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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Sri Lanka Accused at United Nations > UN Commission on Human Rights 1996
UN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
51ST SESSIONS: FEBRUARY 1996
Report by Special Rapporteur on Extra Judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Mr. Bacre Waly Ndiaye, submitted pursuant to Commission on Human Rights resolution 1995/73 25 January 1996 "Reports and allegations received by the Special Rapporteur during 1995 indicate that the situation of human rights in Sri Lanka remains precarious.."
Report of Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Mr. Nigel S. Rodley, submitted in pursuance of Commission on Human Rights resolution 1995/37, 15 January 1996 "...The Special Rapporteur also informed the Government of further reports he had received with respect to the case transmitted on 5 August 1994 of Arulappu Jude Arulrajah, who had allegedly been tortured by army officials after his arrest on 2 October 1993..."
Report by Special Rapporteur on Extra Judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Mr. Bacre Waly Ndiaye
Agenda Item: Question of the Violation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in any part of the world, with particular reference to Colonial and Dependent territories E/CN.4/1996/4, 25 January 1996
436. Reports and allegations received by the Special Rapporteur during 1995 indicate that the situation of human rights in Sri Lanka remains precarious. The renewal of hostilities between the Sri Lankan armed forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have resulted in acts of violence which have claimed the lives of hundreds of civilians. It has also been reported that during the past several months, mutilated and tortured bodies of several persons were found floating in the Diyawanna Oya and Bolgoda Lakes. The Special Rapporteur received increasingly large numbers of allegations of extra judicial and arbitrary executions resulting from recent incidents involving aerial bombardments by the Sri Lankan air force, naval strafing and shelling from military bases and indiscriminate firing by armed forces personnel which continue to cause numerous civilian casualties.
437. The special Rapporteur transmitted one urgent; appeal to the Government of Sri Lanka on 20 July 1995, denouncing the military offensive launched against LTTE positions on the Jaffna Peninsula. According to reports received by the Special Rapporteur, the Government's military operation caused thousands of civilians to flee their homes and to seek shelter in churches and temples. Hundreds of people had taken refuge in Saint Peter's church in Navaly and Saint Peters school when both structures were bombed, causing injury to more than 150 people and the death of 65 persons, including women and children. The source reports that the bombings have affected the following areas: Kokuvil, Thalayady, Maruthanamadam,, Thaavady, Uduvil, Manipay, Annaicotai, Sangarathai, Vadduoddai and Navaly.
438. The Special Rapporteur also transmitted to the Government the following cases which had been brought to his attention:
(a) Reportedly killed by members of the armed forces: A. Antony and Indran, Matiy Ampillai Joseph and his son Joseph Moses Dayan, killed by members of the Sri Lankan navy; K. Thangarajah; Sellathurai Balakrishnan and Sellathurai Thandrakumar, killed by navy personnel; Thangarajah Kanagasabai; Antonipillai Mariadas, killed in Jaffna when Sri Lankan navy personnel attacked people fishing in the Mandativu sea near Jaffna; Abdul Manaf; Sivapalan Sivapraba and Nadarajah Gwanasekaram, shot dead by army personnel in Morakkodanhewai village;
(b) Killed by indiscriminate firing by armed forces- -Tharmarassa Rasaledchumi Thevi and Saverimuthu Rodesius, killed when the armed forces attacked Mallakam; Kivuthan aged 10, Thamarasa, Laxumy, S, Akilan, aged 12, I. Leelavathy, I. Vanithadevi, aged 2, and P. Vinitha, aged 2, were killed during an attack by forces from the military base at Palaly in the Valikamam region; Thesingham Sellamani, Thesingahm Srikandarajah, Thesingham Sivasri, S. Pagini, C. Savakolunthu and Vallipuram Pararajalingham killed, when members of the armed forces bombarded a residential area in the town of Atchuvely; five Muslim civilians, including two children, killed by members of the armed forces when they indiscriminately fired from their camp near the village of Pulmaddai,
(c) Reportedly killed by police officers; Sinnithamby Kirupamoorthy, Kanapathipillai Ravichandran and Mylvaganam Amirthalingam, killed during a cordon and search operation in the Batticaloa district; Mavichandran Ragunathan, Rajalingam Mariayadas, Nadarajah Pararajagingham, Malathi Tharmalingham, shot dead in Batticaloa town while pleading for the release of her son; Ravichandran Kuganathan, Rajalingam Mariadas and Wadarajah Pararajasingham, killed in Vijayapuram, Batticaloa district.
439. In addition, the Special Rapporteur transmitted the case of Packiyarajah Ravindran, Alagian Thangavel and S, Nagarajah, killed by a group of Muslim "Home Guards" in the course of an attack perpetrated by the "Home Guards" against civilians in the market at Palainaga Muttur in Trincomalee district. It was alleged that army personnel at a nearby camp took no action to halt the attack.
440, By communication dated 5 January1995 the Government of Sri Lanka provided information to the Special Rapporteur outlining several measures the Government intends to take to improve the human rights situation in the country. These include, inter alia: re-establishing the powers of the Human Rights Task Force to monitor the welfare of detainees and ensure that fundamental rights of people arrested and detained are respected; investigating incidents of human rights violations; bringing to justice those responsible and paying compensation, particularly in relation to incidents of extra judicial executions.
441. The Special Rapporteur also received a letter from the Government dated 24 October 1995 in which the latter informed the Special Rapporteur that his communication concerning allegations of extra judicial executions was received and was subsequently "forwarded to the relevant national authorities in Sri Lanka for clarification. In the same communication, the Government of Sri Lanka provided general information on the situation of human rights in Sri Lanka.
442, The special Rapporteur notes with concern the deterioration of the dialogue between the LTTE and the Government. According to information received by the Special Rapporteur, the cease-fire agreement of 8 January 1995 ended in April 1995, resulting in new hostilities. Additional information received by the Special Rapporteur suggests that hostilities between government security forces and the LTTE during October 1995 have resulted in the death of approximately 196 government soldiers and 700 members of the LTTE, while the number of civilian casualties is unknown. The Special Rapporteur appeals to the authorities to respect humanitarian law and human rights principles.
443, The Special Rapporteur wishes to stress the need for restrictions on the use of force so as to prevent human rights abuses by security forces, paramilitary groups and armed civilians,
444. The Special Rapporteur wishes to reiterate his gratitude for the invitation from the Government to visit Sri Lanka. Despite the interest shown in conducting a visit during 1995, the crisis in which Burundi has plunged and a resolution requesting the Rapporteur to visit the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville prevented him from undertaking such a visit. He hopes, however, to be in a position to visit Sri Lanka during 1996 to be able to study the situation of the right to life in situ and to formulate, as appropriate, recommendations for improvement.
Report of Mr. Nigel S. Rodley, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, submitted in pursuance of Commission on Human Rights resolution 1995/37, 15 January 1996, E/CN.4/1996/35/Add.1 & Corr.1
Agenda Item: Question of Human Rights of all Persons subjected to any form of detention or imprisonment, inparticular Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
Sri Lanka : Information transmitted to the Government
625. By letter dated 18 September 1995 the Special Rapporteur advised the Government that he had received information about Vijayan Vimalendran, who was reportedly detained on 2 October 1993 in Colombo by members of the Military Intelligence Unit. At an unknown place of detention, officials allegedly bound his hands and legs with chains, beat him with broom handles on the soles of his feet and poured petrol over his head, after which they covered his head with bags. He was kept blindfolded for most of his detention, which lasted until 11 December 1993.
626. The Special Rapporteur also informed the Government of further reports he had received with respect to the case transmitted on 5 August 1994 of Arulappu Jude Arulrajah, who had allegedly been tortured by army officials after his arrest on 2 October 1993. The Government had replied on 2 November 1994 that a medical examination had not revealed injury to his genitals, as alleged. The source of the allegations had since indicated that, although allegations with respect to the cutting of his genitals were apparently not reported to the junior medical officer conducting the examination, the officer had found at least 27 scars consistent with the allegation made of assault with clubs, kicks and suspension by the wrists with ligature.
The source also provided the Special Rapporteur with a certified copy of that medical report, as submitted to the court of appeal. In addition, the source expressed the following concerns regarding the detention of Arulappu Jude Arulrajah at Panagoda army camp: that while the camp was made an authorized place of detention on 1 October 1993, that information was not published in the Official Gazette until 15 February 1994; that the detained should not have been held at Panagoda beyond the 24-hour period during which the army is required to hand over a suspect to the police; and that the army had not informed the Human Rights Task Force (HRTF) of his arrest, as required by the Emergency Regulations.
Information received from the Government
627. On 5 January 1995 the Government sent to the Special Rapporteur a publication by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs entitled Sri Lanka - Human Rights, detailing measures taken towards the implementation of its programme to promote human rights. Relevant to the mandate of the Special Rapporteur was information that a bill to give effect to the Convention against Torture had been passed by Parliament on 25 November 1994.
628. On 30 November 1995 the Government provided the Special Rapporteur with further information regarding measures recently undertaken by the Government and already existent safeguards concerning his mandate. In this respect, a bill to establish a Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, presented in Parliament on 24 August 1995, was expected to be taken up for debate in January 1996. The right that no one shall be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is incorporated into article 11 of the Constitution as non-derogable. The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka is empowered to receive complaints concerning violations of this right and to grant appropriate relief.
Officials who are the objects of such complaints are not defended by the Attorney-General, but rather must retain their own counsel. The courts also have the discretion to release persons detained under the Emergency Regulations. In order to extend the period of detention beyond the maximum of one year, a suspect must be produced before a magistrate. Every person admitted to prison is examined by a doctor. Corporal punishment, either in the form of punishment or as a disciplinary measure, had been suspended during the last 10 years. Members of the HRTF are given access to persons arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act or the Emergency Regulation and may enter at any time any place of detention.
Statement by Leader of Sri Lanka Delegation, Ambassador A.B.Goonetilleke, 17 April 1996
Members of the Commission may recall the statement made by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka to the Commission on 10 February last year, during which he reiterated the commitment of the newly elected People's Alliance Government led by President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga to arrive at a peaceful solution to the problems faced by the people living in the Northern and the Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka.
By the time the 51st Session of the Commission on Human Rights began its deliberations, Sri Lanka had already signed a Cessation of Hostilities Agreement with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), lifted the embargo that had been imposed for security reasons on the transport of certain militarily sensitive items to the North, with a few minor exceptions, revoked the Emergency Regulations with limited exceptions applicable to certain parts of the country, put in place a reconstruction and rehabilitation package worth approximately US $ 800 million to develop the Northern Province and invited representatives of the Governments of Canada, the Netherlands and Norway to head the Committees established to oversee the cessation of hostilities. In the North, where the civilian population was subjected to a decade long sufferings as a result of the continuation of the conflict and numerous restrictions imposed by the LTTE, the newly established government was looked upon with confidence by the civilian population.
This was evident in the enthusiasm shown by the people of Jaffna in welcoming the government delegations visiting the North for peace talks.
This situation prompted the 51st Session of the Commission to express its support for the peace process initiated by the President of Sri Lanka and strongly urge the LTTE to respond positively and speedily to the steps taken by the Government and to take all necessary steps towards the achievement of a durable political solution.
Indeed, the dialogue with the LTTE had been undertaken by the President at considerable political risks particularly in view of the violations by the LTTE of previous understandings reached with them in 1987 and 1989. Apprehensions of the government were buttressed by the numerous acts of terrorism and massacres of civilians carried out by the LTTE, including the murder of the President of Sri Lanka in May 1993 and the Presidential candidate of the main Opposition Party along with more than 50 others at an election rally in November 1994, after the initiation of the political dialogue by the present government. It was in the context of these acts of terrorism perpetrated by the LTTE, the 51st Session of the Commission on Human Rights condemned abuses of human rights by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and strongly urged it to desist from such acts.
Members of the Commission are well aware how the dialogue initiated by the government was terminated and the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement was unilaterally abrogated by the LTTE thus returning to the path of violence and acts of terrorism in April 1995. In this process, hundreds of defenseless civilians in remote villages were massacred and bombing of civilian centers resumed by the LTTE. These acts of terrorism culminating in the bombing of the Central Bank in the heart of Colombo on 31 January which claimed 83 innocent lives, caused thousands of casualties and destroyed millions of dollars worth of public and private property, evoked international condemnation of the LTTE. In addition to the widespread condemnation and deploration of such acts by individual countries from Washington to Tokyo and Moscow to Canberra, the LTTE was unequivocally condemned by the European Union. Sri Lanka is grateful to those countries which expressed their support and sympathy when it had to grapple with the threats posed by the LTTE.
Members of the Commission may be interested in learning how the Government of Sri Lanka responded to the resumption of LTTE violence and terrorism since April 1995.
Firstly, the government has shown its determination to convey the message to the LTTE that the present conflict will not be resolved by recourse to arms, violence and terrorism. The government has no alternative but to respond to the violence and acts of terrorism by the LTTE, by military means in order to protect civilians and others targeted by the group, and further, so that there will be no illusion on the part of the LTTE, whatsoever, that they will be more successful in the battlefield than at the negotiating table. The Government has indicated the circumstances under which the LTTE could also join the rest of the population in developing the option of peaceful negotiations.
Secondly, undeterred by the LTTE action, the government has given priority to continuing with the political negotiations. As the members of the Commission may be aware, the framework proposals presented by the government in August 1995 envisage conferment of a substantial degree of political power not only on the Tamil community in the North and the East, but also on all provinces of the country, within the framework of an United Sri Lanka. These proposals have since been written into a legal draft and referred on 7 February to the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on Constitutional Reform which consists of 24 members of Parliament representing all communities and embracing all shades of political opinion. The approved legal draft will, thereafter, be tabled in the Parliament for approval and presented to the country for endorsement at a national referendum, in keeping with the constitutional provisions.
Discussions on the devolution proposals thus involve all political parties and groups and are taking place as part of a process of constitutional reform with the objective of, among others, devolution of powers to the provinces and the strengthening of fundamental rights.
Thirdly, despite the resumption of hostilities by the LTTE, the government continues to provide relief and medical supplies to the internally displaced persons at considerable cost which it had been engaged in, since the commencement of the conflict. It is estimated that the Government will have to incur an expenditure of a sum of US $ 77 million in 1996 for this purpose.
The situation of the internally displaced persons was exacerbated by the forced displacement of civilians in December 1995 by the LTTE following the restoration of law and order in Jaffna (Valikamam). The LTTE's decision to eject the civilians was designed for achieving several objectives, the most pernicious being the use of civilians as human shields to prevent operations against the LTTE by the armed forces.
The government has put in place a comprehensive programme for the reconstruction and the rehabilitation of the cleared areas of the Jaffna Peninsula for which the Northern Province Resettlement and Rehabilitation Authority has been established. Meanwhile, the government is also providing relief supplies to the recently displaced persons who are prevented by the LTTE from returning to their homes in Jaffna. This is being done with the assistance and co-operation of the ICRC, UNHCR and other organizations.
This process is rife with challenges. The LTTE itself has admitted that large quantities of relief supplies intended for the displaced persons are appropriated for their own use. They also disrupt relief supplies. Such disruptions, sabotage of supply routes, creation of artificial shortages and dissemination of propaganda are means by which the LTTE manipulates the humanitarian situation to their tactical advantage.
The security implications to the transportation of humanitarian supplies are also considerable. While arms, ammunition and explosives find their way to the South particularly to the city of Colombo, material and equipment to be used for terrorist activities are being transported to the North in this process. This has compelled the Government to take certain steps such as searching of premises by the security forces with a view to preventing infiltration of the capital by the LTTE cadres and stashing away of arms and explosives for terrorist attacks. Inconvenience to civilians is regrettably being caused in this process and the Government seeks to minimize such inconvenience.
It is encouraging to note that the subject of terrorism has begun to engage the serious attention of the international community including the human rights fora. In this regard, the contribution made by the Sub Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and protection of Minorities is commendable. The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action of 1993 and the Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism contained in GA Resolution 49/60 constituted an important milestone in a debate previously hampered by political and definitional problems. In a remarkable display of unity, in the declaration made on the Special Commemorative Session of the 50th Anniversary of the United Stations, Heads of State and Government agreed to act together to defeat terrorism.
Recent events have amply demonstrated the fact that no part of the world has been free from violence and violations perpetrated by terrorists. In this regard, the UN Secretary-General stated on 13 March at Sharm El-Sheikh and I quote: "Terror can strike in America, in Europe or in Asia. No person, no people, no part of the world any longer feel beyond the reach of terror or terrorism". Implied in this statement is the fact that whether at Oklahoma, London, Tel Aviv, Colombo or elsewhere, terrorists will seek to achieve their goals under the guise of self-determination, promotion of minority rights or other real or perceived grievances. It is the responsibility of the international community to act resolutely to frustrate such attempts, particularly when the civilians are targeted.
Sri Lanka has recently brought to the attention of some governments how the activities carried out by the LTTE in one State can have implications in another. Under the guise of ostensibly harmless activities such as fund raising for cultural or humanitarian causes, the LTTE raises considerable amounts of funds, particularly in Western capitals, in order to fund their terrorist activities in Sri Lanka. Extortion of funds from their expatriate community, drug trafficking and trafficking in persons are other methods by which funds are raised for the illicit purchase of arms and explosives. It is well-known that the institution of asylum and liberal humanitarian laws and traditions of receiving countries are abused by them in order to carry out these activities. Some countries have begun to crackdown on the LTTE. Other countries where the LTTE activities are pronounced also need to take action against the group. International co-operation, in the form of exchange of information and action to curb activities of such terrorist groups are specially needed with countries where such activities are known to take place. In this regard, Sri Lanka commends the resolution adopted by the European Parliament on 16 November 1995, which calls on the EU Member States to monitor the LTTE offices operating on the territory of the EU and to ensure that their agents respect the law and take no part in terrorist or intimidatory activities.
Sri Lanka strongly believes that the Ottawa Ministerial Declaration on Countering Terrorism adopted in December 1995 and the Sharm El Sheikh Declaration of 13 March are important trail blazers in effectively combating terrorism all over the world. All these gatherings have emphasized the need for decisive action by means of an eventual convention to eliminate the menace of terrorism.
Sri Lanka is conscious of the human rights concerns that have been reported in the context of combating terrorism during the past several years. In this regard, it is appropriate to recall that the People's Alliance Government was elected in August 1994 on a pledge to strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights as well as to investigate into alleged violations. The positive steps taken by the government has been detailed in a report circulated by the Sri Lanka delegation to the members of the Commission. To name a few, the three Commissions appointed on a regional basis to inquire into disappearances are currently investigating the incidents alleged to have taken place since 1988. The reconstituted Human Rights Task Force (HRTF) monitors the treatment and welfare of detainees. Sri Lanka has become party to the UN Convention Against Torture and has passed the enabling national legislation. The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka is only a few months away from its establishment. In this regard, we have benefitted greatly from the work done by the Center for Human rights as well as from the experience and advice of the Special Adviser to the High Commissioner for Human Rights on National Institutions.
Impunity is a subject which has received the attention of the government. In this regard, the government concurs with the view expressed in the Report of the UNWG on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances in 1990 wherein it has been stated that "the Working Group's experience over the past 10 years has confirmed the age old adage that impunity breeds contempt for the law. Perpetrators of human rights violations, whether civilian or military will become all the more brazen when they are not held to account before a court of law".
Sri Lanka would like to assure the Commission that many cases of alleged human rights violations by security personnel are currently before the courts. For example, wide publicity is being given in the local media to the court on the disappearances of 25 school children at Embilipitiya where a civilian and 8 army personnel have been indicted. Vavulukele, Maillenthenna and the recent incident at Kumarapuram are among the court cases which are now in progress. Although some of these cases have taken considerable period of time, there is no doubt that the wheel of justice will keep on turning until the offenders are duly punished.
The President, the Deputy Minister of Defense and the Minister of Foreign Affairs have made public statements in the recent past concerning the role of the members of the armed forces and their treatment of civilians. Addressing the Ex-Servicemen's Association on 12 February, the Minister of Foreign Affairs made his point clear and I quote: "......the armed forces have to make an effort - an almost super human effort - to observe the distinction - the difficult line between combatants and non combatants .... The peace that is going to be constructed basically by civilians will be rendered possible only if the armed forces have seen to it that in fighting the war, they also respected and had regard for and wherever possible looked after, cared for and tended the civilians who in those difficult times were geographically on the side of the enemy."
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, our task is a difficult one. To accomplish this task, Sri Lanka needs the co-operation and support of the international community. It is our hope that Sri Lanka would receive the international co-operation and support to meet the challenges it has to face in the future.
Thank you Mr. Chairman