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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Sri Lanka Accused at United Nations > UN Commission on Human Rights 1993
UN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
49TH SESSIONS: JANUARY 1993
- Joint statement by 15 Non Governmental Organisations under the agenda item relating to the right of peoples to self determination
"... The Tamil population in the North and East, who have lived for many centuries within relatively well defined geographical boundaries, share an ancient heritage, a vibrant culture, and a living language which traces its origins to more than 2500 years ago. A social group, which shares objective elements such as a common language and which has acquired a subjective consciousness of togetherness, by its life within a relatively well defined territory, and its struggle against alien domination, clearly constitutes a 'people' with the right to self determination..." more
- Statement by Indian Treaty Council under the agenda item relating to self determination, 8 February 1993
"..We believe that the right to self-determination must be recognized, implemented and protected at every level of legislative and judicial work, whether local, national, or international so as to ensure that the denial of a peoples right to self-determination by nation states, will no longer be a norm of international relations..."
- Statement by International Educational Development made on 24 February 1993 under agenda item relating to the question of human rights of all persons subjected to any form of detention or imprisonment
- Statement by World University Service under Agenda item 7 relating to Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
"The continuing civil war in Sri Lanka has had its impact on the implementation of the right to education and affected the human rights of academics and students. Universities and schools were reopened in 1990 in the South after being closed for nearly three years. However, new Emergency Regulations ban political meetings and demonstrations at schools and campuses, and opponents of government measures to restrict university autonomy are intimidated, attacked or arrested. In the North of the country the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, in control of the Jaffna peninsula, have persecuted students and academics who express critical views of its policies."
- Joint Statement by 15 Non Governmental Organisations under agenda Item on violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms
- Joint statement by 24 Non Governmental Organisations under agenda item relating to violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms
"...Violations of human rights and humanitarian law in Sri Lanka continue at an alarming degree. We are particularly concerned because at this time the government of Sri Lanka is making no effort to resolve the armed conflict in the North and East in any other way but militarily. Sri Lanka is getting dangerously close to breaking apart into two states..." more
- Statement by International Educational Development under agenda item relating to violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms
- Intervention by the World Council of Churches under agenda item relating to violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms
- Statement of International Indian Treaty Council made under the agenda item relating to violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms
- Statement made by International Educational Development under agenda item relating to the rights persons belonging to national, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities
- Memorandum submitted by the 'Country Working Group of NGOs on Sri Lanka'
- Statement by Amabssador Haakon B.Hjelde, Norwegian Delegation under agenda item 12 relating to violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms, 1 March 1993
"Although the human rights situation in Sri Lanka has generally improved, the new report from the Working Group on disappearances confirms that there is still cause for international concern. We commend the Sri Lankan government for its openness, its sustained efforts to bring about change and its willingness to follow up on international recommendations. A continued partnership with the international community would in our view be desirable in order to further promote the shared human rights objectives in Sri Lanka"
- Statement by Amabassador Jakob Larsen, Permanent Representative of Denmark, on behalf of the European Community and its Member States under agenda item 12 relating to violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms, 1 March 1993
''The Community and its Member States remain concerned about continuing reports of human rights abuses in Sri Lanka and once again urge the Sri Lanka government to ensure that such violations are stopped. We note, however, that instances of such abuses have substantially decreased and we greatly welcome this development. We also welcome the various measures adopted by the government to curb human rights abuses and to invite international organisations to visit the country. We appreciate the acceptance of recommendations by the working group on enforced or involuntary disappearances, but note that further efforts are needed to implement these recommendations. We urge the speedy achievement of further concrete results and the continuation of these efforts."
- Statement by Ambassador Shunji Maruyama, Head of Japanese Delegation under Agenda Item 12 relating to violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms, 3 March 1993
"The Government of Japan appreciates the acceptance by the Government of Sri Lanka of the recommendations made by the Working Group on Disappearances in its 1991 report, as well as the invitation extended to the Working Group to make a follow up visit in October 1992. The Government of Japan also welcomes the measures taken by the Government of Sri Lanka during the past year, as described in the recent report of the Working Group. While sharing concern with other members of the Commission over reported disappearances and other human rights abuses, my delegation hopes that the Government of Sri Lanka will strengthen its efforts to ensure respect for human rights."
- Memorandum by International Federation of Tamils on Bishop Kenneth Fernando's Peace Mission to Tamil Eelam, circulated to delegates
- Memorandum by International Federation of Tamils on economic blockade of Tamil homeland circulated to delegates
- Report by Tamil Times, 15 March 1993
"...With a view to avoiding a resolution or a Chairman's statement reflecting the concern of the Commission, the Sri Lankan delegation engaged in protracted negotiations with many government delegations. They also indicated their willingness to offer several undertakings to be carried out during this year. The eventual statement made by the Chairman on behalf of the Commission tied Sri Lanka to implement their undertakings and urged the government of Sri Lanka to arrive at a negotiated political settlement to the conflict in the north and east of the country. It also ensured that the Commission will keep Sri Lanka under scrutiny."
- Statement by Mr.Tilak Marapone, Leader of Sri Lanka Delegation, 23 February, 1993 under Agenda Item No. 10(C): Question of enforced or involuntary disappearances.
- Statement by Mr. Tilak Marapone, Leader of Sri Lanka Delegation, 11 March 1993
- Human Rights Commission Chairman's acknowledgment read out following the delivery of the national statement of the delegation of Sri Lanka, 11 March 1993
"The Commission acknowledges the statement of the representative of Sri Lanka concerning the situation of Human Rights in Sri Lanka. The Government of Sri Lanka has outlined a programme of work which is to be implemented in the course of the year which includes: taking appropriate measures to ascertain the whereabouts of alleged missing persons; prosecution of those found responsible for disappearances and other human rights violations; a comprehensive review and revision of emergency legislation relating to arrest and detention; compilation and publication of a consolidated version of all current emergency regulations; continued implementation of the recommendations of the Working Group on Disappearances contained in its 1991 Report and consideration of the Working Group's recommendation in its 1992 Report...."
- Situation Report (updated January 1993) presented by Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka, Geneva, 11 March 1993
- Statement by Sri Lanka Ambassador under Agenda Item 4 on Question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories including Palestine and Agenda Item 9 on the right of peoples to self-determination and its application to peoples under colonial or alien domination or foreign occupation.
Joint statement by 15 Non Governmental Organisations
- consisting of the International Organisation for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, International Educational Development, Centre Europe Ties Monde, International Indian Treaty Council, Fedefam, Association paur la Liberte Religiose, Codehuca, World Christian Community, Pax Christie International, International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples, Movement contra le Racisme, International Association of Educadores for World Peace, International Association against Torture, World Confederation of Labour, and International Movement for Fraternal Union among Races and Peoples, under the agenda item relating to the right of peoples to self determination, 8 February 1993
''The armed conflict in the island of Sri Lanka and the continuing violations of humanitarian law cause us deep and grave concern.
We are of the view that any meaningful attempt to resolve the conflict should address its underlying causes and to recognise that the armed struggle of the Tamil people for self determination, arose as a response to decades of an ever widening and deepening oppression by a permanent Sinhala majority, within the confines of an unitary Sri Lankan state.
It was an oppression which included the disenfranchisement of the plantation Tamils, systematic state aided Sinhala colonisation of the Tamil homeland, the enactment of the Sinhala Only law, discriminatory employment policies, inequitable allocation of resources to Tamil areas, exclusion of eligible Tamil students from Universities and higher education, and a refusal to share power within the frame of a federal constitution. It was an oppression by an alien Sinhala majority which consolidated the growth of the national consciousness of the Tamil people.
During the past several years the Sinhala dominated Sri Lankan government has attempted to put down the armed resistance of the Tamil people and has sought to conquer and control the Tamil homeland. The record shows that in this attempt, Sri Lanka's armed forces and para military units have committed increasingly widespread violations of the rules of humanitarian law.
In the East whole villages of Tamils have been attacked by the Army and by the so called Home Guards. Many Tamil residents in these villages were killed. Others have been tortured. Those Tamils who were detained by the Sri Lankan authorities have had little or no hope of coming out alive. The attacks on the Tamil homeland have been coupled with the declared opposition of the Sri Lankan Government to the merger of the North and East of the island into a single administrative and political unit.
However, despite the sustained attacks of Sinhala dominated governments over a period of several decades, the territorial integrity of the Tamil homeland in the North and East of the island has remained. The Tamil population in the North and East, who have lived for many centuries within relatively well defined geographical boundaries, share an ancient heritage, a vibrant culture, and a living language which traces its origins to more than 2500 years ago.
A social group, which shares objective elements such as a common language and which has acquired a subjective consciousness of togetherness, by its life within a relatively well defined territory, and its struggle against alien domination, clearly constitutes a 'people' with the right to self determination.
Today, there is an urgent need for the international community to recognise that the Tamil population in the North and East of the island of Sri Lanka are such a 'people' with the right to freely choose their political status. It is our view that such recognition will prepare the ground for the resolution of a conflict which has taken such a heavy toll in human lives and suffering during the past several years.
Accordingly, we request that the delegates to the 49th Session of the Commission on Human Rights give their urgent consideration to these matters and
(a) accord open recognition to the existence of the Tamil homeland in the North and East of the Island; and
(b) recognise that the Tamil population in the North and East of the island constitute a 'people' with the right to self determination''
Statement by Indian Treaty Council, San Francisco
- under agenda item relating to self determination, 8 February 1993
"Our organization the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) is compelled to speak on agenda item 9 of the order of the day, regarding the right of peoples to self-determination. We have long held that self-determination is an inherent and inalienable right, enshrined in the in U.N. Charter and afforded in the U.N. Covenant on Human Rights.
We believe that the right to self-determination must be recognized, implemented and protected at every level of legislative and judicial work, whether local, national, or international so as to ensure that the denial of a peoples right to self-determination by nation states, will no longer be a norm of international relations.
Since the inception of the U.N., the right to self-determination has been a key element in the struggle to obtain peace and justice throughout the world. It is for this very reason that it was specifically mentioned and included in the Charter, two Covenants as well as a number of different documents from the General Assembly. It is necessary to distinguish the application of this right as "sine qua non" to guarantee the development and the physical and cultural existence of Indigenous Peoples.
The Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and the Protection of Minorities has prepared two important studies on the right to self-determination. In specific reference to Indigenous populations these reports on the discrimination against Indigenous Peoples say that self-determination is an indispensable element for the historical continuity of Indigenous communities, peoples and nations. During, the Second Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination a U.N. seminar was held in Nuuk the capital of Greenland, on the right to self-determination of Indigenous People. The preparatory documents, conclusions and recommendations of this seminar must be considered and integrated in this discussion on self-determination.
The Board of Directors of IITC would like to call on this Commission to adopt concrete resolutions regarding the gross violations of the right to self-determination in the situations of... Sri Lanka, where the Tamil people have suffered violations of their human rights for more than forty years at the hands of the Sri Lankan Government seeking to establish a hegenomous state where the culture and heritage of Tamil people will surely be denied."
Statement by International Educational Development
- under agenda item relating to the question of human rights of all persons subjected to any form of detention or imprisonment, 24 February 1993
''International Educational Development and its Humanitarian Law Project have a special mandate to investigate situations of violations of humanitarian law and to present these cases to both international human rights forums and domestic tribunals. Torture carried out against protected persons, including prisoners of war, and gross violations of detained persons in the course of armed conflicts are war crimes and deserve the Commission's attention....
International Educational Development welcomes the statement regarding Sri Lanka made by the Commission at its forty-eighth session and the report of the Working Group on Disappearances (U.N. Doc.E/CN.4/1993/25/Add.1) following its second visit to that country. The report, however, illustrates the difficulty of addressing only one issue when a country is engulfed in armed conflict.
We certainly welcome the information and comments relating to humanitarian law norms, torture, mistreatment of prisoners of war and other detainees, which although outside the issue of disappearances must be addressed if there is any meaningful discussion of human rights in Sri Lanka. In fact, this report proves the point we made many times here at the Commission _ there should be a special rapporteur for Sri Lanka due to the wide range and gravity of violations, including war crimes.
IED is less pleased with the report of the rapporteur for torture (U.N. Doc.E/CN.4/1993/26) regarding Sri Lanka, even though the one case presented, that of Mrs Florence Arimalar Gnanakone had been presented to the Rapporteur by IED at the request of Mrs. Gnanakone's family.
Our organization has representatives and contacts in many parts of Sri Lanka, who provide highly credible evidence of other cases of torture, many of which have been presented to the rapporteur. We hope that the reports in subsequent years will accurately reflect the numbers of complaints.
Detention of Tamils, both in Sri Lanka and in India continues to be a major problem. In one highly criticized action, the government of India detained Tamil LTTE leader Sathasivam Krishnakumar (alias Kittu) and his vessel in international waters. In this unfortunate incident, Mr. Krishnakumar and some of his companions died and 9 are in detention in India.
Regarding this incident, the British Commission of Inquiry for the International War Crimes Tribunal calls for an investigation into this act of piracy. The General Secretary of the Quaker Peace and Service London Meeting issued a statement of regret and hope that Mr Krishnakumar's "dream of peace and prosperity for the Tamil people . . . materialises soon without further loss of life."
IED urges the Commission to condemn this act and to ask the government of India to release the nine detained persons. Their parents and attorneys have not been allowed to visit them and doctors who have seen them report signs of torture. We fear for the lives and safety of the nine detainees and their attorneys."
Joint Statement by 15 Non Governmental Organisations under agenda Item on violation of human Rights and fundamental freedoms
A joint statement signed by 15 human rights NGOs, including Human Rights Advocates, Article 19, International PEN, Anti-Slavery Society, International Human Rights Law Group, American Association of Jurists, World University Service, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Pax Christi International, Pax Romana, SOS Torture, International Movement for Fraternal Union Among Races and Peoples, National Aboriginal and Islander Legal Service Secretariat, Third World Movement Against the Exploitation of Women and the International League for Human Rights, stated inter alia:
'Due to the continuing armed conflict, transport and communications have been severely disrupted in many parts of the northeast. The civilian population, particularly in the north has been deprived of essential food and medical supplies except for the limited supplies made available through the ICRC which do not meet even a fraction of the needs of the population.
The security forces have banned the transport of a large number of items essential to the basic survival of the community. With no electricity, no fuel, no transport, no adequate food or medical supplies, the civilian population has been pushed to undergo severe hardship.
As far as the human rights situation is concerned, Sri Lanka continues to remain under Emergency Rule for the eleventh successive year with the suspension of the normal safeguards relating to human rights fundamental freedoms. The executive and the security forces continue to be invested with extraordinary powers including those relating to arrest and detention.
'The climate of impunity that has, for more than a decade, characterised the landscape of the law and order situation and the functioning of law enforcement agencies, and which became much more obvious in recent years has been one of the main factors facilitating gross human rights abuses, including the phenomena of arbitrary killings and disappearances...
'Another disturbing development during 1992 has been an increase in the incidence of violence, intimidation and politically motivated acts of thuggery. During 1992 and the first two months of 1993, a sustained and persistent campaign of violence, harassment and intimidation has been undertaken against freedom of expression and association, and target of this campaign has been members and activists of opposition political parties, media personnel and reporters, printers and newspaper distributors. Press reporters and photographers including foreign correspondents have been subjected to physical violence.
In February 1993, government officials for Inland Revenue, Electricity, Water, Labour and Municipal departments descended upon the offices of all newspapers and journals which were perceived as not supporting the government and threatened to cut off supplies if all dues up to the date of the visit were not paid in full. It is not without significance that most of the journalists from these papers have been closely involved with the 'Free Media Movement' which has been campaigning for a freer press with less government control.
We are not unmindful of the Working Group's comment that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam LTTE -Tigers), which is engaged in an armed conflict with government forces, continue to commit violations of international humanitarian law, including arbitrary killings and detention of persons belonging to all communities, in areas under their control mainly in the north-east of the country, and we denounce and condemn these abuses without hesitation.
Joint statement by 24 Non Governmental Organisations
- consisting of International Educational Development, International Immigrants Foundation, International Indian Treaty Council, FEDEFAM, International Association for Freedom of Religion, International Federation for Human Rights, International Movement for Fraternal Union among Races and Peoples, World Federation of Trade Unions, International Service for Human rights, Disables Peoples International, World Federalist Movement, International Education for World Peace, Third World Movement against Exploitation of Women, Liberation, World Christian Life Community, Centre Europe Tiers Monde, American Association of Jurists, International Association of Indigenous Resource Development,, Liberal International, Union International de Jovenes Democrata Cristianos, International League for Human Rights, International Peace Bureau and the International Organisation for Human Rights
- under agenda item relating to violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms
''Violations of human rights and humanitarian law in Sri Lanka continue at an alarming degree. We are particularly concerned because at this time the government of Sri Lanka is making no effort to resolve the armed conflict in the North and East in any other way but militarily. Sri Lanka is getting dangerously close to breaking apart into two states. In the South, serious violations of human rights also continue, as exemplified by the government's armed attack in Colombo on demonstrators, including journalists on human rights day, December 10, 1992.
We welcomed the Commission on Human Rights's Statement on Sri Lanka which was read by the Chairman on February 27, 1992 at the Commission's forty-eighth session. We have also welcomed the sincere efforts of the Commission's Working Group on Disappearances to address disappearances and other gross violations of human rights in Sri Lanka.
More forceful action by the Commission is now seriously needed to avert further tragedy and to restore human rights to all the people of Sri Lanka.
We urge the Commission to adopt a resolution on Sri Lanka in which it:
(1) calls for an immediate cease fire and schedule of peace talks aimed at resolving conflict with the Tamil people within the context of human rights and self-determination;
(2) reminds all parties to the conflict of obligations to comply fully with all humanitarian laws of armed conflict, including those set out in the Geneva Conventions of 1949;
(3) decides to monitor the situation of human rights in Sri Lanka as an issue or of the highest priority."
Statement by International Educational Development
- under agenda item relating to violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms
''IED has also joined the statement "Urgent Appeal on the Situation in Sri Lanka" signed by [many] NGOs. To that statement we add our concern for the statement made by the government of Sri Lanka in its right of reply under item 9. The government said: "If the Commission were to accept the two requests made by NGOs . . . it will put the future of the Tamil population living outside the Northern and Eastern Provinces in jeopardy... "
IED is well aware that the relationship between the Tamil people and the Sinhala-dominated government is perhaps strained beyond repair. Statements made here by the government that imply threat of retaliation against the Tamil people in Sinhala portions of Ceylon can only exasperate the situation.
If these words are said here at the Commission, we shudder to think what is being said in Sri Lanka. The vast majority of Sinhala people are peace-loving. But we have the tragic lessons of history that show that any people can be urged to hate and seek vengeance. We urge the Commission to strongly and publicly condemn this statement and to pass a resolution as suggested in the joint statement.''
Oral Intervention by the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches
- under agenda item 12 relating to violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms
"The Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches wishes to address the serious human rights situations in certain countries where it sees the need for close scrutiny and strong action by the Commission under Agenda Item 12.
The ongoing conflict and the disregard for human rights observance by the security and police forces continue to cause great suffering for the people of Sri Lanka. Attempts by the Sri Lankan government to address international criticisms of its human rights performance have been of a largely cosmetic nature. The reduction in the number of disappeared as reported by the Special Rapporteur on Disappearances should be noted, but the status of over 12,000 disappeared remains unclear and the state of emergency apparatus is still largely in place.
Hardships are particularly intense for those in the Jaffna Peninsula where the Sri Lankan government has put an embargo on the movement of essential items. Action should be taken by this Commission on Sri Lanka under Item 12, including provision for immediate negotiations by parties to the conflict leading to the safe passage of civilians and humanitarian aid in the Jaffna peninsula.
The World Council of Churches welcomes the visit of the Rt. Rev. Kenneth Fernando, the Bishop of Colombo, to Jaffna in January and brings to the attention of this Commission, the efforts of the church in Sri Lanka to work towards a just and peaceful resolution of the conflict."
Statement of International Indian Treaty Council
- under agenda item relating to violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms
Our organisation the International Indian Treaty Council represents 98 Indian Nations in the Americas, the Pacific Islands and Asia...
Violations of human rights and humanitarian law in Sri Lanka continue at an alarming degree. We are particularly concerned because at this time the government of Sri Lanka is making no effort to resolve the armed conflict in the North and East in any other way but militarily. Sri Lanka is getting dangerously close to breaking apart into two states. In the South, serious violations of human rights also continue as exemplified by the government's armed attack on demonstrators in Colombo, including journalists, on human rights day, December 10, 1992.
We urge the Commission to adopt a resolution on Sri Lanka in which it:
1. calls for an immediate cease fire and schedule of peace talks aimed at resolving conflict with the Tamil people within the context of human rights and self-determination;
2. reminds all parties to the conflict of obligations to comply fully with all humanitarian laws of armed conflict, including those set out in the Geneva Conventions of 1949;
3. decides to monitor the situation of human rights in Sri Lanka as an issue of the highest priority."
Statement made by International Educational Development
- under agenda item relating to the rights persons belonging to national, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities
"Mr. Chairman, conflicts arising from the persistent denial of the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities have become increasingly widespread all over the globe.
We, for our part, therefore welcome the consideration that the Commission has given in recent years to the drafting of a declaration on the rights of minorities, and the work connected with the preparation of a report on national experiences in facilitating the peaceful and constructive solution of problems involving minorities.
Mr. Chairman, in our view, the Sri Lanka situation serves to illustrate some of the issues that confront us.
On the one hand, the Sri Lanka Government continues to state to this Commission that the 'legitimate grievances' of 'various groups' will be resolved by 'secular policies, strengthening of respect for human rights and minority rights, decentralisation and evolution of power according to appropriate models.' On the other hand, the armed conflict between the Sinhala dominated Sri Lanka government and the Tamil people in the north and east of the island led by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam has now continued for several years taking a heavy toll in human life and suffering. In our view, this underlines the need to turn way from simply paying lip service to generalities such as - 'secular policies, minority rights, decentralisation and devolution' and address the root causes of the conflict.
In the case of Sri Lanka, the undeniable reality of democracy over the past several decades was that no Tamil was ever elected to a predominantly Sinhala electorate and no Sinhalese was ever elected to a predominantly Tamil electorate. The practise of democracy within the confines of an unitary state served to perpetuate the oppressive rule of a permanent Sinhala majority which through a series of legislative and administrative acts, ranging from disenfranchisement, and standardisation of University admissions, to discriminatory language and employment policies, and state sponsored colonisation of the homelands of the Tamil people, sought to establish its hegemony over the Tamil people.
An alien Sinhala majority speaking a language different to that of the Tamils and claiming a separate and distinct heritage has persistently denied the rights and fundamental freedoms of the Tamil minority, which has lived within a relatively well demarcated contiguous region in the north and east of the island for many centuries. The resolution of a conflict which arose as a result of such oppressive rule must clearly involve the removal of that oppression, and invoking the principle of the right to self determination and recognising the right of the Tamil population in the North and East to freely choose their own political status. Such an approach will also accord with the historical reality that before the advent of the British in 1833, separate kingdoms existed for the Tamil areas and for the Sinhala areas in the island.
The Sri Lanka Representative in a recent statement to the Commission has declared that the borders of the two provinces (north and east) were 'drawn purely for administrative purposes' and 'not done on an ethnic basis'. We regret that his statement does not accord with the historical record. The 1879 minute of the Sir Hugh Cleghorn, British Colonial Secretary makes it abundantly clear that:
"Two different nations, from a very ancient period, have divided between them the possession of the Island: the Sinhalese inhabiting the interior in its Southern and western parts from the river Wallouwe to Chilaw, and the Malabars (Tamils) who possess the Northern and Eastern Districts. These two nations differ entirely in their religion, language and manners."
More recently, the 1957 Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact as well as the Sri Lanka Constitutions of 1972 and 1979 made provisions which clearly recognised the ethnic divide between the north-east and the rest of the island.
Recently, the attacks on the Tamil homeland have been coupled with the declared opposition of the Sri Lankan Government to the merger of the North and East of the island into a single administrative and political unit. The Commission will note, for instance, that in January 1985, the United Kingdom Parliamentary Human Rights Group, after a visit to the island reported:
"... whole villages (in the East) have been emptied and neighbourhoods have been driven by the army from their homes and occupations and turned into refugees dependent on the government for dry rations... The human rights transgressed in such a course of action do not need to be detailed here... More important is that rightly or wrongly it tends to lend credibility to the view so frequently put to us that it is the Government's objective either to drive the Tamils out of the north and east in sufficient numbers so as to reduce their majority in the north and in the east, a process that would be aided by the Government's announced policy of settling armed Sinhalese people in former Tamil areas..." (Robert Kilroy-Silk, M.P. and Roger Sims, M.P United Kingdom Parliamentary Human Rights Group Report, February 1985)
Again, in August 1990, a senior Sinhala civil servant admitted:
"All wars are fought for land...The plan for settlement of people in Yan Oya and Malwathu Oya basins (in the East) was worked out before the communal riots of 1983. Indeed the keenest minds in the Mahaveli, some of whom are holding top international positions were the architects of this plan. My role was that of an executor... We moved a large group of 45,000 land hungry (Sinhala) peasants into the Batticaloa and Polonnaruwa districts of Maduru Oya delta. The second step was to make a similar human settlement in the Yan Oya basin. The third step was going to be a settlement of a number of people, opposed to Eelam, on the banks of the Malwathu Oya. By settling the (Sinhala) people in the Maduru Oya we were seeking to have in the Batticaloa zone a mass of persons opposed to a separate state...Yan Oya if settled by non separatists (Sinhala people) would have increased the population by about another 50,000. It would completely secure Trincomalee from the rebels..." (Herman Gunaratne in the Sri Lanka Sunday Times, 26th of August 1990)
In our view, the continued refusal of the Sri Lanka Government to recognise the existence of the Tamil homeland in the north and east of the island has served only to prolong the conflict. The peaceful and constructive resolution of the conflict in the island will not be furthered by the Sri Lanka representative dismissing an analysis of the root causes of the conflict as 'baseless propaganda' or by categorising the armed Tamil resistance which arose from decades of oppressive rule by an alien Sinhala majority as 'terrorist' activity.
Mr. Chairman, we regret the recent threat issued by the Sri Lanka Representative to this Commission, that any action that the Commission may take to recognise the Tamil homeland and the Tamil right to self determination will 'put the future of the Tamil population living outside the Northern and Eastern Provinces in jeopardy'. We believe that the Commission will adopt a less alarmist approach to the need to recognise the right to self determination of the Tamil population in the north and east of the island."
Memorandum submitted by the 'Country Working Group of NGOs on Sri Lanka'
''The human rights situation in Sri Lanka has been a matter of grave concern for the Members of the Commission for many years. This concern was expressed last year at the Commission's 48th Session by way of a Chairman's Statement agreed unanimously by the Commission. (E/CN.4/1992/84, page 275)
Having acknowledged the measures taken by the government to monitor reports of disappearances and other human rights violations, the Commission was 'seriously concerned over the human rights situation in Sri Lanka indicated inter alia, in the report of the Working group (E/CN.4/1992/18/Add.1) particularly the large number of disappearances recorded by the Working Group, and concerned that, whilst there has been an overall decline, incidents of disappearance continue to be reported'. The Commission further called upon the government to 'further intensify its efforts to ensure the full protection of human rights and further calls upon all parties to respect fully the universally accepted rules of humanitarian law'.
In regard to the ongoing ethnic conflict, the Commission urged the government 'to continue to pursue a negotiated political solution with all parties, based on principles of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, leading to a durable peace in the north and east of the country'.
However, it cannot be said that the Commission's expression of concern, and its urging and pleadings to the government have resulted in a situation in which there is 'full protection of human rights', or full respect for universally accepted rules of humanitarian law. The government has failed to take any concrete steps 'to pursue a negotiated political solution with all parties', and the armed conflict in the north and east of the country continues unabated.....
During this session, the Commission will have the benefit of the recent reports by the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (E/CN.4/1993/25 and E/CN.4/1993/25/Add.1), Report by the Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions (E/CN.4/1993/46, Report by the Special Rapporteur on Torture (E/CN.4/1993/26 and 'an Assessment of the Human Rights Situation' in Sri Lanka by the Amnesty International (ASA37/1/93). The Working Group on Disappearances and the Amnesty International visited Sri Lanka in late 1992.
It is not by accident that Sri Lanka has, for the last ten years, figure prominently in the reports by the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Special Rapporteur on Torture and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and 1993 is no exception.
Sri Lanka continues to be ruled, for the eleventh successive year, under a State of Emergency under which many of the normal safeguards concerning democratic and human rights and fundamental freedoms have remained suspended. The executive and the security forces continue to be invested with extraordinary powers including those relating to arrest and detention.
Of late, the government of Sri Lanka has displayed a greater degree of openness towards international human rights organisations. The government has also established new mechanisms (Human Rights Task Force (HRTF) and the Presidential Commission on the Involuntary Removal of Persons (PCIRP) to monitor and investigate certain kinds of human rights violations.
These are welcome developments, but have had only marginal impact on the human rights situation in the absence of an established system of procedural safeguards to be observed by enforcement agencies and security service and police personnel to ensure the prevention of arbitrary arrests, and the disappearance and torture of persons taken into custody. Such abuses are bound to continue until the framework provided by the Emergency Regulations and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) making such abuses possible are removed, and the government has failed to make any meaningful move in this direction.
The Working Group on Involuntary Disappearances has pointed out that the overall effect of the present body of security legislation of Sri Lanka has contributed appreciably to, and in fact is conducive to disappearances and concomitant violations of human rights.
'Another factor to be considered in the matter of security legislation is that, as a general principle, the law of the country should be clear, unequivocal, consistent, accessible to the public, and uniformly applicable. This is true of security legislation as well.
However, in Sri Lanka, the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the prevailing Emergency Regulations constitute a body of law that is quite confusing. The Working Group found that, specifically in the field, among the police and the military, a proper understanding of the rules contained in the body of law was not fully adequate...The problem is compounded by the fact that, following their entry into force, the actual text of the emergency regulations is not effectively promulgated until some time later, and is, even then, not easily accessible to the general public or even to lawyers. In fact, fully up-to-date sets of such texts are rarely available even to those responsible for the administration of justice.' E/CN.4/1993/25/Add 1. para 18/19/22).
At present detainees held under the PTA need not be brought before a judicial authority for 90 days, and under Emergency Regulations (ER) persons can be held for 30 days before a magistrate sees them.
Under these provisions, persons need not be held in public known places of detention; officials of various ranks are empowered to decide where detainees may be held; PTA permits detainees to be held up to 18 months in 'any place' and 'subject to such conditions' determined by the Ministry of Defence; and ER permit persons to be held in preventative detention indefinitely in 'any place' Amnesty International has found evidence that police sometimes used 'unofficial safe-houses' to torture suspects. (ASA37/1/1993, P.6). "The question of undesignated detention centres continues to be of major concern to the Government itself'. (E/CN/1993/25/Add.1, para 27).
In spite of the assurance given by the government to the contrary, military officers have admitted to Amnesty International delegates that it was still their policy not to wear anything indicating their rank or unit when conducting operations for security reasons.
Again contrary to assurance that security service vehicles carry number plates and official markings, there were instances of arrests carried out in 1992 by plainclothed police and military personnel who did not identify themselves, and who used unmarked vehicles. (ASA37/1/93, p.8)
The setting up of the HRTF and PCIRP and the various instructions issued by the authorities to the State enforcement agencies in regard to arrests and detentions, though inadequate to meet the gravity of the human rights situation, have been welcome measures. However, even these governmental measures have been half-hearted and ineffectual in their implementation. 'Of course, the above measures can only be meaningful to the extent they are implemented. The Working Group found that some of them are not implemented or not completely being applied.' (E/CN.4/1993/25/Add.1, para 30).
Lawyer's organisations testified to the visiting UN Working Group that, in 1992, in the process of filing habeas corpus applications startling facts had been brought to their notice amounting to gross human rights violations. Very rarely in cases of missing persons had the State been able to answer the petitions affirming the whereabouts of the corpus.
'In almost 98 per cent of the cases the State/security officers had, point blank, denied arrest, in spite of many instances where security officials responsible for arrest had been very clearly identified by the petitioners.' (E/CN.4/1993/25/Add.1, para 30).
The lack of government's resolve to bring those guilty of human rights violations, especially arbitrary killings, are demonstrated by the manner in which the much publicised 'Kokkaddicholai Massacre' was dealt with.
The government's investigative and monitoring mechanisms (PCIRP and HRTF) also do not match up to the task of taking steps to investigate cases of 'disappearances' in earlier years even when there were thousands of witnesses to the arrest in refugee camps of people who later 'disappeared'
Example 1: The Kokkaddicholai Massacre - In June 1991, following an ambush laid by Tamil Tigers in which two soldiers were killed, soldiers went on a rampage in a killing spree massacring 67 Tamil civilians at Kokkaddicholai in the eastern Batticaloa district. The government initially denied the massacre echoing the military's claim that the civilians had been killed in the cross-fire. Because of the wide publicity the incident had generated and bowing to widespread local and international demand for an impartial investigation, the government appointed a Commission of Inquiry.
The inquiry found that the deaths had not resulted from cross-fire, as the military had claimed, but from 'deliberate retaliatory action' by soldiers. The proceedings were public, but the procedures employed by the Commissioners did not fulfil the standards required by the Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions. The Commissioners did not subject the military suspects to cross-examination, contrary to Principle 10 which states that 'that investigative authority shall...have the authority to oblige officials allegedly involved in any such executions to appear and testify.'
Following the findings of the Commission, the 20 soldiers including a lieutenant who were responsible for the deaths of 67 civilians were not charged before a civilian court, but were tried before a military tribunal which was not open to the public. In the event, the lieutenant in charge was convicted on the lesser charges of failing to control his troops and disposing of bodies illegally at the site of the massacre. But the other 19 soldiers were acquitted. (ASA/37/1/93 p.9).
Example 2: The government has listed eight cases in which security service personnel have been charged with abduction, rape and murder. Some of these cases have been pending upto three years and have yet to be concluded, and none of these cases has yet reached a conviction for murder. In one case, the accused were discharged after the witnesses failed to appear in court - the witnesses themselves were abducted and 'disappeared' during the period that the accused officers were on bail. No investigation was carried out into the non-appearance of the witnesses. (ASA37/1/93 p.3).
Example 3: 158 people were reportedly arrested at the refugee camp at the Eastern University Campus, Vantharamoolai, on 5 September 1990. The Ministry of Defence later said that only 31 named people had been taken, all of whom had been released. According to a relative of two young men arrested that day, they were taken to the army camp at Valaichchenai. The case falls outside the remit of the Commission of Inquiry on the Involuntary Removal of Persons, since it occurred before 11 January 1991. The case was reported to the Chairman of the Human Rights Task Force, but he does not actively investigate 'disappearances'. (ASA37/1/93, p.11).
Example 4: Over 160 persons from Saturukondan and neighbouring villages in eastern Sri Lanka were rounded up on 9 September 1990 by soldiers who were seen by villagers taking the prisoners towards the Boys Town army camp; and later screams were heard from the camp. The villagers believe that the prisoners were transported elsewhere that night because they heard vehicles moving out from the camp during the night. The Ministry of Defence said that it had found no evidence that any outsiders had been brought into the camp on the day in question. The 'disappearance' of these 160 persons, including two brothers, aged 12 and 15, seen taken from their home together with their sister, aged 29, and her three children, aged 6 years, 3 years and three months respectively, still remains uninvestigated and unresolved. (ASA37/1/93, p.11).
Torture and deaths in custody have been a phenomenon in Sri Lanka for several years and it continued during 1991-1992 even after the government's repeated assurances to the contrary.
The methods of torture included severe beatings, electric shocks, burning with cigarettes or matches, pouring petrol into the person's nostrils and then placing a plastic bag over their heads, suspending prisoners from their thumbs and beating them, beating with barbed wire and repeatedly submerging prisoner's heads in water while they were suspended from their ankles. Women have been subjected to sexual molestation including rape. (ASA37/1/93, p.12).
Example 1: One prisoner was held in incommunicado detention by the army for over a year before a relative was permitted to see him. This prisoner had been held at the Talaimannar and Thalladi army camps. During the period of his detention, he was stripped naked, hung upside down and assaulted, was burned with burning paper and polythene and had a damp cloth pressed against his face until he 'confessed' At the Thalladi camp, he was held blindfolded for six months and assaulted, (ASA37/1/93, p.12).
Example 2: One former Tamil detainee, in his testimony to Amnesty International, described how he was tortured by plainclothed soldiers in Badulla. A group of armed men wearing civilian dress had taken him from his home in Badulla one evening in July 1992. They later identified themselves as army personnel. Blindfolded and handcuffed, they took him in a Hiace van to what he believed was an army camp in an estate bungalow.
There, his blindfold was removed and he was question for about two hours. He denied any contact or knowledge of the LTTE, but was severely beaten for several hours on his face and body. Several times he had petrol poured into his nostrils and a plastic bag put over his head. The third time this was attempted, he fell unconscious. In the morning he was left chained to a table. The next day, he was questioned further and taken to the Badulla police who in turn took him to the hospital, where he spent several weeks under police guard.
He then spent over two months in police custody at Badulla, where he was regularly visited by the ICRC before being released unconditionally. During his stay at the police station, he saw other prisoners who had been beaten in order to get them to confess, and a group of five prisoners under special guard who had been injured and who were chained by the legs for most of the day.
Example 3: Another Tamil suspect was tortured in a 'safe-house' by police in Nuwara Eliya. He was arrested in July 1991 and taken to a dilapidated house. There, he was beaten on his chest and stomach, and an attempt was made to push a burning match into his penis. He was hung upside down and his fingers were injured. After four days, he was taken to the Nuwara Eliya police station, but two weeks later he was again taken to the 'safe-house' where he was assaulted again. His medical certificate details several injuries consistent with his history of torture.
Example 4: A man who had been held in detention since 1991 in eastern Trincomalee had his hands tied behind his back, petrol poured into his nose and a plastic bag put over his head while being interrogated at the Plantain Point army camp. After the bag had been removed, he was beaten on his head and body, threatened with being burned on a tyre, and then hung upside down from his ankles and beaten on the soles of his feet and his body. He was hit with sticks and with barbed wire, and chilli powder applied on the wounds he sustained. This treatment has left permanent deep scars on his back. He was held with 14 other persons, chained and blindfolded for about a month. Some of the prisoners were naked.
Example 5: The detainee referred to an Example 4 above had seen bodies being burned at the Plantain Point army camp during 1991. He had also seen two detainees being killed - one was beaten and then held under water until he drowned. Another was submerged, then pulled out of the water and a solider cut his throat. The two victims were a shop employee from Sampur and man called Oruthavai Kanthan from Eechchilampattai. (ASA37/1/93, p.20/21).
Example 6: Three prisoners died at Police Post II in Kalawanchikudy in eastern Sri Lanka on 24 October 1992, according to the testimony of one of the victims, Karthigesu Kulendran. Their arrests by the Special Task Force (STF), a police commando unit, were later denied. The three men were among the 11 persons arrested by the STF after a grenade had been thrown at their patrol by an unidentified person who ran away from the scene. The arrested 11 persons were taken to the police post where they were assaulted with iron bars and poles by STF personnel. A gunshot was heard.
The next day, the prisoners were taken by jeep to the Kalawanchikudy STF camp. Three were dead. Prisoners who were later released had fractures and knife wounds. The STF denied they had ever arrested the three dead men, but said that they had found the three dead bodies, and the STF suggested that they might have been killed by the LTTE. However, when the relatives asked for the bodies, they denied that they were at the camp.
But according to the testimony of released prisoners they saw the bodies at the STF camp, and that the STF personnel had put them on a tractor with six other bodies that had been brought from the hospital, taken them away and buried them. (The six bodies referred to here were believed to be those of among 10 Tamil civilians killed by the army on the same day - 24 October 1992 - at Velaveli in Batticaloa district.) (ASA/37/93, p.12).
While the phenomenon of extrajudicial or arbitrary killings has experienced considerable reduction from the peak years of 1988-1991 in the south of the country, in the north-east, and particularly in the east, the scale of such killings in 1992 remained substantially high.
Example 1: In April 1992, Muslim Home Guards allied to the army massacred 89 Tamil villagers at Muthugal and Karapola in the eastern Batticaloa district in retaliation to the killing on the same day of 62 Muslim civilian villagers by the LTTE at Alanchipothana. (ASA/37/1993, p.9 & E/CN.4/1993/25/Add.1, para 11). In a similar act of retaliation Muslim Home Guards detained 13 Tamil men, women and children near Thiyavaddavan also in the Batticaloa district, of whom one boy escaped and the other 12 persons remain unaccounted for.
Example 2: On 8 August 1992, soldiers from Poonai army camp attacked and killed 39 Tamil civilians - men, women and children at Mailanthani, a village in eastern Sri Lanka. This massacre was carried out in apparent retaliation to the killing by the LTTE on the same day of ten senior military officers, including Major General Denzil Kobbekaduwa, in a land mine attack at Kayts Island, some 180 miles away. (ASA37/1/93, p.10).
Example 3: On 24 October 1992, at about 9 a.m. villagers were sowing paddy in field at Paliyadvaddai in Valaveli in the eastern Batticaloa district when they saw the army approaching. They took shelter in a neighbouring house along with others. Soldiers surrounded the house and fired into it before they entered. Three people were injured one of whom later died.
The soldiers then forcibly removed the people, and took them to the Paliyadivaddai army camp. Relatives followed behind. They waited near the camp until mid-day and reportedly they could hear sounds of screaming. They saw about 6 to 7 bodies being taken to Kaluwanchchikudy hospital in a tipper truck and followed thinking that the bodies would be given to them. A post-mortem was held at the hospital, but then the bodies were taken by tractor to the Kaluwanchchikudy STF camp from where three more bodies were added to those on the tractor, and thereafter all the bodies were burned in a secluded place. (ASA37/1/93, p.13).
There is no doubt that there has been a substantial reduction in 'disappearances' and arbitrary killings compared with the 'peak years' of 1988, 1989 and 1990 which came about as a result of the capture and killing of the leadership of the JVP and suppression of the JVP's insurgency.
In fact the counter-terror tactics and associated unlawful activities by agents of the state and their allied groups continued far longer than the circumstances that gave rise to them, and appeared to have gained a momentum of their own. They are by no means unknown today. (CRM E01.11/92).
In fact in the east of the country where the conflict continues, disappearances and arbitrary killings still continue on a large scale. The rate of 'disappearances' in 1992 in eastern Sri Lanka, according to governmental and non-governmental sources, is put at 10 to 18 per month. (ASA/37/1/93, p.11).
In its 1992 report (E/CN.4/1992/18/Add.1) the Working Group, inter alia, stated,
"The Working Group wishes to emphasise that the cases of disappearances alleged to have occurred in Sri Lanka rank as the best documented cases among those from 40-odd countries appearing in the Group's annual reports to the Commission on Human Rights.'
'Since the establishment of the Working Group in 1980, 6,716 cases of disappearances alleged to have occurred in Sri Lanka have been reported to the Working Group by non-governmental sources and have been transmitted to the Government of Sri Lanka. Cases reported to have occurred since 11 June 1990, the date of resumption of hostilities with the LTTE, have taken place primarily in the northern and north-eastern regions of the country.
'In addition to the 6,716 cases already processed by the Working Group and transmitted to the Government, a large number of cases received between 1990 and 1992 are currently being processed for transmission to the Government. These include nearly 5,000 cases which occurred in the Southern and Central Provinces between 1988 and 1990 and nearly two thousand cases in the north-east since June 1990. Significantly over 30 cases alleged to have occurred since June 1990 in the South were transmitted to the Government.' (E/CN.4/1993/25/Add.1, para 61/62)
Having recognised the reduction in the number of disappearances in the South during 1992, the Working Group stated: 'Nevertheless, disappearances persist in Sri Lanka at a level that should be of serious concern to the Commission on Human Rights.' (Ibid, para. 128)
.... In the east where large scale arrests take place following cordon-and-search roundup operations carried out frequently by the military, neither fact of the arrests nor the whereabouts of those arrests are made known to the relatives. Given that thousands of 'disappearances' in military custody have occurred in eastern Sri Lanka to date, it must be expected that relatives and others would fear the worst when arrests which had been witnessed are subsequently denied. (ASA37/1/93). The primary elements responsible for disappearances have been identified as the security service personnel including the Special Task Force, Muslim Home Guards and the LTTE.
Example 1: On 30 April 1992, the army battalion from the Pullumalai army camp in Batticaloa conducted a search and cordon operation in and around the Rugam village in Batticaloa district in eastern Sri Lanka. They detained over 40 persons from their homes or farms, 20 of whom were released the same day and others within 48 hours, except for 17 persons, who remain missing. (E/CN.4/1993/25/Add.1, para 80).
Example 2: Over 40 men had 'disappeared' following a cordon-and-search operation at Kakkachchivaddai in the eastern Batticaloa District on 19 October 1992. After the men had been taken into custody, they had been taken to the Paliadivaddai army camp. Relatives who followed them there were fired at and chased away by soldiers. The military continued to deny that these men were taken into custody. It was only after the Member of Parliament for the area raised the matter of the 'disappearances' in Parliament and the relatives contacted the local office at the ICRC, it was learnt that the 40 men were being held at a military camp at Hardy College in Amparai. (ASA 37/1/93, p.7).
Example 3: On 23 October 1992, army personnel took into custody three persons, named Karthigesu Sothilingam aged 32, Samithambi Gunasekaram aged 20, and Sinathambi Rajavarodayam aged 28 from the village of Kakkachchivaddai in eastern Sri Lanka, but their arrests have been denied by the army, and their whereabouts are still not known. (ASA37/1/1993, p.13).
Example 4: 25 young men were detained by the army in the Kiran area, Batticaloa District, in January and February 1992. 11 of them were later released and the military denied that it had detained the remaining 14. Two of the 14 were later found to be in detention and two more were later released, but 9 young men and a 12-year-old boy named Manikkam Siventhiran have not been accounted for (ASA37/1/93/p.11).
Example 5: On 24 August 1992, 13 persons in or around the village of Thiyavaddavan, Batticaloa District, were allegedly detained by the Central Camp police officers believed to be members of the Special Task Force and who were accompanied by a group of the Muslim Home Guard attached to the Twelfth Colony, Navithanveli, of the army. Witnesses reported to the local army commander, who denied knowledge of the detentions. These persons remain missing. (E/CN.4/1993/25/Add.1, para. 75).
Example 6: In December 1992, during a cordon-and-search roundup operation at Pullumulai in eastern Sri Lanka, several young women were raped. Following complaints, although 13 soldiers were reportedly transferred, there is no indication that any disciplinary action had been taken against them. (ASA37/1/93, p.3).
Amnesty International has found evidence (including admission from senior military officers) that security forces hold certain persons in unacknowledged detention, even hidden from ICRC representatives who visit prisoners at army camps. Secret detentions continue for prolonged periods, and it was admitted that records of detentions would be falsified to hide the true date of their arrest. (ASA37/1/93, p.7).
Example 1: A person was detained at the Plantain Point army camp in the Trincomalee district since 1991. Whenever relatives went to the camp, the army denied that he was being held there. While being held there, he was subjected to various forms of torture. (See Section 4, examples 4 and 5 for details). He was held with 14 other persons. At about 6 a.m. each Tuesday, when the ICRC visited, most of the detainees were chained together and taken deeper into the Plantain Point army camp in a truck, to a place where only the army had access. Only a few prisoners remained at the usual place of detention in the camp for the ICRC representatives to see. After the ICRC visitors had left, the detainees would be brought back to the previous place and threatened that they would be killed if they told the ICRC about their treatment. ASA/37/1/93, p.12).
Example 2: A person, reported to be a brother of a LTTE area leader, was held in detention over a period of one year in the Batticaloa district. He was wrongly reported to have been killed in custody. During the time he was held in detention, he was moved to the changing rooms at Webber Stadium which had been taken over by the army whenever independent visitors like the ICRC came to the prison. (ASA37/1/93, p.19).
Example 3: Another person from Kaddaiparichchan in the Trincomalee district was arrested by the army on 2 January 1992 and released on 1 July, 1992. During the period of his detention, he was held secretly in a bunker at an army camp located about one-and-a-half hour's drive from Kaddaiparichchan. (ASA37/1/93, p.12).
......... Though the Government has claimed that peace and tranquillity have been restored in the south of the country (meaning those areas other than the north-east), there has been an increase in the incidence of violence, intimidation and politically motivated acts of thuggery.
During 1992 and the first two months of 1993, a sustained and persistent campaign of violence, harassment and intimidation has been undertaken against freedom of expression and association, and the target of this campaign has been members and activists of opposition political parties, media personnel and reporters, printers and newspaper distributors. Press reporters and photographers including foreign correspondents have been subject to physical violence.
The Civil Rights Movement of Sri Lanka in a comprehensive statement dated 28 August 1992 stating that it was 'appalled at the new dimension of violence that is disfiguring our society. This is the most serious portent for the future peace and democracy in Sri Lanka', listed some 35 incidents of violence that occurred within a period of just nine months.
In February 1993, government officials of Inland Revenue, Electricity, Water, Labour and Municipal departments descended upon the offices of all newspapers and journals which were perceived as not supporting the government and threatened to cut off supplies if all dues up to the date of the visit were not paid in full. It is not without significance that most of the journalists from these papers have been closely involved with the 'Free Media Movement' which has been campaigning for a freer press with less government control.
'Outside the established war zones, the peace part of the country, the year 1992 has witnessed increased levels of political violence. Its perpetrators include both pro-Government elements as well as members of State agencies. Violence or threats of violence have been directed against participants of political rallies or demonstrations of one kind or another, against members of the academic world, the media, the legal profession, human rights groups and Buddhist priests. (E/CN.4/1993. Add.1, para 13).
The climate of impunity that has for more than a decade characterised the landscape of the law and order situation and the functioning of law enforcement agencies, and which became more transparently obvious in recent years has been one of the main factors facilitating gross human rights violations including the phenomena of arbitrary killings and disappearances.
'The Working Group has repeatedly stated that perhaps the single most important factor contributing to the phenomenon of disappearances is that of impunity. Perpetrators of human rights violations, whether civilian or military, become all the more brazen when they are not held to account before a court of law. Impunity can also induce victims of this practice to take the law into their own hands, which in turn exacerbates the spiral of violence.
The Working Group feels that steps taken by the Government to deal with the question of disappearances have failed to address sufficiently the question of accountability, which is the most important means for the prevention of human rights violations,' (E/CN.4/1993/25/Add.1, para 87).
In Sri Lanka, where there has been evidence against a specific and identified police or military office on allegations of gross violations of human rights, including arbitrary killing, disappearances or torture, experience and the invariable practice shows that the officer concerned has been left in position of power and influence even while investigations have been pending or being carried out in regard to his conduct.
What is obvious is that in Sri Lanka the basic requirement set out in the UN Principles for the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Arbitrary, Summary and Arbitrary Executions has been consistently disregarded:
'Those potentially implicated in extra-legal, arbitrary or summary executions shall be removed from any position of control of power, whether direct or indirect, over complaints, witnesses and their families, as well as over those conducting investigations.'
The considered view among specialists in the field of human rights is that the above quoted principle is equally applicable to other cases of serious abuse of human rights including disappearances and torture.
There have been a number of cases in Sri Lanka in which police officers against whom proceedings had been instituted in courts on behalf of victims of abuses had not only been left to remain in their powerful positions while the proceedings were taking place, but had also been rewarded with promotions even after the court had found them guilty of having infringed the fundamental rights of citizens, and ordered compensation to be paid to the victims together with costs that had been incurred in bringing the proceedings.
In some such cases, the government authorised the payment of compensation and costs from public funds. The impunity with which State agencies and their personnel behaved was further encouraged by such conduct on the part of the government.
One would expect a government which claims that it is trying hard to improve the human rights situation in the country to publicly acknowledge and condemn when and where abuses occur, set up appropriate and effective procedures to expeditiously investigate such abuses and identify those responsible, and thereafter vigorously pursue action to bring the culprits to justice.
Two well known cases of abduction and murder, one a reputed journalist Richard de Zoysa, and the other a human rights lawyer Wijedasa Liyanaratchi, demonstrated most dramatically the prevailing climate of impunity in Sri Lanka, and the way in which the government dealt with these cases revealed the lamentable lack of resolve on the part of the government to take remedial measures to alter the situation. (Please see Annexes 'A' and 'B').
In its report of 1992 (E/CN.4/1992/18/Add.1, para 204), the Working Group recommended, inter alia, that:
'...The Government should prosecute more rigorously those responsible for disappearances and require that severe disciplinary punishment be meted out to government officials who have failed to take adequate measures to prevent disappearances...
Acts found to involve grave violations of human rights, such as disappearances, should not benefit from indemnity legislation; Human Rights records of members of the armed forces and the police should be taken into account in the consideration of promotions...Members of these forces under investigation for involvement in cases of disappearances should be suspended from active duty until inquiries are completed...'
One year later, the Working Group in its latest report (E/CN.4/1993/25/Add.1, para 91/93) stated:
'91. An important example of the prevailing climate of impunity is the Embilipitya case, in which 31 students were detained and subsequently disappeared in 1989 and 1990.
'92. During its recent visit to Sri Lanka, the Working Group received further testimony regarding this case. The Working Group was told by the Government that these 31 students were not suspected of being JVP supports and that the detentions were carried out for other motives, possibly personal. According to sources, the disappearances were made possible by the instructions of local authorities to purge the schools of JVP supporters through the use of informants.
'93. In 1992, the Human Rights Task Force conducted an investigation into this case. Subsequent to this investigation, the principal and seven members of the army, including a high ranking official, were identified as those allegedly responsible. None of them has been brought to trial, arrested, held as suspect or questioned.
The Working Group was told by the Government that as a matter of strategy in the case, the principal had not been arrested in order to question the high-ranking military officer first. The officer, however, had not been arrested or even questioned because he had been sent to the conflict in the north. Four of the other army personnel were also said to be in the north. It was not known where the other three allegedly responsible persons were. The principal, though briefly removed from his post on charges of accepting bribes, is now reinstated and is said to be in line for promotion.'
And at paragraph 97, the Working Group said:
'The group is compelled to express its disappointment concerning the follow-up of a number of important cases such as those of Richard de Zoysa and the disappearance of 31 students at Embilipitiya. These cases demonstrate that the authorities tolerate the underlying question as to how disappearances occurred to remain without an answer and to retain those responsible within the system, unpunished.
(a) The Government of Sri Lanka should implement in full the 14 recommendations of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances contained in their 1992 report (E/CN.4/1992/18/Add.1) and the 4 recommendations of the Group in their 1993 report (E/CN.4/1993/25/Add.1).
(b) In view of the fact that the Working Group has noted that 'few of its recommendation had been implemented as yet' by the Government, the Commission on Human Rights should follow developments closely in this regard from year to year, and for this purpose call upon the Government of Sri Lanka to invite the Special Rapporteurs on Torture and Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions and the Working Group on Disappearances to visit Sri Lanka in 1993 and thereafter yearly until there has been a substantial improvement of the human rights situation in the country.
(c) In view of the fact that the Working Group has reiterated its serious concern about the present status of the body of security legislation in Sri Lanka, the Government should be invited to undertake a review of all legislation relating to security with a view to bringing into effect such changes as are deemed necessary so as to conform with Sri Lanka's international obligations.
(d) The Government of Sri Lanka should be invited to become a party to Protocols I and II Additional to the Geneva Conventions relating to the laws of war.
(e) The Government of Sri Lanka should be called upon to ratify the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment including making the necessary declarations under Article 21 and 22 recognising the competence of the Committee set up under the Convention to receive petitions.
(f) The Government of Sri Lanka should be invited to ratify the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
(g) The Government of Sri Lanka should be urged to vigorously pursue a course of action to bring about a negotiated political solution to the ongoing ethnic conflict."
Memorandum by International Federation of Tamils
- on Bishop Kenneth Fernando's Peace Mission to Tamil Eelam, circulated to delegates
Bishop Kenneth Fernando who visited Jaffna in mid January and met with Velupillai Pirabaharan, leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam returned to Colombo on Thursday, 14 January.
Bishop Fernando was accompanied on his visit to Jaffna by Dr.Rev. Rienzie Perera, the Jaffna Catholic Bishop Rev.Thomas Savund-ranayagam, Rev.Father Emmanuel, Rev. Father Jebanesan and Rev. Father Ambalavanar.
The meeting with the LTTE leader took place on Sunday, January 11. The delegation brought back with them the two (Sri Lanka) policemen who had been released by the Liberation Tigers as a gesture of goodwill.
At the meeting, the Liberation Tigers pointed out that any solution to the conflict must not divide the Tamil homeland and destroy its contiguous character. It was essential that the Tamil homeland should remain contiguous. The Christian religious leaders told Pirabaharan that there were indications that 'federalism' which had been anathema to the Sinhala public, may now be more acceptable.
At a Press Conference held on Friday January 15 in Colombo, Bishop Fernando said that Velupillai Pirabaharan had told him that the removal of the restrictions placed on the daily activities of the people of Jaffna as a result of the economic blockade, the opening of a suitable road to connect the peninsula with the south of the island, and participation in talks with the government were all questions which were connected and intertwined with one another.
Bishop Fernando declared that the LTTE leader had indicated to him that it was necessary that these matters should be addressed early.
Bishop Fernando said that it was Velupillai Pirabaharan's desire that peace talks should be undertaken to end the civil war. Pirabaharan had expressed the view that it was through talks and a political settlement that the conflict can be resolved.
Bishop Fernando told the press conference that it appeared that Pirabaharan may be prepared to give way on his demands. He said that Pirabaharan had not emphasised the demand for a separate state. Bishop Fernando said that Pirabaharan had declared that once the Parliamentary Select Committee report was released, the LTTE would examine the report.
Bishop Fernando who said that this rare interview with Pirabaharan had been both friendly and very direct and open declared:
"Pirabaharan's responses were immediate and expressed with clarity"
At the talks that I had, Pirabaharan included, no one was in military uniform. Anton Balasingham helped to interpret my talk with Pirabaharan. Pirabaharan's responses were immediate and expressed with clarity. The talks lasted over two and half hours. In Jaffna we also met with ordinary civilians, and Hindu religious leaders. They called upon us to arrange for negotiations. It was Pirabaharan's view that in the end, any talks will have to be between the Sri Lanka government and the leaders of the Tamil people.
The people in the North travel on bicycles. But, in the peninsula there are no new cycles, tyres or tubes. There is no kerosene. There is no electricity. Without light, students are finding it difficult to study. Students do not have exercise books. It is not a desirable thing that one section of the people of this country should be subjected to such conditions. 48 different items have been prohibited from being taken to the north. These restrictions should be removed.
The passage between the Peninsula and the South through Kilali is a dangerous one. Life is not certain for those who make the trip. Recently, some of the innocent civilians who travelled via Killali were killed. As a result, the whole of the Jaffna peninsula was engulfed with grief. Many thousands are waiting to travel to the Peninsula from the South and from the Peninsula to the South.
Today in Jaffna, there are not even biscuits. Medical supplies are prohibited. Our request that the (Sri Lanka) policemen in LTTE custody should be released was acceded to by Pirabaharan with humanity. When he talked, we noticed in him an essentially humane quality.
Those in Colombo can arrange to talk with the LTTE through the good offices of the International Red Cross. I cannot say that the LTTE has the 100% support of the people.
Before I went to Jaffna I met with Mangala Moonesinghe, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee. I talked with President Premadasa's international adviser, Bradman Weerakoon. I did not meet with the President.
If the Liberation Tigers are called for talks only after they put down their weapons, there will be no talks. They are ready for unconditional talks.
In Jaffna today there are yet 39 (Sri Lanka) policemen in the custody of the LTTE. They are being looked after well. We met them during our visit.
I went to Jaffna through Killali. Before that I visited Killinochi. I met with people there. They told me about the dangers of the trip via Killali. Some advised me not to go to Jaffna. My visit was a peace mission. I plan to go to Jaffna again. The date has not yet been fixed. The next time I go, I plan to go with a delegation consisting of Tamil and Sinhala religious leaders, and scholars. Pirabaharan has invited me to come again with such a delegation.
I requested Pirabaharan to permit the opening of the Elephant Pass road to the Peninsula. When we were at the Bishops house, two vehicles sent by Pirabaharan came to pick us up. We went with those who came to collect us. It took us about ten minutes to reach the house where Pirabaharan, Anton Balasingham and others were present.'' (English translation, Sri Lanka Virakesari Report, January 15,16)
Memorandum by International Federation of Tamils
- on economic blockade of Tamil homeland circulated to delegates
The Emergency Regulations promulgated by the Sri Lanka Government enact that whilst in the East, articles 'capable of being used in a manner harmful to national security' are three in number viz (1). arms/ammunition ( 2). explosives and (3). urea fertilizer, in the North 47 items are 'capable of being used in a manner harmful to national security' and these items include soya based food, sweets and confectionery! National Security or Economic blockade, Mr. Sri Lanka President?
The Emergency (restriction on transport of articles) Regulations No.1 of 1991
Notification under Regulation 2
The articles specified in the Schedule hereto shall be the articles which for the purposes of regulation 2 of the above mentioned regulations, are articles which are capable of being used in a manner harmful to national security. - - - General SC Ranatunga, Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Colombo August 9, 1991
- 1. Arms/Ammunition
- 2. Explosives
- 3. Toy Guns
- 4. Electric Wire
- 5. Remote control devices
- 6. Electrical/Electronic toys
- 7. Helmets
- 8. Binoculars
- 9. Telescopes
- 10. Compasses
- 11. Cloth material similar to those worn by security forces
- 12. Iron and Iron Rod
- 13. Aluminium/Aluminium ware
- 14. Empty gunny bags
- 15. Cement
- 16. Bicycle razors
- 17. Timber
- 18. Barbed wire
- 19. Wire cutters
- 20. Inflammable materials
- 21. Camphor
- 22. Coal
- 23. Urea fertilizer
- 24. Batteries of all varieties 25. Radio spare parts
- 26. Electrical equipment
- 27. Plastic cans
- 28. Motor vehicle tyres
- 29. Motor vehicle spare parts
- 30. Motor cycles
- 31. Printing papers
- 32. Typing/duplicating sheets
- 33. Printing machines & other equipment used in printing
- 34. Roneo and photostat machines
- 35. School bags
- 36. Gold
- 37. Alcohol
- 38. Surgical equipment
- 39. Medicines
- 40. Petrol/Diesel/Lubricants
- 41. Polythene/Polythene bags
- 42. Wax/Candles
- 43. Turpentine,Brasso,Shoe Polish
- 44. Soap
- 45. Chemicals
- 46. Soya based food
- 47. Sweets and confectionery
- Eastern Province
- 1. Arms/Ammunition
- 2. Explosives
- 3. Urea fertilizer
Report by Tamil Times, 15 March 1993
Once again Sri Lanka became one of the countries to be targeted for special attention of some governments and many non-governmental organisations at the recently held 49th session of the Commission on Human Rights of the United Nations.
The second special report by the Working Group on Disappearances following their second visit to Sri Lanka in late last year was again scathing in its condemnation of the level of human rights violations. The report recognised that there has been a reduction in the number of disappearances and arbitrary killings in the south of the country, but it recorded large number of incidents of human rights abuses including disappearances in the northeast of the island.
The special report, inter alia, concluded that:
(a) disappearances persist in Sri Lanka at a level that should be of serious concern to the Commission on Human Rights.
(b) the measures so far adopted by the government to monitor human rights violations have been ineffective, and that 'there is no official mechanism in place in Sri Lanka with the principal task of clarifying the fate of more than 12,000 outstanding cases of disappearances reported to the Working Group;
(c) the single most important factor contributing to the phenomenon of disappearances and other forms of violations is that of the impunity with which the security forces are allowed to operate and the failure to take effective action against those found to have committed violations;
(d) the government of Sri Lanka has implemented only a few of the recommendations of the Working Group in their first report.
(e) the overall effect of the security legislation of Sri Lanka, including the Emergency Regulations and the Prevention of Terrorism Act, has contributed appreciably to the incidence of human rights abuses including disappearances.
(f) 'the scale and intensity of the violence has increased. The conflict between the Sri Lankan armed forces and the L'PIE continue in the northeastern region, with an estimated 2,545 casualties among the combatants in the period between the two visits of the Working Group. In addition, 433 deaths have been counted among the civilian population due to direct attacks or collateral consequences, and hundreds of civilian deaths due to reprisals by the military, LTTE or Muslim Home Guards'.
In addition to the Working Group's report, the Amnesty International report of February 1993 released in time for the Commission also listed a catalogue of human rights violations with more examples of disappearances and arbitrary killings especially in the northeast of the island.
Against this background, the Sri Lankan delegation, headed by the island's Attorney General, Mr. Tilak Marapana and the Presidential Advisor, Mr. Bradman Weerakoon, tried hard to avoid any further strictures from the Commission. This attempt on the part of the Sri Lanka was made more difficult by a campaign by NGOs, particularly by those associated with the Country Working Group of NGOs on Sri Lanka, who sought to keep the question of the human rights situation on the agenda of discussion.
With a view to avoiding a resolution or a Chairman's statement reflecting the concern of the Commission, the Sri Lankan delegation engaged in protracted negotiations with many government delegations. They also indicated their willingness to offer several undertakings to be carried out during this year. The eventual statement made by the Chairman on behalf of the Commission tied Sri Lanka to implement their undertakings and urged the government of Sri Lanka to arrive at a negotiated political settlement to the conflict in the north and east of the country. It also ensured that the Commission will keep Sri Lanka under scrutiny.