United States & the struggle for Tamil Eelam
Whatever may be said, who ever may
say it - to
determine the truth of it, is wisdom -
U.S. Department of State: Sri Lanka
on Human Rights Practices for 2003
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, February 25, 2004
Sri Lanka is a republic with an active multiparty system. The
popularly elected president, re elected in 1999 to a second 6-year term, and the
225-member Parliament, elected in 2001 for a 6-year term, share constitutional
power. From 1983 until 2001, the Government fought the Liberation Tigers of
Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a terrorist organization that advocated a separate ethnic
Tamil state in the north and east of the country. In December 2001, the
Government and the LTTE each announced unilateral cease-fires, and a formal
ceasefire accord was signed in February 2002. After participating in six rounds
of talks facilitated by the Norwegian government, the LTTE suspended the
negotiations in April, but both sides continued to observe the ceasefire accord.
As a result of the peace process, there was a sharp reduction in roadblocks and
checkpoints around the country. Approximately 341,000 internally displaced
persons (IDPs) returned to their points of origin in the north and east, and
authorities opened investigations into abuses by security force personnel.
President Chandrika Kumaratunga, head of the People's Alliance (PA) coalition,
temporarily suspended Parliament November 4. The President also dismissed the
ministers of defense, interior, and mass communications and assumed those
portfolios herself because of what the President termed a "deterioration of the
security situation" during the course of the peace process. Parliament
reconvened November 19, and talks continued at year's end between
representatives of the Prime Minister and the President over control of the
three ministries and the Prime Minister's role in the peace process. The
President reaffirmed her commitment to the peace process, but peace negotiations
remained suspended at year's end.
The 2001 parliamentary election, which took place prior to the ceasefire,
generally free and fair
but was marred by irregularities and resulted in at least 50 deaths. The
election gave a parliamentary majority to the United National Front (UNF), a
coalition of parties led by the United National Party (UNP). Stating during the
election that it feared possible infiltration by the LTTE, the Government
prohibited more than 40,000 Tamil voters living in LTTE-controlled territories
from crossing army checkpoints to vote. During the year, the Supreme Court ruled
that this action violated the fundamental rights of these prospective Tamil
voters and cited and fined the Government for preventing citizens from
exercising their right to vote. The Government generally respected
constitutional provisions for an independent judiciary.
The Ministry of Interior, which President Kumaratunga renamed the Ministry of
Internal Security on December 19, controls the 60,000-member police force, which
has been used for military operations against the LTTE and is responsible for
internal security in most areas of the country. In the past, the police
paramilitary Special Task Force also engaged in military operations against the
LTTE. The Ministry of Defense controls the 112,000-member Army, the
27,000-member Navy, and the 20,000-member Air Force. Home Guards, an armed force
of more than 20,000 members drawn from local communities and responsible to the
police, provide security for Muslim and Sinhalese communities located near
LTTE-controlled areas. The civilian authorities maintained effective control of
the security forces. Some members of the security forces committed serious human
Sri Lanka is a low-income country with a market economy based mainly on the
export of textiles, tea, rubber, coconuts, and gems. It also earns substantial
foreign exchange from the repatriated earnings of citizens employed abroad, and
from tourism. The population was approximately 19.4 million. Real Gross Domestic
Product (GDP) growth was 3.2 percent in 2002 and forecast at 5.5 percent for the
current year. As an early peace dividend, the country was able to reduce defense
expenditures and focus on getting its large public sector debt under control.
The economy benefited as a consequence from lower interest rates, a recovery in
domestic demand, increased tourist arrivals, a revival of the stock exchange,
and increased foreign direct investment. The cohabitation impasse between the
President and the Prime Minister in the last 2 months of the year had an adverse
effect on the economy, particularly in the country's equity markets and with
foreign direct investment.
The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; however,
there were serious problems in some areas. There were no reports of security
forces committing politically motivated killings and no reports of
disappearances; however, the military and police reportedly tortured, killed and
raped detainees. Prison conditions remained poor. There were reports of
arbitrary arrest during the year. During 2002, the Government released more than
750 Tamils held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Only 65 Tamils held
under the PTA remained in custody. The PTA, like the Emergency Regulations (ER)
repealed in 2001, permitted warrantless arrests and nonaccountable detentions.
Unlike in the recent past, there were few reports that security forces harassed
journalists during the year. Violence and discrimination against women, child
prostitution, child labor, limitations of worker rights, especially in the
Export Processing Zones (EPZs), and discrimination against persons with
disabilities continued to be problems. Violence against religious minorities
increased, and institutionalized ethnic discrimination against Tamils remained a
problem. Trafficking in women and children for the purpose of forced labor
occurred, and there was some trafficking of women and children for the
commercial sex industry. The Government acted against the children for sex
trade, and international involvement in the sex trade declined significantly.
The LTTE continued to commit serious human rights abuses. The LTTE was
responsible for arbitrary arrest, torture, harassment, disappearances,
extortion, and detention. Through a campaign of intimidation, the LTTE continued
to undermine the work of elected local government bodies in Jaffna and the east.
On occasion, the LTTE prevented political and governmental activities from
occurring in the north and east. There was overwhelming evidence that the LTTE
killed more than 36 members of anti-LTTE Tamil political groups and alleged
informants during the year. There were also instances of intimidation of Muslims
by the LTTE, and there was fighting between LTTE personnel in the east and
Muslims that left several Muslims dead. The LTTE continued to control large
sections of the north and east. The LTTE permitted journalists some access to
the areas of the country it controlled. Some LTTE-imposed restrictions remained
on freedom of movement of citizens. The LTTE denied those under its control the
right to change their government, did not provide for fair trials, infringed on
privacy rights, used child soldiers, and discriminated against ethnic and
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
There were no political killings; however, the Human Rights Commission (HRC)
reported that six individuals died in police custody, two allegedly from police
beatings. Sunil Hemachandra, arrested by Moragahahena police July 24, later died
at the National Hospital in Colombo after an alleged police beating. On November
10, S.L. Kulatunga died at the National Hospital in Colombo after allegedly
being beaten by Nivithigala police. The HRC reported that four other individuals
died while in police custody, but the cause of death in each case may not have
been the result of police brutality. During his arrest May 13, Ilandara Pedige
Wijeratne became ill and was taken by Weliweriya police to the Gamlpaha
Hospital, where he died. Michel Manokumara's death, following his arrest August
12 and release by Kosgama police, was ruled a suicide due to ingestion of rat
poison. Garlin Sanjeewa, arrested by Kadawatha police August 27, was found
hanging in his cell. His death was ruled a suicide. On August 28, while Maturata
police were arresting R.M. Loku Banda, he complained of chest pains and was
taken to the Maturata Hospital. According to medical officials, he died of
natural causes due to heart failure.
There were no developments in the 2001 cases of Kanapathypillai Udayakumar, who
died in custody, or of Sivagnanam Manohari, who allegedly was killed by Air
Security force impunity remained a problem, although during the year, the
Government indicted security force personnel in several high profile cases. At
year's end, the Government continued to investigate 5 cases of rape, 50 cases of
torture, and approximately 500 cases of disappearance by security force
personnel. The Government convicted six security force personnel in the 1996
killing of university student Krishanthi Kumaraswamy.
A trial in the Anuradhapura Magistrate's Court continued during the year of five
Army personnel accused in 2000 of torturing nine Tamil civilians and murdering
eight of them in Mirusuvil. Previously, an Army commander had administratively
punished nine soldiers by having their salaries withheld (see Sections 1.b. and
On July 1, 5 individuals, including 2 police officers, were sentenced to death
in the court proceedings involving the 2000 Bindunuwema rehabilitation camp
deaths of 27 Tamil men. The sentences were immediately commuted to 23 years
rigorous imprisonment. In an earlier court action January 4, an additional 23
individuals, including 1 police officer, were acquitted. The HRC stated that the
police were guilty of "grave dereliction of duty." Police had been charged for
taking part in the killings and for doing nothing to prevent the villagers from
entering the detention camp. Violence after the killings continued for almost 1
week before police were able to restore order.
In previous years, some cases of extrajudicial killings were reprisals against
civilians for LTTE attacks in which members of the security forces or civilians
were killed or injured. In most cases, the security forces claimed that the
victims were members of the LTTE, but human rights monitors believed otherwise.
For example, hearings continued during the year against eight police officers
indicted in the 1998 deaths of eight Tamil civilians in Thampalakamam, near
Trincomalee. Police and home guards allegedly killed the civilians in reprisal
for the LTTE bombing of the Temple of the Tooth a week earlier.
Court hearings involving five soldiers arrested for the 1999 gang rape and
murder of Ida Carmelita, a Tamil girl, continued during the year. A case
remained pending involving mass graves at Chemmani in Jaffna possibly containing
the bodies of up to 400 persons killed by security forces in 1996. In the
Chemmani area, 6 soldiers allegedly had buried between 120 and 140 bodies on the
orders of their superiors. Exhumations in 1999 yielded 15 skeletons. Two of the
victims were identified as young men who had disappeared in 1996. In 2001, 13 of
the bodies had not been identified. The 6 soldiers named a total of 20 security
force personnel, including former policemen, as responsible for the killings.
The remaining unidentified bodies underwent DNA testing for identification
purposes. The Attorney General's (A.G.) office indicated that it was not
satisfied with the inconclusive initial results and reportedly sought funds to
provide for more detailed testing.
During the year, representatives of the victims of the 1992 massacre of 35 Tamil
civilians in the village of Mailanthani requested that the A.G. appeal the 2002
acquittal of the 21 soldiers accused of the killings.
In the January 2000 killing of Tamil politician Kumar Ponnambalam, two key
suspects were killed by unknown assailants early in the year. Judicial
proceedings continued with the remaining suspect.
In the past, the military wing of the People's Liberation Organization of Tamil
Eelam and the Razeek group were responsible for killing a number of persons;
however, there were no reports of such killings during the year. The security
forces had armed and used these militias and a number of other Tamil militant
organizations to provide information, to help identify LTTE terrorists, and, in
some cases, to fight in military operations against the terrorists. The exact
size of these militias was impossible to ascertain, but they probably totaled
fewer than 2,000 persons. These groups were asked to disarm following the
February 2002 ceasefire agreement between the Government and LTTE. The militia
handed over some weapons to the Government; however, most observers believed
that the groups kept some arms. Persons killed by these militants in the past
probably included LTTE operatives and civilians who failed to comply with
During the year, there was credible evidence that the LTTE killed more than 36
members of anti-LTTE Tamil political groups and alleged Tamil informants for the
security forces, mainly in the north and east. Both current and former members
of anti-LTTE Tamil political parties were targeted by the LTTE. In one
high-profile case, the deputy leader of the Eelam People's Revolutionary
Liberation Front was shot and killed in Jaffna in June. The LTTE also targeted
alleged Tamil informants to the military, killing several during the year. A
police officer was also killed in Colombo in an apparent LTTE attack.
Unlike in previous years, there were no attacks and counter-attacks between
government forces and the LTTE, although in two incidents in March and June, the
Navy sank LTTE ships allegedly carrying weapons and ammunition. Several LTTE
personnel were killed in each of the incidents. There were no reports of suicide
bombings during the year.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances at the hands of
the security forces during the year. In 2000, eight Tamil civilians were
reported missing in Mirusuvil. At the year's end, five soldiers in that case had
been charged with the killing and were standing trial (see Sections 1.a. and
In 2000, a fisherman, seen arrested by naval personnel near Trincomalee,
disappeared. In 2002, the Trincomalee High Court ordered a police line-up;
however, the witness did not identify any of the suspects. At the end of 2002,
the High Court was conducting a habeas corpus hearing in conjunction with the
case. There were no further developments by year's end.
Those who disappeared in 2001 and previous years usually were presumed dead. The
2000 U.N. Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances listed the
country as having an extremely large number of "nonclarified" disappearances.
The Commander of the Army and the Inspector General of Police both criticized
the disappearances and stated that the perpetrators would be called to account.
Four regional commissions, three established in 1994 and a fourth established in
1998, reported a total of 21,215 disappearances between 1988 and 1994, the
majority of which occurred during the 1988-89 period of the Janatha Vimukthi
Peramuna (People's Liberation Front-JVP) uprising. The commissions found that
many people disappeared after having been removed involuntarily from their
homes, in most cases by security forces. Many of these cases were under
continuing investigation by the A.G.'s office, but there were no developments
during the year.
Although there have been few prosecutions of security force personnel to date,
during the year, there were indictments and investigations, including the case
against the security forces involved in the Bindunuwewa massacre (see Section
1.a.) and the killings in Mirusuvil (see Sections 1.a. and 1.c.). In November
2002, the Government formed a new commission to investigate disappearances in
the Jaffna area during 1996-1997; however, the commission took no action during
A U.N. Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances report, released
in 1999, cited the PTA and ER as important factors contributing to
disappearances and recommended their abolition or modification to bring them
into conformity with internationally accepted human rights standards. The ER was
repealed in 2001, and there were no arrests under the PTA in 2002 or in the
current year; however, some arrests were being made without full necessary
documentation, such as detention orders, and the Government had not released by
year's end all persons previously detained under the PTA (see Section 1.d.). The
reviewing process for some cases continued during the year.
Tamil militias aligned with the former PA government also were responsible for
disappearances in past years; however, there were no such reports during the
year. The HRC had no mandate or authority to investigate abuses by militia
groups. It was impossible to determine the exact number of victims because of
the secrecy with which these groups operated. The Government largely disarmed
these militias in 2002.
The LTTE released 10 people in 2002, including some soldiers, to the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). At year's end, the LTTE was not
known to be holding prisoners, but many observers believed that they were (see
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The Convention Against Torture Act (CATA) of 1994 makes torture a punishable
offense. In practice, members of the security forces continued to torture and
mistreat detainees and other prisoners, particularly during interrogation. Under
the CATA, torture is defined as a specific crime with a 7-year minimum sentence
for those convicted. The High Court has jurisdiction over violations. The CATA
does not implement several provisions of the U.N. Convention Against Torture,
although the Government maintained that CATA is in "substantial conformity" with
the U.N. Convention. According to human rights groups, the result was that
torture is prohibited under specific circumstances but allowed under others, and
torture continued with relative impunity. In addition, the PTA makes confessions
obtained under any circumstance, including by torture, sufficient to hold a
person until the individual is brought to court. In some cases, the detention
may extend for years (see Section 1.d.).
Methods of torture included using electric shock, beatings, suspending
individuals by the wrists or feet in contorted positions, burning, slamming
testicles in desk drawers, and near-drowning. In other cases, victims were
forced to remain in unnatural positions for extended periods or had bags laced
with insecticide, chili powder, or gasoline placed over their heads. Detainees
reported broken bones and other serious injuries as a result of their
mistreatment, and deaths in custody have occurred (see Section 1.a.). Medical
examination of persons arrested since 2000 continued to reveal multiple cases of
There were credible nongovernmental organization (NGO) reports that some members
of the security forces tortured individuals in custody. For example, according
to the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and the World Organization Against
Torture (OMCT), on November 1, Bamunuarachchi Pathiranalage Sathkumara was
arrested and allegedly tortured by police at the Kuliyapitiya police station. He
was given no reason for the arrest, and when he was released later in the day,
he was warned by police not to admit himself to any hospital, despite having
been beaten and hung from a ceiling beam with his hands behind his back.
Nevertheless, Sathkumara's brother took him to the Kuliyapitiya Hospital, where
Sathkhumara remained for 3 days, and filed a complaint with the police of
Kurunegala. Also according to the OMCT and the AHRC, on September 13 and several
succeeding days, Hikkaduwa Liyanage Sandun Kumara, 16, was allegedly assaulted
severely by police at the Rathgama police station. Kumara allegedly had his head
wrapped with his shirt and water poured on his face, nearly causing him to
suffocate, and had, among other beatings, his head struck against a wall. He was
eventually treated at Karapitiya Teaching Hospital on September 21 and 23. AHRC
and OMCT reported that the Supreme Court ordered the National Police Commission
to conduct a disciplinary inquiry into this case.
There were no developments in the case of Thivyan Krishnasamy, a student leader
released from custody in March 2002. Because he was known as an outspoken critic
of security forces in Jaffna, human rights observers claimed that he was
arrested because of his political activism, but the police stated that he was
connected to the LTTE. Following his arrest in 2001, he complained of being
tortured. In support of his allegations of torture, the Jaffna Student Union
held protests during the fall of 2001, and university administrators temporarily
closed the university to avoid violence.
Rape and sexual assault in custody remained a problem, and several cases were
before the courts. According to Amnesty International (AI), a case involved
Nandini Herat, arrested in March 2002 for theft. While in the custody of the
Wariyapola police, she allegedly was subjected to sexual torture. On July 14,
the Officer in Charge of Wariyapola police was charged in the High Court under
the Sri Lanka Torture Act of 1994. He was released on bail, but subsequently
five other officers involved also were charged. AI reported that Herat and her
father were intimidated and threatened by police in an attempt to get the
charges withdrawn. There were no further developments by year's end. In the case
of 2 women arrested in 2001 in Mannar who claimed that they were tortured and
repeatedly raped by naval and police personnel, 14 officials were tried for
rape, torture, or both. Two of the perpetrators were acquitted during the year,
and the case continued at year's end. A fundamental rights case (see next
paragraph) also was opened against the accused. Four other cases in which the
security forces were accused of raping women in detention remained pending at
Under fundamental rights provisions in the Constitution, torture victims may
file civil suit for compensation in the high courts or Supreme Court. Courts
have granted awards ranging from approximately $150 (14,200 rupees) to $1,940
(182,500 rupees). In some cases, the Government did not pay fines incurred by
security force personnel found guilty of torture. Either the Government or the
guilty party paid fines based on the decision of the judge hearing the case.
The A.G.'s Office and the Criminal Investigation Unit established units to focus
on torture complaints. During the year, the units forwarded 50 cases for
indictments, of which 20 resulted in indictments, but there were no convictions.
The Interparliamentary Permanent Standing Committee and its Interministerial
Working Group on Human Rights Issues also continued to track criminal
investigations of torture.
The Army committed a number of nonlethal abuses. For example, according to the
Refugee Council (RC), 20 people were wounded October 22 when soldiers assaulted
civilians at Munai near Point Pedro in Jaffna. In another incident, a soldier
shot and seriously wounded a bus conductor on December 8 in Jaffna. The Jaffna
Magistrates Court remanded three soldiers over the incident.
At year's end, five soldiers were standing trial in a case involving the 2000
exhumation of the bodies of eight Tamils allegedly tortured and killed by the
army in Mirusuvil (see Sections 1.a. and 1.b.).
Impunity remained a problem. In the majority of cases in which military
personnel may have committed human rights abuses, the Government has not
identified those responsible or brought them to justice.
The 2000 U.N. Committee on Torture report was submitted to the Government in
2001 but had not been released to the public by year's end.
In the past, Tamil militants aligned with the former PA government engaged in
torture; however, there were no such reports during the year.
The LTTE used torture on a routine basis.
Prison conditions generally were poor and did not meet international standards
because of overcrowding and lack of sanitary facilities. Women were held
separately from men. In some cases, juveniles were not held separately from
adults. Pretrial detainees were not held separately from those convicted.
The Government permitted visits by independent human rights observers and the
ICRC, which during the year conducted 69 visits to 33 government detention
facilities, including prisons and military jails. The HRC also visited 690
police stations and 96 detention facilities (see Section 1.d.). According to the
ICRC and the HRC, prison conditions generally were poor and did not meet
Conditions also reportedly were poor in LTTE-run detention facilities. The ICRC
conducted eight visits in LTTE-controlled detention facilities. Due to the
release of detainees in 2000 and the apparent release of the remaining soldiers
held by the LTTE in 2002, ICRC visited fewer LTTE detention centers than in
previous years (see Section 1.d.).
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
There were reports of arbitrary arrest and detention during the year. Under the
law, authorities must inform an arrested person of the reason for arrest and
bring that person before a magistrate within 24 hours. In practice, persons
detained generally appeared within a few days before a magistrate, who could
authorize bail or order continued pretrial detention for up to 3 months or
longer. Security forces must issue an arrest receipt at the time of arrest, and,
despite some efforts by the Government to enforce this standard, arrest receipts
rarely were issued in previous years. Observers believed that the lack of arrest
receipts in the past prevented adequate tracking of cases and permitted extended
detentions and torture without making any persons directly responsible for those
detainees. During the year, arrest receipts were still not issued in some cases.
In December 2002, the Government established the National Police Commission
(NPC) in accordance with the 17th Amendment of the Constitution. The NPC,
composed entirely of civilians, is authorized to appoint, promote, transfer,
discipline, and dismiss all police officers other than the Inspector General of
Police and has the power to establish procedures to investigate public
complaints against the police.
In past years, the army generally turned over those it arrested under the ER to
the police within 24 hours, although the police and the Army did not always
issue arrest receipts or notify the HRC within 48 hours. The HRC has a legal
mandate, generally respected by the police, to visit those arrested. Due to
censorship and infrequent access, observers could not determine the state of
affairs in LTTE-controlled areas.
There were some large-scale arrests of Tamils in June; however, the vast
majority of those arrested were released shortly thereafter. In the past, many
detentions occurred during operations against the LTTE. Most detentions lasted a
maximum of several days, but some extended to several months. At year's end, 65
Tamils charged under the PTA remained in detention without bail awaiting trial.
The Government released more than 750 Tamils arrested under the PTA during 2002.
The Committee to Inquire into Undue Arrest and Harassment (CIUAH), which
includes senior opposition party and Tamil representatives, examines complaints
of arrest and harassment by security forces and takes remedial action as needed.
Opinions on the effectiveness of the CIUAH were mixed. Some human rights
observers believed that the work of the committee deterred random arrests and
alleviated problems encountered by detainees and their families. Others felt
that, although the CIUAH continued to meet throughout the year, it took no
The HRC investigated the legality of detention in cases referred to it by the
Supreme Court and private citizens. Although the HRC is legally mandated to
exercise oversight over arrests and detentions by the security forces and to
undertake visits to prisons, members of the security forces sometimes violated
the regulations and failed to cooperate with the HRC.
The Government continued to give the ICRC unhindered access to approximately 160
detention centers, police stations, and army camps recognized officially as
places of detention. Due to the lapsing of the ER in 2001, the total number of
persons detained in military bases has been reduced dramatically, with the
military making fewer arrests and transferring detainees to police facilities
more quickly than in previous years. With the ceasefire agreement, the number of
arrests by the military dramatically declined.
The LTTE in the past detained civilians, often holding them for ransom. There
were reports of this practice during the year, particularly the multiple reports
of kidnapping of Muslims in the east. Usually, the Muslims were released soon
after being kidnapped and often after ransom was paid. At year's end, there were
no reports of the LTTE holding Muslims in custody.
There are no legal provisions to allow forced exile, and the Government did not
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the Government
generally respected this provision in practice.
The President appoints judges to the Supreme Court, the High Court, and the
courts of appeal. A judicial service commission, composed of the Chief Justice
and two Supreme Court judges, appoints and transfers lower court judges. Judges
may be removed for misbehavior or incapacity but only after an investigation
followed by joint action of the President and the Parliament.
In criminal cases, juries try defendants in public. Defendants are informed of
the charges and evidence against them and have the right to counsel and the
right to appeal. The Government provides counsel for indigent persons tried on
criminal charges in the high court and the courts of appeal, but it does not
provide counsel in other cases. Private legal aid organizations assisted some
defendants. In addition, the Ministry of Justice operated 11 community legal aid
centers to assist those who could not afford representation and to serve as
educational resources for local communities. However, at year's end, the legal
aid centers had not tried any cases. There are no jury trials in cases brought
under the PTA. Confessions, obtained by various coercive means, including
torture, are inadmissible in criminal proceedings but are allowed in PTA cases.
Defendants bear the burden of proof to show that their confessions were obtained
by coercion. Defendants in PTA cases have the right to appeal. Subject to
judicial review in certain cases, defendants may spend up to 18 months in prison
on administrative order waiting for their cases to be heard. Once their cases
come to trial, decisions were made relatively quickly.
Most court proceedings in Colombo and the south were conducted in English or
Sinhala, which, due to a shortage of court-appointed interpreters, restricted
the ability of Tamil-speaking defendants to get a fair hearing. Trials and
hearings in the north and east were in Tamil and English, but many serious
cases, including those having to do with terrorism, were tried in Colombo. While
Tamil-speaking judges existed at the magistrate level, only four High Court
judges, an Appeals Court judge, and a Supreme Court justice spoke fluent Tamil.
Few legal textbooks and only a single law report existed in Tamil, and the
Government has complied slowly with legislation requiring that all laws be
published in English, Sinhala, and Tamil.
The Government permits the continued existence of certain aspects of personal
laws discriminating against women in regard to age of marriage, divorce, and
devolution of property (see Section 5).
In the past in Jaffna, LTTE threats against court officials sometimes disrupted
normal court operations. Although the Jaffna court suspended activities due to
security concerns in 2000, it reopened in 2001 and functioned continuously since
then. During the year, the LTTE expanded the operations of its court system into
areas previously under the Government's judicial system in the north and east.
With the expansion, the LTTE demanded that all Tamil civilians stop using the
Government's judicial system and rely only on the LTTE's legal system. Credible
reports indicated that the LTTE implemented the change through the threat of
The LTTE has its own self-described legal system, composed of judges with little
or no legal training. LTTE courts operate without codified or defined legal
authority and essentially operate as agents of the LTTE rather than as an
independent judiciary. The courts reportedly imposed severe punishments,
The Government claimed that all persons held under the PTA were suspected
members of the LTTE and therefore were legitimate security threats. Insufficient
information existed to verify this claim and to determine whether these
detainees were political prisoners. In many cases, human rights monitors
questioned the legitimacy of the criminal charges brought against these persons.
In 2002, The A.G. dismissed more than 750 PTA cases. During the year, 65 Tamils
charged under the PTA remained in detention. The Government claimed that the
remaining cases were of individuals directly linked only to suicide bombings or
other terrorist and criminal acts.
The LTTE reportedly held a number of political prisoners. The number was
impossible to determine because of the secretive nature of the organization. The
LTTE refused to allow the ICRC access to these prisoners.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The Constitution provides for the right to privacy, and the Government generally
respected this provision in practice; however, it infringed on citizen's privacy
rights in some areas. The police generally obtained proper warrants for arrests
and searches conducted under ordinary law; however, the security forces were not
required to obtain warrants for searches conducted either under the lapsed ER or
the PTA. The Secretary of the Ministry of Defense was responsible for providing
oversight for such searches. The Government was believed to monitor telephone
conversations and correspondence on a selective basis. However, there were no
reports of such activity by security forces during the year.
In September 2002, the Government removed the LTTE from proscription. This meant
that members of the LTTE were no longer subject to arrest simply because of
The LTTE routinely invaded the privacy of citizens by maintaining an effective
network of informants. The LTTE forcibly recruited children during the year (see
Section 6.d.). However, during the year, the LTTE also released 141 children. In
late 2002, the LTTE handed over an additional 85 children to UNICEF, stating
that the children had volunteered to serve, but that the LTTE did not accept
children (see Section 6.d.). Unlike in previous years, there were no reports
that the LTTE expelled Muslims from their homes.
g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal and
Hostilities between the Government and the LTTE abated with the announcement of
unilateral ceasefires in December 2001, followed by a formal ceasefire accord
agreed to in February 2002. Subsequently, both sides released a number of
prisoners, and the key road connecting Jaffna with the rest of the island
opened. The abatement of hostilities led to a sharp reduction in roadblocks and
checkpoints around the country, to the return of approximately 341,000 IDPs to
their points of origin in the north and east, and to the opening of
investigations into actions by security force personnel.
In April 2002, naval personnel in Nilaveli opened fire and injured two Tamil
women. The circumstances surrounding the incident remained unclear, and the
investigation into the incident remained open at year's end.
In 2001, the Army created the Directorate of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law.
The directorate was charged with coordinating, with the assistance of ICRC
training (see Section 4), all human rights activities for the Army and with
overseeing the human rights cells that are assigned throughout the military. The
Army also stated that all of its personnel had completed the appropriate
training and pledged to adhere to the rules of international humanitarian law.
Early in 2002, the Air Force and Navy instituted similar programs. The armed
forces operated under written rules of engagement that severely restricted the
shelling, bombardment, or use of excessive firepower against civilian-occupied
areas. During the year, the Army instituted further mandatory human rights
training programs for officers and enlisted personnel.
The Government continued to provide food relief, through the Commissioner
General for Essential Services and the Multi-Purpose Cooperative Societies, to
displaced and other needy citizens, including those in areas controlled by the
LTTE. The Government delivered food rations to the Vanni area, a LTTE-controlled
area in the north, through a checkpoint that was controlled on one side by the
security forces and on the other by the LTTE. The border into the territory
controlled by the LTTE remained open during the year. Unlike in previous years,
NGOs could move assistance into LTTE-controlled areas without extensive
During 2002, the Ministry of Defense reported capturing several LTTE personnel
with weapons in government-controlled areas in direct contradiction of the terms
of the ceasefire agreement. The Government reportedly returned most LTTE
personnel directly to the closest LTTE checkpoint. Some, however, were detained
for longer periods. Previously, the military sent the LTTE cadre it captured or
who surrendered to rehabilitation centers. The ICRC continued to visit former
LTTE members in government rehabilitation camps, although the 2000 massacre of
more than 20 such detainees at a government-run detention facility at
Bindunuwewa, near Bandarawella, led observers to question the continued security
of residents of these facilities (see Sections 1.a. and 1.g.).
In view of the scale of hostilities in previous years and the large number of
LTTE casualties, some observers found the number of prisoners taken under
battlefield conditions to be low. Observers concluded that many LTTE fighters
apparently were killed rather than taken prisoner. Some observers believed that,
on the government side, an unwritten "take-no-prisoners" policy had been in
effect. The military denied this claim, stating that other factors limited the
number of prisoners taken, such as the LTTE's efforts to remove injured fighters
from the battlefield, the proclivity of its fighters to choose suicide over
capture, and the LTTE's occasional practice of killing its own badly injured
fighters. There were no reports of security force personnel executing LTTE
personnel during the year.
In previous years, the Government refused to permit relief organizations to
provide medical attention to injured LTTE fighters, although it offered to treat
any LTTE injured entrusted to government care. According to credible reports,
injured LTTE cadres surrendering to the Government received appropriate medical
The LTTE admitted that in the past it killed security forces personnel rather
than take them prisoner. Past eyewitness accounts confirmed that the LTTE
executed injured soldiers on the battlefield. At year's end, the LTTE reportedly
had released all security force personnel it was holding; however, the LTTE was
believed to have killed most of the police officers and security force personnel
captured in the past few years.
The LTTE routinely used excessive force in the war, including by targeting
civilians. Since the peace process began in December 2001, the LTTE has engaged
in kidnapping, hijackings of truck shipments, and forcible recruitment,
including of children. The LTTE was widely believed by credible sources to have
increased its recruitment during the year. There were intermittent reports of
children ranging in age from 13 to 17 escaping from LTTE camps. During the year,
the LTTE released 141 children. (see Sections 1.f. and 5.). The Sri Lanka
Monitoring Mission (SLMM) received approximately 200 complaints about child
abductions during the year, and credible sources said those children were
recruited to be child soldiers. Senior LTTE officials alleged to foreign
officials that child soldiers were volunteers. During the year, the LTTE and
UNICEF reached an agreement on the demobilization and rehabilitation of child
soldiers and began work on an action plan to address issues relating to child
labor, including underage recruitment. However, the LTTE provided little
follow-up to the plan.
The LTTE expropriated food, fuel, and other items meant for IDPs, thus
exacerbating the plight of such persons in LTTE-controlled areas. Malnutrition
remained a problem in LTTE-controlled areas, as well as in other parts of the
Vanni region, with nutrition levels falling below the national average. Experts
reported a high rate of anemia and a low birth rate. Confirmed cases of
malnutrition included hundreds of children.
Landmines were a serious problem in Jaffna and the Vanni and, to some extent, in
the east (see Section 5). Landmines, booby traps, and unexploded ordnance posed
a problem to resettlement of displaced persons and rebuilding. At the end of
2002, a U.N. team had begun coordinating the process of mapping the mined areas
in the country and established oversight for a mine removal program. During the
year, a U.N team established a landmine map database, which was shared with all
the 12 demining agencies that worked in the country. During the year, the
military and the LTTE removed mines in areas they controlled. The Government
reported as many as 15 mine-related casualties among civilians per month
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the
Government generally respected these rights in practice. In the past, the
Government restricted these rights, often using national security grounds
permitted by law. In 2002, criminal defamation laws, which had been used often
by the Government to intimidate independent media outlets, were eliminated. In
2001, the Government officially lifted the censorship on war reporting. However,
even when no specific government censorship was exercised, private television
stations imposed their own, informal censorship on international television news
rebroadcast in the country.
Although the Government owned the country's largest newspaper chain, two major
television stations, and a radio station, a variety of independent, privately
owned newspapers, journals, and radio and television stations dominated the
media. Most independent media houses freely criticized the Government and its
policies. The Government imposed no political restrictions on the establishment
of new media enterprises.
The President officially eased censorship restrictions on foreign journalists in
a circular published in 2000; however, material for publication or broadcast
within the country, regardless of author, remained subject to government
approval until the repeal of censorship laws in 2001. Claims of harassment and
intimidation of private media declined.
Reporters Without Borders (RWB) wrote to the President and the Prime Minister in
May regarding a death threat made May 7 against British Broadcasting Corporation
correspondent Ponniah Manikavasagam, who had just completed an interview with a
leader of the LTTE and which was broadcast by the BBC. RWB believed that a
pro-government paramilitary group, the Eelam People's Democratic Party, was
responsible for the threat, made a few days after two Sinhalese journalists were
threatened by LTTE members in Vavuniya, the northern town where Manikavasagam
was based. Additionally, according to the RC, journalists in Jaffna staged a
protest October 12 because of an Army attack at Manipai and Nelliyady on four
In 2002, the defamation laws were repealed and all cases pertaining to the
defamation laws were dropped.
The Sri Lanka Tamil Media Alliance (SLTMA) was formed in 1999 to protect the
interests of Tamil journalists, who alleged that they were subject to harassment
and intimidation by Tamil paramilitary groups and government security forces.
Regional Tamil correspondents working in the war zones complained of arbitrary
arrest and detention in the past and difficulty in obtaining press
accreditation. The SLTMA filed cases on behalf of Tamil journalists, but its
cases had not succeeded in the courts.
The Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka was established during the year to
provide a venue for citizens to bring complaints against media outlets. The
Commission began full operations by November, and started to investigate
Unlike in the previous year, travel by local and foreign journalists to conflict
areas was not restricted. The LTTE did not tolerate freedom of expression. It
tightly restricted the print and broadcast media in areas under its control.
According to RWB, 50 armed LTTE activists near the eastern town of Batticaloa
August 7 ambushed a distribution truck of Thinamurasu, a Tamil-language weekly,
and burned 5,000 copies of the newspaper. In the past, the LTTE killed those
reporting and publishing on human rights.
In 2002, two Air Force personnel were convicted of forcibly entering the home of
and threatening a well-known journalist who reported regularly on defense
matters. The two received 9-year sentences, were released on bail, and continued
to appeal the charge during the year.
The Government did not restrict access to the Internet.
The Government did not restrict academic freedom.
The LTTE restricted academic freedom, and it repressed and killed intellectuals
who criticize its actions. The LTTE also severely repressed members of human
rights organizations, such as the University Teachers for Human Rights (UTHR)
and other groups. Many former members of the UTHR have been killed and others
were in hiding.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The law provides for freedom of assembly and association, and the Government
generally respected these rights in practice. Although the PTA may be used to
restrict this freedom, the Government did not use the Act for that purpose
during the year. Numerous peaceful political and nonpolitical rallies were held
throughout the country during the year.
The 1981 Referendum Act states that rallies and demonstrations of a political
nature cannot be held when a referendum is scheduled. However, the Government
generally granted permits for demonstrations, including those by opposition
parties and minority groups.
In October 2002, special task force police killed eight Tamil civilians during a
protest in Akkaraipattu. Police and the commission tasked with investigating the
incident claimed that the crowd was trying to enter the police compound and the
police were defending themselves. Tamils continued to dispute this finding,
asserting that the protest was peaceful.
The LTTE does not allow freedom of association in the areas it controls. The
LTTE reportedly used coercion to make persons attend its rallies. On the Jaffna
Peninsula, the LTTE occasionally posted publicly the names of Tamil civilians
accused of associating with security forces and other Government entities. The
Jaffna Library, destroyed during the war, was reconstructed and was set to
reopen during the year, but the LTTE prevented the reopening. The LTTE killed
Tamil civilians who cooperated with the security forces in establishing a civil
administration in Jaffna under a political leadership elected freely and fairly
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution accords Buddhism a foremost position, but it also provides for
the right of members of other faiths to practice their religions freely, and the
Government generally respected this right in practice. Despite the special
status afforded by the Constitution to Buddhism, major religious festivals of
all faiths are celebrated as public holidays.
Foreign clergy may work in the country, but the Government sought to limit the
number of foreign religious workers given temporary work permits. Permission
usually was restricted to denominations registered with the Government. The
Government prohibited the entry of new foreign clergy on a permanent basis. It
permitted those already in the country to remain.
During the year, there were confirmed reports of assault on Protestant and
Catholic churches and church members by Buddhist mobs, often led by extremist
Buddhist monks. Christian organizations reported an increase in attacks, with
several per week by year's end. Village police were often reluctant to pursue
Buddhist monk agitators out of deference for their position. At year's end, no
arrests had been made.
Two legal developments during the year raised religious freedom concerns. In
July, the Supreme Court denied a Catholic order of nuns the right to be
incorporated on the grounds that its medical services to the poor constituted
proselytism. In January, the Supreme Court ruled against incorporation of New
Harvest Wine Ministry, an Evangelical group, stating that Christian institutions
should not couple religious education with charitable deeds. Also during the
year, the Ministry of Hindu Affairs drafted a bill that would prevent
proselytism to Hindus, including the use of outreach-type materials or media,
and would require all conversions of Hindus to be reported to a local government
official for investigation of possible force or allurement. The draft bill was
under review at year's end.
In 2001, four Sinhalese attacked a Muslim cashier. When the Muslim community
protested police inaction, rioting Sinhalese confronted the Muslim persons, and
two Muslims were killed. The police investigation into this incident remained
open and no arrests were reported. There were no developments in this case
during the year.
The LTTE expelled virtually the entire Muslim population from their homes in the
northern part of the island in 1990. Most of these persons remain displaced.
During the year, the LTTE leadership met with the leaders of the Muslim
community to discuss the peace process. In the past, the LTTE expropriated
Muslim homes, land, and businesses and threatened Muslim families with death if
they attempted to return. The LTTE made some conciliatory statements to the
Muslim community, but most Muslims viewed the statements with skepticism. There
also was intimidation of Muslims in the east by the LTTE, and, throughout the
year, there was sporadic fighting between LTTE personnel and Muslims. For
example, on April 17-18, five Muslims were killed and scores displaced during
fighting with the LTTE in Mutur, near the eastern port city of Trincomalee. In
August, five Muslims were killed, and numerous Muslim-owned businesses and
houses were burned during fighting in the Eastern Province.
The LTTE has been accused in the past of using church and temple compounds,
where civilians were instructed by the Government to congregate in the event of
hostilities, as shields for the storage of munitions.
For a more detailed discussion, see the 2003 International Religious Freedom
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and
The Constitution grants every citizen "freedom of movement and of choosing his
residence" and "freedom to return to [the country]", and the Government
generally respected the right in practice. However, in the past, the war with
the LTTE prompted the Government to impose more stringent checks on travelers
from the north and the east and on movement in Colombo, particularly after dark.
Tamils had to obtain police passes to move freely in the north and east, and
frequently they were harassed at checkpoints throughout the country. These
security measures had the effect of restricting the movement of Tamils.
Starting in 2001, most travel restrictions were lifted by the Government. Areas
with limited access continued to be near military bases and high security zones,
defined as areas near military emplacements, camps, barracks, or checkpoints
where civilians could not enter. Some observers claimed the high security zones
were excessive and unfairly claimed Tamil agricultural lands, particularly in
Jaffna. The LTTE limited travel on the road connecting Jaffna in the north to
the rest of the country; however, in April 2002, the Government lifted all its
restrictions on travel to Jaffna.
By late 2001, there were over 800,000 IDPs in Sri Lanka. With the advent of the
peace process, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
reported that 341,000 IDPs had returned to their places of origin, leaving
roughly 500,000 IDPs in the country. According to the RC, approximately 100,000
IDPs were unable to resettle as a result of the High Security Zones. An
estimated 65,000 Tamil refugees live in camps in Tamil Nadu in southern India.
Approximately 100,000 refugees may have integrated into Tamil society in India
over the years. According to the UNHCR, a small number may have returned from
India during the year.
The LTTE has discriminated against Muslims and, in 1990, expelled some 46,000
Muslim inhabitants--virtually the entire Muslim population--from their homes in
areas under LTTE control in the northern part of the island. Most of these
persons remained displaced and lived in or near welfare centers. There were
credible reports that the LTTE warned thousands of Muslims displaced from the
Mannar area not to return to their homes until the conflict is over. However, it
appeared that these attacks by the LTTE were not targeted against persons due to
their religious beliefs; rather, it appeared that they were part of an overall
strategy to clear the north and east of persons not sympathetic to the cause of
an independent Tamil state. During the year, the LTTE invited the Muslim IDPs to
return home, asserting they would not be harmed. Although some Muslim IDPs had
begun returning home, the vast majority had not returned. Instead, they were
awaiting a guarantee from the Government for their safety in LTTE-controlled
The LTTE occasionally disrupted the flow of persons exiting the Vanni region
through the two established checkpoints. In particular, the LTTE taxed civilians
traveling through areas it controled. In the past, the LTTE disrupted the
movement of IDPs from Trincomalee to Jaffna by hijacking or attacking civilian
shipping, although there were no such reports during the year.
The law does not provide for the granting of asylum and/or refugee status to
persons who meet the definition in the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the
Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. In practice, the Government cooperated
with the UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in assisting IDPs and
refugees. Asylum issues did not arise during the year. There were no reports of
refoulement, the forced return of persons to a country where they feared
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their
The Constitution provides citizens with the right to change their government
peacefully. Citizens exercised this right in practice through multiparty,
periodic, free and fair elections held on the basis of universal suffrage;
however, recent elections have been marred by violence and some irregularities.
Power is shared between the President (elected in 1999 for a 6-year term) and
the 225-member Parliament. The right to change the government was exercised in
the December 2001 parliamentary elections in which the UNF, a coalition of
parties led by the UNP, won a majority in Parliament for the next 6-year period.
Stating that it feared possible infiltration by the LTTE, the Government
prohibited more than 40,000 Tamil voters living in LTTE-controlled territories
from crossing army checkpoints in order to vote. During the year, the Supreme
Court ruled that this action violated the fundamental rights of these
prospective Tamil voters. The Supreme Court ruling cited and fined the commander
of the Army, the then-Commissioner of Elections, and the Government for
preventing citizens from exercising their right to vote. The commander of the
Army claimed that he was following orders from the Government based on
information that the LTTE was planning to infiltrate government-controlled areas
on election day.
Following elections held in December 2001, the UNP and its allies formed the new
Government. The president's party, the PA, led the opposition in Parliament.
Cohabitation ties between the President and Prime Minister have been difficult
and were exacerbated in November when the President declared an emergency,
suspended Parliament for 15 days and dismissed 3 ministers, taking personal
control of the defense ministry. In doing so, the President cited concerns about
national security. Discussions continued at year's end over the control of the
three ministries and the Prime Minister's role in the peace process.
The President suspended Parliament from July to September 2001 out of concern
that her coalition had lost its majority in Parliament because of defections.
The suspension of Parliament angered opposition parties, which sponsored
numerous demonstrations. One of these demonstrations ended with the deaths of
two marchers killed by security forces (see Section 2.b.). After further
defections from her coalition, the President dissolved Parliament in October
2001, and called for elections to take place in December 2001.
On election day in December 2001, 12 supporters of the Sri Lankan Muslim
Congress were killed, allegedly by hired thugs of a PA candidate. Former PA
Member of Parliament Anuruddha Ratwatte and his two sons were indicted for
conspiring in the killings. In addition, 15 others, including security force
personnel, were indicted for their alleged involvement in the murders. In June,
Ratwatte and 14 others were granted bail by a 5-judge bench of the Supreme
Court, setting aside the majority order of the High-Court-Trial-at-Bar.
Despite an extremely violent campaign preceding the 2001 election, including
credible reports of the use of intimidation by both of the major parties, voter
turnout exceeded 70 percent. The People's Alliance for Free and Fair Elections
reported 755 incidents of violence and 49 deaths; the Center for Monitoring
Election Violence reported 4,208 incidents and 73 deaths; and the police
reported 2,247 incidents and 45 deaths connected to the election.
In September 2001, the Parliament passed the 17th Amendment, which established
(among other commissions) an independent Commission on Elections, which was to
be tasked with ensuring free and fair elections; however, implementing
legislation was not passed by year's end.
A delegation from the European Union monitoring the 2001 election expressed
concern about violence and irregularities in the voting, but concluded that the
election "did to a reasonable degree reflect the will of the electorate."
There were 10 women in the 225-member Parliament. There was one woman in the
Cabinet, and two sat on the Supreme Court. In December 1999, a woman, Chandrika
Kumaratunga, was elected President for a second term.
There were 28 Tamils and 24 Muslims in the 225-member Parliament.
The LTTE continued to refuse to allow elections in areas under its control,
although it did not oppose campaigning by certain Tamil parties in the east
during the December 2001 parliamentary elections. In previous years, the LTTE
effectively had undermined the functioning of local government bodies in Jaffna
through a campaign of killing and intimidation. This campaign included the
killing of two of Jaffna's mayors and death threats against members of the 17
local councils. During the period of the conflict, the LTTE killed popularly
elected politicians, including those elected by Tamils in areas the LTTE claimed
as part of a Tamil homeland.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental
Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated
without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on
human rights cases. Government officials were cooperative and responsive to
their views. Several domestic human rights NGOs, including the Consortium of
Humanitarian Agencies, the University Teachers for Human Rights, Jaffna, the
Civil Rights Movement, and the Law and Society Trust, monitored civil and
political liberties. There are no adverse regulations governing the activities
of local and foreign NGOs, although the Government officially required NGOs to
include action plans and detailed descriptions of funding sources as part of its
registration process. Some NGO workers viewed this as an attempt by the
Government to exert greater control over the NGO sector after previous human
rights groups' criticisms. Few NGOs complied with these reporting requirements.
The Government continued to allow the ICRC unrestricted access to detention
facilities (see Sections 1.c. and 1.d.). The ICRC provided international
humanitarian law training materials and training to the security forces. The
UNHCR, the ICRC, and a variety of international NGOs assisted in the delivery of
medical and other essential supplies to the Vanni area (see Section 1.g.).
The HRC by statute has wide powers and resources and may not be called as a
witness in any court of law or be sued for matters relating to its official
duties. However, according to the ALRC, the HRC often was not as effective as it
should have been. The HRC adopted a tribunal-like approach to investigations,
declining to undertake preliminary inquires in the manner of a criminal
investigator, and often told victims to find their own evidence. The HRC did not
issue an annual report about human rights abuses. Nevertheless, the HRC
conducted 690 visits to police stations and 96 visits to detention facilities.
The HRC had 2,500 cases of alleged human rights abuse pending. Activists
expressed some satisfaction with the HRC leadership's prompt investigation into
the 2000 Bindunuwewa massacre.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Disability, Language, or Social
The Constitution provides for equal rights under the law for all citizens, and
the Government generally respected these rights. The Supreme Court regularly
upheld court rulings in cases in which individuals filed suit over the
abridgment of their fundamental civil rights. The HRC and the CIUAH are other
mechanisms the Government has established to ensure enforcement of
constitutional provisions in addition to access to the courts (see Section
1.d.). There was no official discrimination against those who provided HIV
prevention services or against high-risk groups likely to spread HIV/AIDS;
however, there was some societal discrimination against these groups.
Sexual assault, rape, and spousal abuse (often associated with alcohol abuse)
continued to be serious and pervasive problems. Amendments to the Penal Code
introduced in 1995 specifically addressed sexual abuse and exploitation, and
modified rape laws to create a more equitable burden of proof and to make
punishments more stringent. Marital rape is considered an offense in cases of
spouses living under judicial separation, and laws govern sexual molestation and
sexual harassment in the workplace. While the Penal Code may ease some of the
problems faced by victims of sexual assault, many women's organizations believed
that greater sensitization of police and judicial officials should be required.
The Government set up the Bureau for the Protection of Children and Women within
the police in 1994 to respond to calls for greater awareness and attention;
however, there was no information on any action taken by the Bureau, nor on the
number of crimes against women.
There were several reported incidents of rape or attempted rape by security
forces during the year. According to the RC, two policemen were accused October
23 of the attempted rape of a Mrs. Selvarajah at Uyilankulam in Mannar District.
Three soldiers were accused August 26 of attempted rape of a woman at Inbaruty
in Vadamarachchi in the Jaffna Peninsula. During the year, the police reported
approximately 900 rape investigations in the country compared with 865 rape
investigations in 2002. Despite the number of reported rapes, there were no
convictions in the cases involving security force personnel.
Although laws against procuring and trafficking were strengthened in 1995,
trafficking in women for the purpose of forced labor occurred (see Section
6.f.). Prostitution was not legal, and it was a problem. Some members of the
police and security forces reportedly participated in or condoned prostitution.
The Constitution provides for equal employment opportunities in the public
sector. However, women had no legal protection against discrimination in the
private sector where they sometimes were paid less than men for equal work,
often experienced difficulty in rising to supervisory positions, and faced
sexual harassment. Women constituted approximately one-half of the formal
Women have equal rights under national, civil, and criminal law. However,
questions related to family law, including divorce, child custody, and
inheritance, are adjudicated by the customary law of each ethnic or religious
group. The minimum age of marriage for women is 18 years, except in the case of
Muslims, who followed their customary marriage practices. Different religious
and ethnic practices often resulted in uneven treatment of women, including
The Government was committed to protecting the welfare and rights of children
but was constrained by a lack of resources. Expenditures for health and
education for children declined as a percent of GDP between 1998 and 2001.
Nevertheless, the Government demonstrated its commitment through extensive
systems of public education and medical care. The law requires children between
the ages of 5 and 14 to attend school. Approximately 85 percent of children
under the age of 16 attended school. Education was free through the university
level. Health care, including immunization, also was free.
Many NGOs attributed the problem of exploitation of children to the lack of law
enforcement rather than inadequate legislation. Many law enforcement resources
were diverted to the conflict with the LTTE, although the police's Bureau for
the Protection of Children and Women conducted investigations into crimes
against children and women. In September 2002, the police opened an office to
work directly with the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) on children's
issues, to support NCPA investigations into crimes against children, and to
arrest suspects based on those investigations.
Under the law, the definition of child abuse includes all acts of sexual
violence against, trafficking in, and cruelty to children. The law also
prohibits the use of children in exploitative labor or illegal activities or in
any act contrary to compulsory education regulations. It also broadens the
definition of child abuse to include the involvement of children in war. The
NCPA included representatives from the education, medical, retired police, and
legal professions; it reported directly to the President.
The Government pushed for greater international cooperation to bring those
guilty of pedophilia to justice. The penalty for pedophilia is not less than 5
years and up to 20 years, as well as an unspecified fine. During the year, 11
cases of pedophilia were brought to court; however, there were no convictions.
Child prostitution was a problem in certain coastal resort areas. The Government
estimated that there were more than 2,000 child prostitutes in the country, but
private groups claimed that the number was much higher (see Section 6.f.).
Citizens committed much of child sexual abuse in the form of child prostitution;
however, some child prostitutes were boys who catered to foreign tourists. Some
of these children were forced into prostitution (see Section 6.f.). The
Department of Probation and Child Care Services provided protection to child
victims of abuse and sexual exploitation, and worked with local NGOs that
provided shelter. The Tourist Bureau conducted awareness-raising programs for
at-risk children in resort regions prone to sex tourism.
The LTTE used child soldiers and recruits children, sometimes forcibly, for use
in battlefield support functions and in combat. LTTE recruits, some as young as
13 years of age, surrendered to the military, and credible reports indicated
that the LTTE stepped up recruiting efforts (see Section 1.g.). In 1998, the
LTTE gave assurances to the Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General
for Children in Armed Combat that it would not recruit children under the age of
17. The LTTE did not honor this pledge, and, even after the ceasefire agreement,
there were multiple credible reports of the LTTE forcibly recruiting children
(see Section 6.d.). For example, during the year, UNICEF reported that there
were over 700 cases of forcible child recruitment by the LTTE and that more than
1,300 children remained in LTTE custody at year's end. During the year, the
Government began participation in an inter-regional project aimed to prevent and
reintegrate children involved in armed conflict. The project was sponsored by
the International Labor Organizations's International Program for the
Elimination of Child Labor, which the Government began working with in 1996.
Persons with Disabilities
The law forbids discrimination against any person on the grounds of disability.
It is believed no cases were filed under this law. There was some discrimination
against persons with disabilities in employment, education, or in the provision
of other state services. The law does not mandate access to buildings for
persons with disabilities. The World Health Organization estimated that 7
percent of the population consisted of persons with disabilities. The Department
of Social Services operated eight vocational training schools for persons with
physical and mental disabilities and sponsored a program of job training and
placement for graduates. The Government also provided some financial support to
NGOs that assisted persons with disabilities. Such assistance included
subsidizing prosthetic devices, making purchases from suppliers with
disabilities, and registering 74 NGO-run schools and training institutions for
persons with disabilities. The Department of Social Services selected job
placement officers to help the estimated 200,000 work-eligible persons with
disabilities find jobs. Despite these efforts, persons with disabilities faced
difficulties because of negative attitudes and societal discrimination.
The country's indigenous people, known as Veddas, numbered fewer than l,000.
Some preferred to maintain their isolated traditional way of life, and they are
protected by the Constitution. There are no legal restrictions on their
participation in the political or economic life of the nation. Some Veddas
complained that they were being pushed off of their land in protected forest
There were approximately 1 million Tamils of comparatively recent Indian origin,
the so-called "tea estate" Tamils or "Indian" Tamils, whose ancestors originally
were brought to the country in the 19th century to work on plantations.
Approximately 75,000 of these persons did not qualify for citizenship in any
country and faced discrimination, especially in the allocation of government
funds for education. Without national identity cards, they were vulnerable to
arrest by the security forces. However, the Government stated that none of these
persons would be forced to depart the country. During 1999, the Government
introduced a program to begin registering these individuals, and 15,300 tea
estate Tamils received identity cards in 2001, and the registration process
continued during the year. On October 7, Parliament passed a bill granting full
citizenship to over 160,000 tea estate Tamils.
Both local and tea estate Tamils maintained that they suffered long-standing
systematic discrimination in university education, government employment, and in
other matters controlled by the Government.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The Government respects the constitutional right of workers to establish unions,
and the country has a strong trade union tradition. Any seven workers may form a
union, adopt a charter, elect leaders, and publicize their views; however, in
practice, such rights were subject to administrative delays, and unofficially
were discouraged. Nonetheless, approximately 20 percent of the 6.9 million work
force nationwide and more than 70 percent of the plantation work force,
overwhelmingly Hill Tamil, was unionized. In total, there were more than 1
million union members. Approximately 15-20 percent of the nonagricultural work
force in the private sector was unionized. Unions represented most workers in
large private firms, but workers in small-scale agriculture and small businesses
usually did not belong to unions. Public sector employees were unionized at very
Most large unions were affiliated with political parties and played a prominent
role in the political process, although major unions in the public sector were
politically independent. More than 30 labor unions had political affiliations,
but there were also a small number of unaffiliated unions, some of which had
active leaders and a relatively large membership. During 2002, the Ministry of
Employment and Labor registered 174 new unions and canceled the registration of
150 others, bringing the total number of functioning unions to 1,689 by the end
of 2002. About 500 unions were considered active. The Ministry of Employment and
Labor is authorized by law to cancel the registration of any union that does not
submit an annual report. This requirement is the only legal grounds for
cancellation of registration.
In 1999, Parliament passed an amendment to the Industrial Disputes Act (IDA),
which requires employers to recognize trade unions and the right to collective
bargaining and prohibits anti-union discrimination. This law was being
implemented. Employers found guilty of discrimination must reinstate workers
fired for union activities but may transfer them to different locations.
Anti-union discrimination is a punishable offense liable for a fine of $200
During the year, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU)
filed a formal complaint against the Government in the ILO Freedom of
Association Committee regarding an allegedly flawed referendum July 9 at the
Jaqalanka Ltd. factory in the Katunyake Free Trade Zone. At year's end, the
complaint was resolved, with both sides reportedly making concessions on the
issue. Unions may affiliate with international bodies, and a few have done so.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The law provides for the right to collective bargaining; however, very few
companies practiced it. At year's end, about 50 companies belonging to the
Employers' Federation of Ceylon (EFC) had collective agreements. All collective
agreements must be registered at the Department of Labor. By year's end,
companies belonging to the EFC signed 128 collective agreements.
According to the ICFTU, there were some violations of trade union rights in the
EPZs. Only seven unions were active in EPZs, partially because of severe
restrictions on access by union organizers to the zones. In order to give effect
to the IDA and ILO conventions on collective bargaining and trade union
activity, the Board of Investment (BOI) issued a new labor standards manual in
October 2002 instructing BOI companies, including those in EPZs, to recognize
Trade Union activities and the right to collective bargaining.
There are 10 trade unions operating in the EPZs. Collective bargaining units are
recognized as unions in 4 out of approximately 200 factories.
In BOI enterprises without unions, including those in the EPZs, worker
councils--composed of employees, employers, and often a public sector
representative--generally provided the fora for labor and management
negotiation. According to the new BOI labor manual and BOI sources, the councils
have the power to negotiate binding collective bargaining contracts, although no
such contracts have been signed to date. Labor advocates criticized the
employees' councils as ineffective worker representatives.
All workers, other than police, armed forces, prison service and those in
essential services, have the right to strike. By law, workers may lodge
complaints with the Commissioner of Labor, a labor tribunal, or the Supreme
Court to protect their rights. These mechanisms were effective, and new reforms
placed limits on the amount of time allowed to resolve arbitration cases;
however, there continued to be substantial backlogs in the resolution of cases.
The President retains the power to designate any industry as an essential
Civil servants may submit labor grievances to the Public Service Commission
(PSC). If not satisfied with PSC decisions, civil servants may appeal to the
Administrative Appeals Commission set up in July under the 17th Amendment to the
Constitution. They may also seek judicial protection under fundamental rights
protection provisions in the Constitution. Government workers in the
transportation, medical, educational, power generation, financial, and port
sectors have staged brief strikes and other work actions in the past few years.
There were numerous public sector, but relatively few private sector, strikes
during the year.
The law prohibits retribution against strikers in nonessential sectors.
Employers may dismiss workers only for disciplinary reasons, mainly misconduct.
Incompetence or low productivity are not considered appropriate grounds for
dismissal. Dismissed employees have a right to appeal their termination before a
Approximately 125,000 workers were employed in 12 EPZs/Industrial Parks operated
by the BOI. A large percentage of these workers were women. Under the law,
workers in the EPZs have the same rights to join unions as other workers. Few
unions have formed in the EPZs, partially because of severe restrictions on
access by union organizers to the zones. While the unionization rate in the rest
of the country was approximately 20 percent, the rate within the EPZs was under
10 percent. Labor representatives alleged that the Government's BOI, which
manages the EPZs, including setting wages and working conditions in the EPZs,
discouraged union activity. The short-term nature of employment and the
relatively young workforce in the EPZs made it difficult to organize. Labor
representatives alleged that worker councils in the EPZs only had the power to
make recommendations. The recent BOI manual stated that Employees' Councils
could represent workers in collective bargaining and industrial disputes. Labor
representatives alleged that the Labor Commissioner, under BOI pressure, had
failed to prosecute employers who refused to recognize or enter into collective
bargaining with trade unions. While employers in the EPZs generally offered
higher wages and better working conditions than employers elsewhere, workers
faced other concerns, such as security, expensive but low quality boarding
houses, and sexual harassment. In most instances, wage boards established
minimum wages and conditions of employment, except in the EPZs, where wages and
work conditions were set by the BOI.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Bonded Labor
The law prohibits forced or bonded labor; however, there were reports that such
practices occurred. The law does not prohibit forced or bonded labor by children
specifically, but government officials interpreted it as applying to persons of
all ages (see Section 6.d.). There were credible reports that some rural
children were employed in debt bondage as domestic servants in urban households,
and there were numerous reports that some of these children had been abused.
d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment
The minimum age for employment is 14, although the law permits the employment of
younger children by their parents or guardians in limited family agriculture
work or to engage in technical training. A recent amendment to the Employment of
Women and Youth Act (EWYC) prohibits all other forms of family employment of
children below 14. The Compulsory Attendance at Schools Act, which requires
children between the ages of 5 and 14 to attend school, has been in effect since
1998, although it still was being implemented. A child activity survey, carried
out in 1998 and 1999 by the Department of Census and Statistics, found almost
11,000 children between the ages of 5 and 14 working full time and another
15,000 engaged in both economic activity and housekeeping. The survey found
450,000 children employed by their families in seasonal agricultural work
throughout the country.
The EWYC and the Factories Ordinance govern employment of young persons between
14 and 18 years of age. Persons under age 18 may not be employed in any public
enterprise in which life or limb is endangered. There were no reports that
children were employed in the EPZs, the garment industry, or any other export
industry, although children sometimes were employed during harvest periods in
the plantation sectors and in non-plantation agriculture. It was believed that
many thousands of children were employed in domestic service, although this
situation was not regulated or documented. A 1997 study reported that child
domestic servants were employed in 8.6 percent of homes in the Southern
Province. The same study reported that child laborers in the domestic service
sector often were deprived of an education. Many child domestics reportedly were
subjected to physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Regular employment of
children also occurred in family enterprises such as family farms, crafts, small
trade establishments, restaurants, and repair shops.
The National Child Protection Authority is the central agency for coordinating
and monitoring action on the protection of children. The Department of Labor,
the Department of Probation and Child Care Services, and the Police Department
are responsible for the enforcement of child labor laws. Government inspections
were unable to eliminate child labor (see Section 5), although an awareness
campaign coupled with the establishment of hotlines led to an increase in
prosecutions. The Labor Department reported 161 complaints regarding child labor
in 2002, with 72 of these cases withdrawn due to lack of evidence or faulty
complaints. From January to July, the Labor Department reported 102 complaints,
with 14 cases withdrawn and 23 prosecuted. Penalties for employing minors were
increased from approximately $10 (1,000 rupees) and/or 6 months imprisonment to
$100 (10,000 rupees) and/or 12 months imprisonment.
Although the law prohibits forced or bonded labor by persons of any age, some
rural children reportedly have served in debt bondage (see Sections 5 and 6.c.).
The LTTE continued to use high school-age children for work as cooks,
messengers, and clerks, as well as soldiers. In some cases, the children
reportedly helped build fortifications. In the past, children as young as age 10
were said to be recruited and placed for 2 to 4 years in special schools that
provided a mixture of LTTE ideology and formal education. The LTTE used children
as young as age 13 years in battle, and children sometimes were recruited
forcibly (see Section 5). Compulsory physical training, including mock military
drills even for children and the aged reportedly occurred. According to LTTE
spokesmen, training was meant to keep the population fit; however, it was
believed widely that the training was established to gain tighter control and
provide a base for recruiting fighters. Individuals or small groups of children
intermittently turned themselves over to security forces or religious leaders,
saying that they had escaped LTTE training camps throughout the year.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
While there is no universal national minimum wage, approximately 40 wage boards
established by the Department of Labor set minimum wages and working conditions
by sector and industry. These minimum wages did not provide a decent standard of
living for a worker and family, but the vast majority of families had more than
one worker. The Ministry of Labor effectively enforced the minimum wage law for
large companies, but there was no monitoring of the informal sector. The monthly
minimum wage in the garment industry was approximately $27 (2,800 rupees), and
approximately $20 (2,100 rupees) in the hotel industry.
In July 2002, the daily wage rate (fixed by a collective agreement) in the tea
plantations managed by plantation management companies was increased from $1.24
(121 rupees) to $1.51 (147 rupees). In the rubber sector, the daily wage was
raised from $1.15 (112 rupees) to $1.35 (131 rupees).
The law prohibits most full-time workers from regularly working more than 45
hours per week (a 5 1/2-day workweek). Overtime has been changed from to 100
hours per year from 60 hours per month under a recent ruling. Labor organizers
were concerned that the new legislation did not include a provision for overtime
with the consent of the worker. Workers receive 14 days of annual leave, 14 to
21 days of medical leave, and approximately 20 local holidays each year.
Maternity leave is available for permanent, seasonal and part-time female
workers. Several laws protect the safety and health of industrial workers, but
the Ministry of Labor's small staff of inspectors was inadequate to enforce
compliance. Health and safety regulations do not meet international standards.
Workers have the statutory right to remove themselves from dangerous situations,
but many workers were unaware or indifferent and feared they would lose their
jobs if they removed themselves from the work situation.
f. Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits trafficking in persons; however, the country was a point of
origin and destination for trafficked persons, primarily women and children
trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and sexual exploitation. Female
citizens traveled to Middle Eastern countries to work as domestics, and some
reported being forced into sexual exploitation. A small number of Thai, Russian,
and Chinese women had been trafficked to Sri Lanka for purposes of sexual
exploitation. Some children were trafficked internally to work as domestics and
for sexual exploitation.
The legal penalties for trafficking in women include imprisonment for 2 to 20
years and a fine. For trafficking in children, the law allows imprisonment of 5
to 20 years and a fine.
Internal trafficking in male children was also a problem, especially from areas
bordering the northern and eastern provinces. Protecting Environment and
Children Everywhere (PEACE), a domestic NGO, estimated that there were 6,000
male children between the ages of 8 and 15 years engaged as sex workers at beach
and mountain resorts. Some of these children were forced into prostitution by
their parents or by organized crime (see Section 5). PEACE also reported that an
additional 7,000 men age 15 to 18 years were self-employed prostitutes.
The NCPA has adopted, with ILO assistance, a comprehensive national plan to
combat the trafficking of children for exploitative employment. With the NCPA,
police began work in 2002 on children's issues, including trafficking in
The country's reputation as a destination for foreign pedophiles declined
significantly because of improved law enforcement and increased publicity.
The Government established rehabilitation camps for trafficking victims and
initiated awareness campaigns to educate women about trafficking; however, most
of the campaigns, with support from the Bureau of Foreign Employment, were
conducted by local and international NGOs.