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Sri Lanka's Genocidal War - '95 to '01
The London based Tamil Information Centre in a Press Release (TIC INDEX:
PR/June 00/2) stated on 29 June 2000:
"Tamils in Colombo and other southern areas are living in fear as a result of government restrictions, search operations and arrests by security forces. The fear among the Tamil community has heightened since the introduction of new Emergency regulations on 3 May 2000, widening the powers of the President, state officers and the security forces. Substantial number of Tamils has fled the country as refugees and the number continues to rise.
More than 208,800 Sri Lankans, made applications for asylum worldwide between 1989 and 1998, most of whom are Tamils, and 56,400 (27%) were granted UN Convention refugee status and 18,000 (8.8%) were allowed to remain on humanitarian grounds. Some 12,640 have applied for asylum in Europe in 1999.
National Identity Card and Police registration
Tamils entering Colombo and Tamils resident in the capital are expected to be in possession of the National Identity Card (NIC) and evidence of Police registration. These documents must be produced at checkpoints or when demanded by the security forces during search operations. Tamils arriving from the northeast must, in addition, have the permits issued in Jaffna, Mannar or Vavuniya by the security forces.
Tamils resident in one part of southern Sri Lanka moving to any other part or visiting relatives in another part must register as soon as they arrive. Tamils moving to another police area within the same district or town must re-register. Such re-registration cannot be done without proof of registration in the first area (Tamils going to the north also must obtain permits from the Defence Ministry). Many people have been arrested and detained despite having all the documents.
Although Emergency regulations require only the chief occupant of a residence to register at the nearest police station and provide the details of occupants, the police always insist that all Tamils must register. Therefore Tamil tenants are forced to register, although there is no legal provision. The police continue to insist that Tamils must be in possession of a copy of the police registration, despite the directive of the Committee of Inquiry into Undue Arrest and Harassment (CIUAH) that they should not make such demand.
There is fear among Tamils even to assist others in obtaining the NIC or police registration. In a number of incidents, the relatives of LTTE suspects have been taken into custody. Nadesan Thambirajah was arrested in May 1999 and tortured because his daughter was suspected to be involved with the LTTE. Following the suicide bomb attacks in Colombo in December 1999, the parents of the suspected suicide bombers were arrested.
A number of Tamil citizens of other countries holding foreign passports have been arrested and detained. Therefore, a foreign document is no guarantee that a person will not be arrested. As a result of the conditions imposed on Tamils, house owners are reluctant to offer rented accommodation to them. There was an incident where the home of a Tamil in Colombo was demolished by security forces for providing accommodation to an LTTE suspect.
Round-ups in Colombo and the south
There is a risk of a Tamil, including those asylum-seekers deported from abroad, being arrested in Colombo and other southern areas. The security forces constantly raid the Colombo lodges, where many Tamils from the north-east or abroad reside. Cordon and search operations are carried out throughout Colombo and other southern areas almost daily, particularly in the nights.
The security forces imposed a 12-hour curfew in Colombo on 6 January 2000 and rounded-up 2,500 Tamils. Again on 23 January 2000 curfew was imposed in the north of Colombo and Negombo and 3,000 Tamils were rounded-up. On both occasions they were held in police stations without food or water for over 12 hours. On both occasions, around 400 people were detained for further investigation. Large round-ups of Tamils has taken place in January and February also in other southern areas, including Kandy, Matale, Polonnaruwa and Maskeliya. Since the suicide attack that killed Minister of Industries C V Gunaratne on 7 June 2000, there have been further round-ups. Colombo human rights agencies say that because of the nature of the round-ups, it is difficult to determine how many are further detained.
The round-ups of the Tamils are clearly indiscriminate and arbitrary. The US State Department says in its February 2000 human rights report, 1,970 persons were detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and Emergency Regulations (ER) in 1999 and the total number of prisoners held under the PTA and ER was consistently close to 2,000. The US Department also says hundreds of Tamils who were arrested were being held without bail awaiting trial; some of these persons have been held for up to five years.
Between 1984 and May 2000, Amnesty International, British Refugee Council and Colombo-based Home for Human Rights have reported nearly 86, 800 arrests of Tamils. As some times, only detentions are recorded, the number of arrests may exceed 100,000. Between June 1999 and May 2000, nearly 17,000 arrests have been recorded, including 7,500 in Colombo.
Lawyers and human rights agencies in Colombo have said that Tamils with scars on their bodies are liable to be arrested. They say that people with scars from surgery, from injury as a result of Sri Lankan armed force bombing and shelling and even with disability have been arrested. The security forces do not, to a large extent, observe the safeguards provided under Emergency regulations. The requirements under the directives are, informing relatives of the arrest, issuing receipts to the relatives, informing the relatives about the place of detention and notifying the Human Rights Commission about the arrest within 48 hours.
There are no jury trials under the PTA. Admission of confessions to security force officers in cases under the PTA and ER and impunity provided to the security forces encourage torture. In most of the cases, the only evidence before the court is the confession. The detainees are often forced to sign the confession under torture or threat of torture. The confession is usually in the Sinhala language, which many Tamils do not understand.
Tamil people in Colombo constantly complain about extortion. Tamils residing in lodges are arrested during nights and released only on payment of large sums of money. It is clear many arrests are made in order to extract money. Deported asylum-seekers have said that they are demanded money by Sri Lankan intelligence officers questioning them at the airport. Many people have been re-arrested, each time paying considerable amount of money. But most people cannot afford to pay and are forced to ask relatives or remain in detention. In 1999, President Chandrika Kumaratunge herself said that she was aware that police officers were involved in extortion. But no effective action has been taken to stop this practice.
Torture and rape of Tamils detainees and the existence of secret detention centres are a major concern of Tamils. The cases before courts indicate that torture often takes place in police stations and military camps. Evidence before courts and as documented by human rights agencies, including the London-based Medical Foundation for the Victims of Torture, and the torture methods practiced, torture in Sri Lanka appears to be systematic and widespread against the Tamil community.
The most frequent forms of torture described to the Tamil Information Centre by former detainees include: Hanging by the legs and beating, beating with rods, striking soles of feet with hard objects, immersing head in water, forcing to inhale chillie powder, burning with electric iron, brushing open eye with tooth brush, putting an insect into the ear and closing with a plaster, beating of the genitals, electric shock on sexual organs. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture confirms the beating of prisoners, administering electric shocks, having petrol poured on the back, and having dogs bite private parts are some of the torture methods used.
The Special Rapporteur in his 1999 report to the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) said that he had received information indicating that torture and other forms of ill-treatment are employed on a widespread basis by members of the security forces, particularly against Tamils held in detention. Despite judicial pronouncements against these practices, various methods of torture are said to continue to be used in police stations and other detention centres where individuals are forced to confess that they are LTTE members or sympathisers.
Although the Torture Act was enacted in 1995, so far no one has been convicted for torture. The Supreme Court can grant compensation but has no power to punish offenders. The Court has urged the Attorney General a number of times to file cases against offenders.
Tamil detainees under the PTA and ER have complained to MPs about their treatment in prisons. They are not provided sufficient food or water and this has led to hunger strikes and other protests within prisons. They also say that prison guards and Sinhalese prisoners often assault them.
The massacre of 53 Tamil political detainees in Colombo’s Welikada prison in July 1983 was not investigated and reported. This has led to accusations that government officers were involved in the massacre and the subsequent cover-up.
On 19 February 1996, over 100 prison officers were involved in the attack on Tamil prisoners in Colombo’s Magazine prison and many were injured. No inquiry was conducted into this incident. Three Tamil detainees were killed and 17 others were injured in the Kalutara prison on 12 December 1997. Although investigations began, MPs have complained that no arrests have been made so far.
On 6 and 7 January 2000, prison guards attacked Tamil prisoners in Kalutara who demanded better welfare facilities and two of them were killed, 42 others were injured and admitted to the hospital. According to lawyers the wounded detainees were assaulted in the vehicle while being taken to the hospital and were not given proper medical treatment. In December 1999 and January 2000, Tamil women prisoners at the Welikade prison in Colombo were attacked by Sinhalese prisoners and in the 29 January incident three Tamil women were seriously wounded.
Observing the previous incidents, there is no hope that a proper, impartial
investigation will be conducted into these incidents.
Emergency regulations introduced in 1999 allow only one visitor to visit a detainee under the once a week, who must be appointed by the detainee. The person appointed must make an application along with police reports and Village headman recommendations. Often visit permits are refused without any reason.
Impunity also remains a major concern of the Tamil community. The US State Department report acknowledges that in most cases of extra-judicial killing or disappearance, there was no investigation or prosecution at all.
In its report to the UNHRC in March 2000, the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances noted that despite the progress made by the government, the number of disappearances is still high and that the single most important factor contributing to the phenomenon of disappearances is that of impunity.
In her report to the UNHRC in March 2000, the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women stated that many communications had been forwarded to Sri Lanka, almost all concerning women and girls of Tamil origin in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, who had suffered sexual violence at the hands of the military. She expressed concern in her March 2000 report pointing out the lack of serious investigation of allegations of rape and murder of women and girls.
The wide-ranging powers granted to government authorities and law enforcement agencies under the PTA and ER have contributed substantially to the climate of impunity. The government measures have failed to address sufficiently the question of accountability. Despite government measures since 1994, arbitrary arrests, illegal detention, torture and ill-treatment, extra-judicial executions and disappearances have continued unabated, showing that government measures have been totally inadequate. The lack of effective action against human rights violations has in fact encouraged impunity making it difficult to expect protection from state authorities.
Killings of Tamil civilians
Between 1983 and 1998 nearly 20,000 killings and disappearances of Tamils by the Sri Lankan security forces have been reported by human rights agencies. It is estimated that around 60,000 Tamils have been killed or disappeared since 1983. The four commissions appointed by the government investigated 28,000 disappearances and in 17,000 cases identified evidence that security forces were involved. No procedure has been set-up for prosecution of the offenders. In most cases of extra-judicial killings by security forces there have been no action. The UN Working Group on Disappearances observed in 1998 that “Sri Lanka is the country with the highest number of disappearances in 1997”. In April 2000, the Working Group said that Sri Lanka remains the country with the second largest non-clarified disappearances in the world.
No satisfactory investigations have been carried out into the disappearance of some 700 Tamils in Jaffna in 1996 and over 150 disappearances in the Kilinochchi during Army occupation.
Rape of Tamil women
There have been many rapes by soldiers in the north-east and there is no doubt that rape is used as a weapon of terror by the security forces. Colombo human rights agency, the Forum for Human Dignity recorded 52 rapes between 11.2.96 and 1.7.98. A number of women were killed after rape. The cases of rape and murder that have received publicity are Krishanthy Kumarasamy, Jaffna 7.9.96; Rajani Velayuthapillai, Jaffna Oct 1996); M Koneswary, Amparai 17.5.97; Ida Kamlita, Mannar - 11.7.99; S Sarathambal, Pungudutivu - 29.12.99.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women reported in 1999 on cases almost all concerning women and girls of Tamil origin in the Northern and Eastern provinces who had suffered sexual violence at the hands of the military.
The fact that violations against Tamils continue unabated during the rule of the present Sri Lankan government is an indication that it is unwilling to protect the Tamils. The actions of the government are clearly aimed at encouraging the violations against Tamils. This is evidenced by the encouragement of impunity among the security forces, the continuance of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and Emergency regulations despite the grave concern expressed by UN organs, new Emergency regulations granting wider powers to the security forces and the attack on the freedom of expression which has had the effect of hiding the massive-scale violations against the Tamil community. There is an urgent need for the international community to focus on strategic preventive measures to end unjust practices and the persecution of Tamils in Sri Lanka
Tamil Information Centre
720 Romford Road
London E12 6BT
Telephone: + 44(0) 20 8514 6390
Fax: + 44(0) 20 8514 0164
E Mail: [email protected]