government forces and the LTTE. This investigation should make recommendations for the prosecution of those responsible for serious abuses during the armed conflict, including the ACF case.

Participating countries at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Sri Lanka in November should publicly express concern about the government’s minimal response to these and other serious abuses, Human Rights Watch said.

“Governments seeking justice for the victims of atrocities during Sri Lanka’s long armed conflict should publicly demand an international inquiry,” Ross said. “Sri Lanka’s history of inaction on even prominent cases with strong evidence demonstrates the need for concerted international action.”

*Human Rights Watch

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Latest comments

  • 0

    Have they concede (The Int’l Community) that they are dogs of the hypocritical west?

    • 0

      HRW is a dog mnaged by the US State Dept. An occasional bone from a stranger should not be discrded.

    • 0

      Good response JayGee. The Int’l Community likes bones and therefore likes to dig graves.

  • 0

    It goes to show that all the evidence is in place, the culprits are known, but no action. Govt is constrained to act against ‘War Heroes’. It is only due to pressure from the international community that anything is done.

    Certain segments of society are a law unto themselves and it is taboo for politicians or leaders to speak against them. Law and justice are held in abayence for such holy cows of society. For ordinary people it is tyranny and injustice.

    Noori under ‘reign of terror’ A deaf and blind Police force

    “The Daily Mirror reveals that the Inspector General of Police, the Presidential Secretariat, the Prime Minister’s office and the Ministry of Defence, Public Security, law and order were informed of the alleged crimes committed by the gang led by Champika as far back as June 2008. (See above excerpts)

    Villagers state that if relevant authorities had taken action after the information was provided in this instance, Champika would not have been able to commit the crimes he had allegedly committed during the five years that followed.”

  • 0

    Madeline Albright has been commenting about the difficulties faced by the Sri Lankan Tamils prior to/during the elimination of the LTTE terrorists. It has obviously escaped her that the other communities suffered equally. Neither did she have such compassion for the 500,000 infants/children in Iraq who died as a result of US led sanctions, and described it as ‘a price worth paying’. Even the crocodile’s tears are not so selective.

  • 0

    More bones in Sept. will be ready for Mde.Navipillay but Justice to
    the effected is beyond reach in Sri Lanka.

    Even the JVP cannot get a move with the Mass Grave – as a US Citizen
    directs the scene.

  • 0

    What sympathy and compassion do these Intl Human Rights Orgs have?
    They’ve got none.
    They are blinkered only to look at their bread and butter with the donors and pro western hidden agenda on mind.

    These are $$$$$$$$ vultures having a wonderful time at the expense of the miseries of the poor.

    Madeline, basil Fernando, AI, HRW, the Vatican media organs
    and local HR Mouth Organs.
    Then there is T(p)issuranee.G and a host of other pingays

  • 0

    If other nations feel strongly about the human rights violations going on in this country, and the arrogance shown by the rajapaksa regime, by not being forthcoming about many deaths under their rule, including the tourist from Britain, and the brutal rape of his girlfriend, then it is time they showed their condemnation for such crimes, and threaten to stop aid and all help. Instead the choose to attend the CHOGM.
    For those who justify the horrible killing of these aid workers, by branding them as traitors working for foreign governments – who made them judge, jury, and feel it is all right to murder these poor people?
    This is playing God with someone else’s life. These poor people had parents, spouses, and children, who needs answers, as to why these poor people were killed in such a brutal fashion.

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