As Sri Lanka concludes their celebrations of their 74th year of independence, several Sri Lankan Parliamentarians, and other representatives of the Tamil community in Sri Lanka, have written to the Minister for South Asia, the United Nations and the Commonwealth at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, Lord Tariq Ahmad highlighting their concerns with the deteriorating human rights situation in Sri Lanka risking their lives.
The letter addressed a plethora of publicly reported cases which highlights several different aspects of human rights violations. The letter emphasized that these public cases only demonstrate a fraction of cases that are present, tip of the iceberg. They also submitted a list of the most recent, media reported cases dating from November 2019, till as recent as January 2022. The list included over 800 cases, and within January 2022 alone there have been 38 reported cases.
Regarding torture and deaths in police custody, they highlighted the importance of the Scottish Police in stopping their training. While acknowledging the decision to stop training the Sri Lankan military they urged the Scottish Police not to train them in future. Additionally, they highlighted that most of the cases that have been publicized were brought out by Sri Lankan journalists outside the country, as this indicated that sources inside the country many do not have the space to safely operate without their human rights being infringed upon.
Furthermore, the letter revealed that there continues to be ongoing unlawful arrests, abductions, illegal detentions by the security forces against the Tamils and acknowledges that only a fraction get reported in the media. One can sense the arrogance of the Sri Lankan authorities as it reports at least one of the reported incidents occurred whilst the EU human rights’ investigation team was in Sri Lanka.
The victims of these crimes tend to be young men from the north and east of Sri Lanka, who had no connection with the LTTE, as they were children during the war. MP Rishad Bathiudeen, who is currently incarcerated, corroborated this by stating that “Within last 2 months, 40-45 Tamil youth arrested under Prevention of Terrorism Act are held in prisons. I’ve spoken to some in their early 20s while I was in prison. They must have been 10 or 12 at the time war ended”.
The letter further uncovers, there have been many recent cases of former LTTE cadres being arrested to paint a false narrative of LTTE resurgence. This has been done to justify continued militarisation of the north and east. Moreover, a number Parliamentarians and journalists have been arrested and questioned arbitrarily, further highlighting the imminent fear they face daily. There are some noticeable triggers to these arrests and abductions, such as protests and commemorations, as well as simple social media posts.
They emphasized the units of the Sri Lankan government and security forces that are involved, including police officials, Criminal Investigation Division, and the army.
Many Sri Lankan MPs have backed this letter such as Justice C.V. Wigneswaran, Selva Adaikalanathan, Govindan Karunakaram, S. Noharathalingam, Dharmalingam Sithadthan, Charles Nirmalanthan, Mrs Anathy Sasitahran, M. K Shivajilangam, and Sivagnanam Shritharan.
They also jointly requested the UK government, as the pen holder for the Geneva process, to do more to vet and screen Sri Lankan officials it engages with, to apply Magnitsky Sanctions to Sri Lankan alleged war criminals, to exercise universal jurisdiction over alleged perpetrators and to speak out about ongoing grave violations of human rights that drive so many Tamil people to flee their homes and seek refuge abroad. (By KG Nathan)
To read the full letter click here