Monday, August 31, 2009

Tissa wins Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism

NEW YORK, Aug. 31, 2009/- Global Media Forum and the US branch of Reporters Without Borders are pleased to announce that respected Sri Lankan journalist and editor J. S. Tissainayagam has been selected as the first winner of the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism. Tissainayagam will be formally awarded the prize at a ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington, DC on October 2, 2009. The key note speaker for the ceremony will be Marcus Brauchli, executive editor of the Washington Post.

J. S Tissainayagam is a respected Tamil journalist and editor who wrote for the North Eastern Monthly Magazine and the Sunday Times in Sri Lanka. And is the founder of the website He was arrested March 7, 2008 by the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) of the Sri Lanka police. He has been charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) amid allegations of physical and emotional abuse by TID forces and got a 20 year sentence on terrorism charges today. “The imposition of this extremely severe sentence on Tissainayagam suggests that some Sri Lanka judges confuse justice with revenge,” Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said. “With the help of confessions extracted by force and information that was false or distorted, the court has used an anti-terrorism law that was intended for terrorists, not for journalists and human rights activists.”

J. S Tissainayagam is a respected Tamil journalist and editor who wrote for the North Eastern Monthly Magazine and the Sunday Times in Sri Lanka. And is the founder of the website He was arrested March 7, 2008 by the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) of the Sri Lanka police. He has been charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) amid allegations of physical and emotional abuse by TID forces and got a 20 year sentence on terrorism charges today. “The imposition of this extremely severe sentence on Tissainayagam suggests that some Sri Lanka judges confuse justice with revenge,” Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said. “With the help of confessions extracted by force and information that was false or distorted, the court has used an anti-terrorism law that was intended for terrorists, not for journalists and human rights activists.”

Related Links:
J.S.Tissainayagam announced as First Winner of Peter Mackler Award - P.M.A.

Read More

Bookmark and Share

Monday, August 31, 2009

Tissainayagam sentenced to 20 years!

Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka condemns the sentencing of journalist J.S. Tissainayagam to twenty years rigorous imprisonment under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) on August 31, 2009.

Tissainayagam’s sentence is based on a ‘confession’ that he has refuted and two articles written and published by him in 2006. The judgment also states that the two articles written by Tissainayagam that are the subject of this investigation contain material that causes ‘communal disharmony’, and this too is considered a basis for his sentence. Tissainayagam has never engaged in, or promoted, violence of any kind, and we have always known him to be committed to co-existence and inter-ethnic justice.

Since Tissainayagam was first taken into custody in March 2008, we have continuously appealed for his release on the basis that the allegations against him were unfounded. In addition, we protested against his conditions of detention and the failure to comply with minimum humanitarian standards including providing Tissainayagam with the medical treatment that he needs.

As a community of Sri Lankan journalists and media persons in exile, we express our solidarity with our colleague Tissa on this occasion and commit ourselves to appeal against this sentence and draw the attention of the world to this flagrant violation of the freedom of thought, opinion and expression in Sri Lanka.

In addition, having followed the developments in this case with grave concern, we wish to highlight the following issues with regard to the Prevention of Terrorism Act which defies principles of natural justice and is in violation of established human rights norms.

According to the judgment, writing or publishing any article that can be defined as being against the Prevention of Terrorism Act can merit a sentence of twenty years rigorous imprisonment under the terms of this Act. No journalist in Sri Lanka has ever received this type of sentence, which is a flagrant violation of media freedom. Thus, this judgment once again highlights the need to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act which violates human rights including the rights of the freedom of expression and opinion.

Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka consider this judgment to represent a critical turning point in terms of restriction of media freedom through the law in Sri Lanka. We call on all democratic forces in Sri Lanka and outside to take all possible steps to ensure a reversal of this decision.

We feel that initiating a campaign for the repeal of the PTA in Sri Lanka must be a first step in this direction. We call on all democratic nations that enter into bilateral agreements with the government of Sri Lanka and on all donors to ensure that the repeal of the PTA is placed high on their list of critical concerns in negotiations with the government.

We wish to point out that every political party that has been involved in the creation and perpetuation of the PTA is complicit in the judgment against Tissainayagam. We appeal to all political parties and organizations committed to democratic principles to come forward to build the broadest possible platform to challenge the PTA. The repeal of the PTA is essential if we are to move towards disarmament in Sri Lanka.

We commit ourselves to work for the release of Tissainayagam and his colleagues V.Jesiharan and Valarmathy in the interests of justice and peace in Sri Lanka.

Executive Committee
Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

Related Articles:
Tisssainayagam sentenced to 20 years and justice is dead in Sri Lanka - AHRC
Tamil journalist gets “shameful” 20-year sentence on terrorism charges - RSF

Read More

Bookmark and Share

Monday, August 31, 2009


A Sri Lankan court has sentenced a prominent Tamil journalist to 20 years in prison after convicting him under anti-terrorism laws.

High Court Judge Deepali Wijesundara found JS Tissainayagam guilty of "causing communal disharmony".

Mr Tissainayagam was arrested in 2008 and charged with inciting violence in articles in his magazine, the North Eastern Monthly, which is now closed.

He was also accused of receiving funds from the Tamil Tigers rebels.

Mr Tissainayagam was found guilty of causing "racial hatred" and "supporting terrorism", a court official said.

The court found that he had received money from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to fund his website, the official said.

Mr Tissainayagam's case has received widespread attention in Sri Lanka. International rights group have been campaigning for his release - they say Sri Lanka is using anti-terror laws to silence peaceful critics.

Mr Tissainayagam was held for more than five months before he was charged with publishing and distributing a magazine, alleged to have brought the government into disrepute.

Campaign groups say Sri Lanka is fast becoming one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists.


Related Links:
Sri Lankan court jails Tamil journalist who criticised war - Guardian
Sri Lankan journalist given 20 years in prison - AP
Tamil scribe given 20 yrs for 'supporting terrorism' - PTI

Read More

Bookmark and Share

Sunday, August 30, 2009


The judgment in the case against senior journalist Jayaprakash Sittampalam Tissainayagam is due to be delivered Monday the 31st of August.

J.S.Tissainayagam is a respected columnist and was the editor of He was arbitrarily detained by the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) in Colombo on March 7, 2008. The arrest came after the Police raided a printing press in Colombo, owned by V. Jaseekaran, a one time journalist attached to a Batticaloa based Tamil newspaper Thinakathir. The police arrested Mr.V.Jaseekaran and his wife Ms.Valarmathy during the raid. Mr.Tissainayagam was detained following a visit he made to the offices of the TID requesting information about the detention of his colleagues and subsequently indicted five months later under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for two articles written by him in a monthly magazine. He has been detained for 425 days so far.

Mr.Tissainayagam is the first Sri Lankan journalist formally charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and one of less than a handful of journalists facing counter-terrorism charges in any country with a democratically elected government.

The PTA, a draconian law that has remained on Sri Lanka's statute books despite being introduced in 1979 as an ostensibly temporary measure. Under the PTA and Rules of Emergency, a confession made by an accused is admissible in court and the prosecution does not need a witness. Tissainayagam later revealed that he had been tortured in prison and his confession was given under duress. But the Government repeatedly rejected calls for bail.

The charges are:

1.The accused together with unknown persons conspired to commit an offence by intending to cause the commission of acts of violence through inciting communal disharmony by words either spoken or intended to be read or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, through the printing or distribution of the publication North Eastern Monthly magazine.

2.An offence by the accused himself has been committed by intending to cause the commission of acts of violence through inciting racial or communal disharmony by words either spoken or intended to be read or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, through the printing or distribution of the publication North Eastern Monthly Magazine.

3.The third charge under the Emergency Regulations of 2006 relates to acting in furtherance of specified terrorist activities, ("specified terrorist activities" being defined as offences under the PTA) by contributing or collecting or obtaining information relating to the purpose of terrorism through the collection of funds for the North Eastern Monthly magazine.

The charges against Tissainayagam refer to two articles he wrote in 2006 for the North-Eastern Monthly, in which he criticizes the Government's military campaign and its impact on civilians.

It was reported that Tissainayagam has contracted both tuberculosis and acute infected scabies while in detention and was denied access to adequate medical treatment.

Related Articles:
Full text of Tissainayagam's statement to the Court - Amnesty International
United in Fear: Travails of Detainee families - Ronnate Tissainayagam
SRI LANKA: Tamil journalists detained - International Pen
Release Tissa, Ven. Samitha asks Govt. - The Sunday Times
An international appeal for the release of journalists - Law & Society Trust
Bishop queries continued detention of journalist - The Sunday Times

Read More

Bookmark and Share

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Executions by Sri Lankan Army to be raised to UN Secretary General

UNITED NATIONS, August 30 -- The video footage depicting the Sri Lankan Army committing summary executions will be raised to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon during his impending visit to Oslo, Norwegian Minister of the Environment and International Development Erik Solheim has vowed. On August 26 at a regular press briefing before Ban left New York, Inner City Press asked his Spokesperson Michele Montas if he or she had seen the footage, and for a UN Secretariat comment. There was no response to the video, and so the the link to the video was provided. In the four days since there has been no UN Secretariat comment.

Later on August 26 at a hastily convened stakeout in front of the UN Security Council, Inner City Press asked August's Council president and UK Ambassador John Sawers about the footage. He said he'd yet to see it but had read about it, and found it disturbing. He said the the UK would expect it to be investigated, by Sri Lanka in the first instance.

Sri Lanka has condemned Solheim for calling for a UN investigation. But it has not conducted any investigation of its own: its High Commissioner in London issued a denial as soon as the video came out. Is it Sri Lanka's vituperative reaction or something else, observers wonder, that is holding Ban back from commenting on the widely circulated video?

© Inner City Press

Related Articles:
Eric Soleheim to discuss Channel 4 video with Ban Ki Moon - Lanka Journal
Sri Lanka sees Solheim being partisan as facilitator - Daily Mirror

Read More

Bookmark and Share

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Another journalist abducted and released in Colombo - JDS

Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS) is shocked to learn that another media personnel had been abducted in Sri Lanka although he was released next day.

Prageeth Eknaligoda, cartoonist and political analyst, was abducted on 27th August 2009 by a group who followed him in a white van. He was on his way home on Makandura road, Homagama around 12.30 am when the abduction took place. According to Prageeth Eknaligoda he was forcibly bundled into the van blindfolded, hand cuffed and taken away.

The abductors kept him overnight in an unidentified location. The next morning he was told that he was abducted by mistake and consequently, he was dropped in an area called Korathota after being warned not to disclose this incident to anyone.
Speaking to a news website he has told that he was not sure of the reason for his abduction and that it could either be a mistake or an attempt to intimidate him. Further he mentioned that the abductors seemed to be trained personnel.

Prageeth Elnaligoda has worked as a political cartoonist and political analyst for number of print and online news media. He has been a strong critic of Sinhala chauvinism and the dictatorial tendencies of the present regime.

While unreservedly condemning this dastardly act of abduction, JDS calls for an independent and speedy investigation of this incident. The JDS emphasize that to disregard the aim of the abduction will result in more self-censorship among the journalists in Sri Lanka. It will worsen the prevailing climate of fear among journalists while paving the way to silence all the dissenting voices. This incident shows that even three months after claiming ‘war victory’ the government of Sri Lanka has not been able to stop abductions taking place in the country.

Executive Committee
Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka


Related Articles:
Former journalist abducted and released - The Sunday Times

Media personality Prageeth Eknaligoda abducted and released - Lanka News Web

Read More

Bookmark and Share

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sri Lanka: UN rights expert calls for probe into video of alleged executions

A United Nations human rights expert today called for the immediate establishment of an independent inquiry into the authenticity of a video which purportedly depicts the extrajudicial execution of two naked and helpless men by the Sri Lankan military and the presumed prior executions of others.

Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said he was aware that the Sri Lankan Government had categorically denied the allegations raised by the video, which has been aired this week.

“These images are horrendous and, if authentic, would indicate a serious violation of international law,” Professor Alston said in a statement, noting that the Government’s denial “makes it all the more important for an independent investigation to be set up.

“If the Government’s position is validated as a result of an inquiry, the international community can rest easy and the Government will have been vindicated. There is no justification for not moving ahead with such an investigation in view of the Government’s confidence that such atrocities were never perpetrated by its armed forces.”

Earlier this year Government forces declared victory over the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) after years of fighting in the small South Asian country.

Professor Alston added that he regretted that the Government had not yet issued him an invitation to make an official visit to Sri Lanka, despite a number of requests in recent years, but he hoped an invitation may come given the new allegations.

Like many other UN rapporteurs, Professor Alston reports to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and to the General Assembly and he serves in an independent and unpaid capacity.

© UN News Service

Related Articles:
UN expert urges Sri Lanka to probe execution video - AFP
UN expert seeks probe into Lankan video footage - Zee News

Read More

Bookmark and Share

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Mexico and Sri Lanka: the countries worst-hit by disappearances since 2000 - RSF

As the world marks the 26th International Day of the Disappeared on 30 August, Reporters Without Borders has provided a grim reminder that nothing has been heard, sometimes for years, of scores of journalists, who have been kidnapped, arrested or simply kept “appointments” that turned out to be traps.

“Whether carried out by agents of the state or local criminals bent on settling scores, the many disappearances of journalists highlights the fact that the enemies of press freedom have no hesitation in using the most cowardly and despicable methods to gag journalists. We restate our support for the families of the disappeared and we share the pain they suffer in the waiting and uncertainty about their fate”, the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

“We urge the relevant authorities to systematically take these disappearances seriously and to open the badly-needed investigations to find these missing journalists and punish those responsible. It is moreover incredible that cases of ‘enforced disappearance’ implicating agents of the state or those acting with its support can still be going on around the world. We urge countries that have signed the International Convention for the Protection of Persons from Enforced Disappearance to ratify the law as quickly as possible so that it can be put into force”, it added.

Mexico, where eight journalists have disappeared since the year 2000, is the country most affected by this plague. Mauricio Estrada Zamora, journalist on the regional daily La Opinión de Apatzingán, has been missing since 12 February 2008 in Michoacan state in the south-west of the country, an area notorious for crime and the illegal drugs trade. The management of his newspaper said that three weeks before he went missing he wrote an article that enraged an agent of the Federal Investigation Agency. Also in Michoacan, the editor of the weekly Ecos de la Cuenca, José Antonio García Apac, went missing on 20 November 2006 after he keeping an appointment after he received a phone call at 7.15pm. His son got a call from his father at 7.30pm which was interrupted by voices telling him to switch off his mobile phone and to identify himself. Nothing more has been heard of him since.

A Reporters Without Borders’ delegation that visited Mexico in July 2009 met and talked to the families of these two journalists. .

In January 2009, The International Press Freedom Mission to Sri Lanka condemned the “culture of impunity and indifference” surrounding the disappearances of journalists in the country. Soldiers arrested Subramaniam Ramachandran, correspondent for Tamil dailies Thinakural and Valampuri, close to a military camp, Kalikai Junction, in the north of Jaffna, in the north of the country on 15 February 2007. His family has heard nothing of him since then. He had been reporting on the illegal trade in sand, implicating a businessman and members of the military. The Jaffna office of the Human Rights Commission handled the case and it was referred to the military authorities, including the commander in chief for the Jaffna region. But as lawyer Mudiyapu Remedias explained, in this type of case “everyone is afraid of challenging the army, which denied any involvement”.

Vadivel Nimalarajah, a sub-editor on the popular Tamil daily in Jaffna, Uthayan, which is highly critical of the government, has not been heard of since 17 November 2007 when, colleagues believe, he was abducted while cycling home after working overnight at the paper.

In Iran, Pirouz Davani, editor of the newspaper Pirouz, has not been seen or heard of since he left his home one day at the end of August 1998. The authorities have never shown any sign of wanting to solve the case. Those behind his disappearance have thus been ensured complete impunity. The newspaper Kar-e-Karagar reported rumours of his “execution” in its 28 November 1998 edition. Journalist Akbar Ganji, working for Sobh-e-Emrouz, confirmed these rumours at the end of November 2000 and accused the former intelligence minister and current prosecutor general, Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei, of involvement in the killing. No government officials have ever commented on this report. Davani’s family took their case to the UN Human Rights Commission in December 2002.

In Gambia, "Chief" Ebrima Manneh, a journalist on the privately-owned The Daily Observer, has been missing since 7 July 2006, when he was arrested by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) for an unknown reason shortly after the closure of the African Union summit of heads of state and government which was held in the Gambian capital Banjul. The Gambian government has since then refused to reveal any information about his fate. Justice Minister, Marie Saine Firdaus, said on 6 April 2009 that the journalist had never been held in a Gambian prison. However, one week later, a police officer from Mile Two prison in Banjul, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he had seen the journalist for the last time inside the prison, in 2008, before he was taken away in the middle of the night by a police officer in plain clothes. “Chief” Ebrima Manneh has never been seen since.

On the other side of the African continent, in Eritrea, scores of journalists have been arrested since September 2001 and most of them have disappeared into the country’s jails without their families knowing where they are. The authorities in the capital Asmara have remained completely silent about their fate.
This list of disappeared journalists is far from exhaustive.

© Reporters sans frontières

Read More

Bookmark and Share

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sri Lanka: Execution Video Shows Need for International Inquiry - HRW

A disturbing video recently provided to the media showing the apparent summary execution of prisoners by Sri Lankan soldiers underscores the need for an international commission of inquiry into possible war crimes committed by both sides during the armed conflict in Sri Lanka, Human Rights Watch said today.

The video shows men in Sri Lankan army uniforms firing assault rifles point-blank at two naked, blindfolded, and bound men sitting on the ground. Eight other bodies are visible on the ground nearby, all but one unclothed. According to Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka, a multiethnic exile organization, the video was taken by a soldier with a cell phone in January 2009. While Human Rights Watch could not confirm the video's authenticity, an independent expert consulted found nothing in the video that would dispute its authenticity. The summary execution of prisoners is a violation of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and a war crime.

"The blood, blindfolds, and mud of this apparent atrocity makes nonsense of President Rajapaksa's claims of a clean war against the Tamil Tigers," said Steve Crawshaw, UN director at Human Rights Watch. "An international inquiry needs to get to the bottom of this and other war crimes committed during the past year's fighting."

Human Rights Watch reported numerous violations of the laws of war by both the Sri Lankan armed forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam during the 25-year-long armed conflict, which ended with the defeat of the Tamil Tigers in May. Because independent observers, including the media and human rights organizations, were prevented from operating near the war zone, the information available on the fighting and potential laws of war violations by both sides has been limited.

Before the government could launch an investigation, a Sri Lankan army spokesman already labeled the video a "fabrication."

Human Rights Watch has long criticized the government's failure to carry out impartial investigations and prosecutions of those responsible for the numerous human rights abuses committed by both sides during the conflict. There have been serious ongoing violations of human rights, and the backlog of cases of enforced disappearances and unlawful killings runs to the tens of thousands. Only a small number of cases have ended in prosecutions. Past efforts to address violations through the establishment of ad hoc mechanisms in Sri Lanka, such as presidential commissions of inquiry, have produced little information and few prosecutions.

Human Rights Watch called for the United Nations secretary-general or other UN body to create an independent international commission of inquiry to investigate violations of the laws of war by all parties to the armed conflict in Sri Lanka, and to make recommendations for the prosecution of those responsible. On May 23, President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, issued a joint statement from Sri Lanka in which the government said it "will take measures to address" the need for an accountability process for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

In a July interview with Time magazine, Rajapaksa said that during the war, "[t]here was no violation of human rights. There were no civilian casualties."

"Since telling the UN secretary-general three months ago that he'd conduct investigations, Rajapaksa has sat on his hands," said Crawshaw. "Ban should stop relying on the president's promises of domestic action and make it clear that an international commission is needed if the victims of Sri Lanka's bloody war are to find justice."

© Human Rights Watch

Related Articles:
Sri Lanka dismisses war crimes allegations - The Age
Channel 4 is absolutely false, debirately sinister - ISRIA

Read More

Bookmark and Share

Friday, August 28, 2009

"It's a matter for laughter" - SL High Commissioner to Britain speaks to the BBC

The Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Britain, Nihal Jayasinghe, has strongly denied allegations by Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka, who have released footage they claim shows the execution of Tamil Tiger prisoners by the Sri Lankan military.

Speaking to BBC News, Mr Jayasinghe said that it was "common knowledge" that the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) "masqueraded" in Sri Lankan uniforms as a form of "disinformation".


Read More

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, August 27, 2009

UN Mulls Sri Lankan Murder Video

Please be warned, this video contains extremely disturbing graphic content.

UNITED NATIONS, August 26 - When a war crime is filmed and presented to the UN, will it take action?

On August 26, Inner City Press asked three officials at the UN about the now widely circulated video clip depicting Sri Lankan soldiers shooting naked, blindfolded victims in the head.

At the noon briefing, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesperson Michele Montas about "footage of what appears to be Sri Lankan soldiers shooting naked, bound, unarmed people [inaudible]. Is there any response by the UN to that footage?" There was not.

Later another UN official said that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is considering how to authenticate the footage, perhaps with outside experts, in order to act on it. But how?

At the Security Council stakeout, Inner City Press asked the president of the Council for this dwindling month, the UK's John Sawers, if he'd seen the footage and what the UK proposes to do about it. He replied that "first," he was appearing as President of the Council. He said he hadn't yet seen the footage but had read about it. It does seem "disturbing," he said, adding that it should be investigated "in the first instance by the Sri Lanka authorities."

But the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration has already curtailed its investigation into the killing of 17 aid workers of Action Contre La Faim, and declared that its soldiers committed abuses. (Others in the administration have said that winners are never tried for war crimes.) So at this late date to defer to Sri Lanka to investigate the snuff film seems misplaced.

Among NGOs working in Sri Lanka, the level of disappointment at the UN and Ban Ki-moon has grown. The groups are meeting one last time with UN country representative Neil Buhne, to urge him to go public with the evidence the UN has compiled. They say that Tamil females in the camps are being used as comfort women. They say that UN has a report showing that many people will die when the monsoon season comes if they remain trapped in the camps. The UN is not releasing this report, they say, asking why Ban Ki-moon appears so beholding to Rajapaksa.

In Sri Lanka, the administration is said to be concerned on this by only three things: Delhi's reaction, an upcoming report to the U.S. Congress, and how Rajapaksa is received at the UN General Assembly next month.

© Inner City Press

Related Articles:
Video that reveals truth of Sri Lankan 'war crimes' - The Independent
Video shows purported atrocities in Sri Lanka conflict - CNN
Kopfschuss, Gelächter, Genickschuss - Der Spiegel

Read More

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sri Lanka calls 'war crimes' video a fake

Channel 4 News / Sri Lanka’s military says a video clip allegedly showing its soldiers executing prisoners during the battle against Tamil Tigers rebels is a fake.

Sri Lankan army spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said the footage – broadcast by Channel 4 News last night – was a fabrication designed to discredit security forces.

He said: "This video has been made to discredit the armed forces. This was said to have been filmed at a time when the Tigers too were operating dressed in Sri Lankan military uniforms."

The video was passed to Channel 4 News by a group called Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka. It campaigns for press freedom in the Asian country.

The group said the video was taken in January by a soldier using a mobile phone, when government forces overwhelmed the stronghold of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) at Kilinochchi.

The capture of Kilinochchi was a milestone in the army’s final push against the Tamil Tigers, which triumphantly concluded a 27-year war in May.

By January, when the video was allegedly filmed, foreign and most local journalists had been banned from the conflict zone.

Despite previous claims that the Sri Lankan army had committed war crimes during the conflict, it has so far staved off a UN investigation.

The Sri Lankan High Commission told Channel 4 News: "The High Commission has noted that in many instances in the past, various media institutions used doctored videos, photographs and documents to defame the Sri Lankan Government and armed forces.

"Therefore, we request you to verify the authenticity of the video footage."

© Channel 4

Related Articles:
Sri Lanka denies shooting unarmed men - ABC News
Sri Lanka rejects 'execution' video - Al Jazeera
Sri Lanka says killing footage 'fabricated' - BBC

Read More

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Is this evidence of Sri Lankan 'war crimes'?

By Jonathan Miller - Just three months after the Sri Lankan government declared the country liberated from the Tamil Tigers, video footage has emerged apparently showing government troops summarily executing Tamils.

Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka, which obtained the material, said it was filmed in January - when the international media were prevented by the Sri Lankan government from covering the conflict zone.

Tonight, the Sri Lankan High Commission denied the government had carried out atrocities against the Tamil community.

The Sri Lankan government launched a large scale military offensive in January capturing the Tamil Tiger held town of Kilinochchi. The army then steadily pushed the rebels into an small area of the north-east.

Sri Lanka High Commission response

"The High Commission of Sri Lanka categorically deny that the Sri Lankan armed forces engaged in atrocities against Sri Lankan Tamil community. They were only engaged in a military offensive against the LTTE.

"The High Commission has noted that in many instances in the past, various media institutions used doctored videos, photographs and documents to defame the Sri Lankan government and armed forces. Therefore, we request you to verify the authenticity of the video footage before the telecast".

© Channel 4

Related Articles:
Video allegedly shows 'executions' in Sri Lanka - AFP
Sri Lanka accused of war crimes - Telegraph
Naked, bound and shot: how ‘Tamil rebel’ was killed - Times Online
Video shows style of extra-judicial killings in Sri Lanka - Tamil Net

Read More

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dolphin van scare in Vavuniya camps

Displaced Tamil people are being daily abducted from camps in Vavuniya by people who come in vans, a displaced person told the BBC.

Speaking with BBC Sandeshaya from a camp for internally displaced people (IDP) in Vavuniya, the IDP said all the displaced try to hide in their tents as the 'Dolphin vans' arrive in the camps.

"We do not know what exactly happens as everybody hides as soon as they see the vans. But I know that two to three people are disappearing daily," he said.

Some IDPs may also be secretly leaving the camps by paying the authorities, he said.

"Some people have suddenly disappeared. I don't know whether they were abducted or left with the help of the authorities."

Meeting relatives

Those who have been already identified as LTTE operatives are sometimes helping the security officials to recognize those who have earlier supported the LTTE, according to the man.

The Tamil man who did not want to be identified due to fear for his safety said they are only allowed to meet relatives separated by a barbed wire fence.

"There are special tents outside the camps to meet the relatives. They are not allowed to touch anybody as both parties have to stay five metres away from the fence. If they need to hand over something, biscuits, fruits, etc, they have to throw it over the fence."

Three meals are provided in the camps, he said, but as the food is prepared for thousands of people at once, they are unpalatable.

When food is delivered the IDPs have to stay in queues for more than an hour, depending upon the camp, to get their quota of meals or dry food.

As the rainfall continues, he said, it is very difficult to live in the camps due to floodwaters and bad smell from the lavatories that have overflown.

The IDP says that it might even take about three years for the authorities to resettle all the displaced at the current pace.

Nearly 300,000 IDPs are held by the authorities in different camps in Vavuniya.


Read More

Bookmark and Share

Monday, August 24, 2009

Bail for Sri Lanka doctors accused of exaggerating

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — A Sri Lankan court granted bail Monday to three doctors accused of exaggerating the number of civilian deaths in the country’s recently ended civil war, a lawyer said.

The doctors were a rare source of firsthand information on those wounded and killed in the final stage of the military’s 25-year fight against the Tamil Tiger rebels after the government barred journalists from the war zone and threw out most aid workers.

U.N. figures showed more than 7,000 civilians were killed between January and the war’s end in May. Human rights groups accused the government of shelling heavily populated areas and accused the rebels of holding civilians as human shields. Satellite photos showed densely populated civilian areas had been shelled.

Both sides denied the accusations.

Five doctors who worked in the war zone were arrested in May, and authorities accused them of spreading rebel propaganda. They were not charged with any crime, but were held under emergency laws that give the military and police wide-ranging powers to arrest terrorist suspects and detain them indefinitely.

Last month, the doctors appeared at a government-arranged news conference and said the Tamil rebels forced them to exaggerate the damage caused by the shelling and gave them lists of casualty figures to give to the media.

At the time, Amnesty International said there were "very significant grounds to question whether these statements were voluntary."

On Monday, a magistrate in Colombo granted bail to three of the doctors but asked them to report to police once a month, said Ponnaiah Navaraj, a lawyer for two of the doctors.

A fourth doctor was in the hospital and was not given bail as there was no surety available for him, said Navaraj. He said he had no information about the fifth doctor.

A police spokesman could not immediately be reached Monday evening.

The Tamil rebels’ fight for a separate homeland for the Tamil minority started in 1983. The conflict killed between 80,000 and 100,000 people.

© Associated Press

Related Articles:
Sri Lankan doctors paraded - The Guardian

Read More

Bookmark and Share

Monday, August 24, 2009

Monsoon misery for Sri Lanka's weary war refugees

COLOMBO (AFP) – Tamil civilians who lived through the vicious final battle of Sri Lanka's separatist war are now locked in another struggle for survival with heavy rains bringing misery to the camps they call home.

Nearly 300,000 people displaced by the fighting between government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels are held in what the government calls "welfare villages" which are off-limits to independent media.

"This is inhuman. This is a living hell," pro-government Tamil politician Dharmalingam Sithadthan said of the camps where recent pre-monsoon rains overwhelmed sewer systems and flooded tents.

"The rains earlier this month were freak showers," said Sithadthan. The heavy monsoon rains "will start in October and the conditions will only get worse. The government must give people the choice to leave the camps."

The United States, which led international criticism over civilian casualties in the final phase of Colombo's offensive against the Tamil Tigers, has also been vocal in its concerns over the plight of the displaced survivors.

The United Nations said more than 7,000 civilians may have perished in the five months before the war ended in May.

"Involuntary confinement is especially a source of concern given the recent rains and given the coming of the monsoon season," said Eric Schwartz, the US assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration.

"It makes it all the more important that release from confinement be an issue that friends of Sri Lanka continue to raise," he said in Washington on Wednesday.

Rains last week destroyed nearly 2,000 makeshift shelters at the Manik Farm resettlement complex in northern Sri Lanka.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said there was a danger of disease spreading in the camps with the onset of the monsoon and asked Colombo to end what the group insists is the illegal detention of civilians.

A 30-year-old woman interviewed by the rights watchdog described the impact of the rains on the shelter she shared with her infant son and other refugees.

"Within seconds, the water was pouring into our tents. ... After a couple of minutes, everything was flooded. We lost all of our things. It was terrible. We were already frightened and this made it worse," she said.

"Some of the toilets are completely flooded. It looks like they are floating in water. The pits have collapsed and raw sewage is floating around with the storm water in a green and brown sludge," she said. "It smells disgusting."

Sri Lanka's Resettlement Minister Rishard Bathurdeen blamed UN agencies for poorly constructed drainage systems that had been unable to cope with the rainfall.

Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe denied media reports of disease.

"There are no major health-related issues in the camps and all health centres are functioning at normal capacity," he said.

The bar on the media makes independent verification of the situation impossible.

"With no independent monitors able to freely visit the camps, many people are unprotected and at risk from enforced disappearances, abductions, arbitrary arrest and sexual violence," London-based Amnesty International said.

It noted that the inmates of the camps were not allowed to talk freely to aid workers or the occasional visitor allowed by the military under strict supervision.

Sri Lanka's new army chief Jagath Jayasuriya told reporters last Thursday that the military was working overtime to clear landmines to allow swifter re-settlement of those in the camps.

The government promised UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who visited the island in May, that 80 percent of the internally displaced would be returned home before the end of this year -- a deadline officials privately admit is unrealistic.


Read More

Bookmark and Share

Monday, August 24, 2009

No charges against 'Sinhala Tigers'

Police terrorist investigators have failed to find any evidence to charge a group accused of helping Tamil Tigers, their lawyer said.

Manjula Pathiraja, Attorney at Law, told BBC Sandeshaya that the authorities will have to release the whole group soon.

He was commenting on the latest release by the courts of two Sinhala nationals accused of supporting the LTTE.

"These people were detained for over one and half years, without charges, under detention orders," Mr. Pathiraja said.

A group of journalists and trade union activists were abducted and later found in the custody of police Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) in February 2007.


They were arrested on suspicion of conspiring with the LTTE to overthrow the democratically elected government.

The suspects were accused of forming an organisation called Revolutionary Liberation Army and having close links with the LTTE.

The suspects were never charged in a court of law.

Military spokesman Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe told media days after the arrest that three journalists have confessed to planning and carrying out attacks on behalf of the rebels.

The military found explosives hidden by the suspects after the arrest, he added.

journalists were shown footages of suspects 'confessing' to have worked with the Tamil Tigers to stage attaks in the south of the country.

Media watchdogs, RSF and FMM, protested authorities using alleged confessions taken while in custody.

After considering fundamental rights (FR) petitions, the Supreme Court earlier this year released 11 of them without charge.

Sarath Fernando, one of those recently released by the court, said that he was tortured while in custody after he refused to confess working for the LTTE.

Speaking with BBC Sandeshaya from an unidentified location outside Sri Lanka, he said he filed a formal complaint with the magistrate regarding the torture.


Read More

Bookmark and Share

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Plan to resettle IDPs in the midst of Army and Sinhala settlements - 'Ravaya'

A source close to the President said that the release of IDPs has been postponed indefinitely with the government focusing on a plan to resettle them along with the new Sinhala and military settlements that are to be set up in the north.

The source further noted that the plan is to resettle people in areas in Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, below Mannar and above Vavuniya , where there are currently no people. The plan is said to remove all the old Tamil villages that existed in the respective areas. Although thousands of displaced persons currently living in camps even after completing the security checks, they cannot be released due to the government's new plan.

According to the Defence Ministry and the Defence Secretary, 10,000 of the 300,000 people living in the displaced camps have been identified to have links with the LTTE. They are currently living in separate camps located within the main IDP camp in Vavuniya.

While former child soldiers of the LTTE are being rehabilitated at the Ambepussa camp, several other LTTE members are held at the Boossa camp.

Half of the government stipulated period of 180 days to resettle the displaced persons has lapsed. The government in order to receive aid from India and other countries said it would resettle the displaced within 180 days.

It is reported that elements opposed to the devolution of power within the government had proposed the above mentioned plan while the others who are supportive of power devolution have objected to it.

Meanwhile, Disaster Management and Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe told parliament on the 19th that the displaced would be resettled by December 31st.

© Ravaya

Read More

Bookmark and Share

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A group of Catholic clergy protest over celebrating Madhu festival

A group of Catholic clergy has protested over celebrating Madhu festival while hundreds of thousands of people are locked in the camps, a senior clergyman said.

The assumption of Virgin Mary was celebrated on 15 August at Madhu shrine in Vavuniya.

However, Fr. Victor Soosai, Vicar General of diocese of Mannar said that up to 10 priests stayed away from the celebration to express solidarity with displaced Tamil people, and priests, in camps.

“On the one side, after very long time, people are allowed to go to Madhu and they were able to worship,” he told BBC Sinhala service, Sandeshaya.

Nearly 300,000 IDPs (internally displaced people) are housed in temporary camps in Vavuniya.

Priests detained

“On the other side, people are sad in the sense, all the adjoining villages are in the IDP camps. They were asking how we can celebrate peace without people in the surrounding area,” he said.

Fr. Soosai said a group of priests stayed either with the parish members or visited the IDP camps while nearly 35 others attended the Madhu feast.

Bishop of Mannar Rayappu Joseph did not protest but was absent due to ill health, according to Fr. Soosai.

The senior clergyman revealed that six Catholic priests and three nuns are also being detained in the IDP camps by the authorities.

He added that almost all priests, those attended and those who were absent, agreed with the call by Jaffna Bishop Thomas Saundranayagam for the speed release of the IDPs.

“That is the wish of all the priests,” he said.


Read More

Bookmark and Share

Saturday, August 22, 2009

"Sri Lanka : a worst perpetrator of enforced disappearances." - M.C.M.Iqbal

Jo Baker / Aug 21, 2009 - As President Mahinda Rajapaksa speaks of ushering Sri Lankans into a new era of peace, a slight, bespectacled man in his 60s watches him on television from across an ocean, with the weariness of a man who has tried and failed to call his bluff.

M.C.M. Iqbal was secretary to two of Sri Lanka's "truth commissions", presidential inquiry panels into the 30,000 or more forced disappearances that took place in the late 1980s and early '90s in the south, during a dirty war that many believe has yet to run its course. Mr Iqbal knows more than most about the skeletons that are locked away in the government's closet - enough, he says, for him to no longer be safe in his home country.

"I still remember when Rajapaksa was on the way to a UN session with photos of torture victims and was caught going through customs," he recalls during a recent visit to the Asian Human Rights Commission in Hong Kong. "As a minister he used to be at the front of the struggle against these incidents. Now I would consider his regime as one of the world's worst perpetrators of enforced disappearances."

In Sri Lanka, disappearances seem to accompany armed conflict, Human Rights Watch says. Government security forces are believed to have been responsible for tens of thousands of disappearances during the insurgency by the left-wing Sinhalese nationalist group Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna from 1987 to 1990, and the two decade civil war with the Tamil Tigers.

In 1994, Mr Iqbal was working as a senior government administrator when he was asked to join a truth commission. It was the first body of its kind - the result of an election pledge by the newly elected president, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. It was split up to cover three zones, and Mr Iqbal's role was to set up a system enabling just a handful of officers to document thousands of possible atrocities across four provinces in the centre of the country.

The team was to travel around for open question sessions. They were to compile a report for the president on the number and circumstances of the disappearances; who was responsible and to give opinions on charges; and deliver a final analysis of how things had been allowed to get so bad. Promises to the public had raised expectations that the report would lead to legal action against the alleged killers.

For two years, the small panel spent two-week stretches holding interviews, and at night, away from their families, its members would dictate and record the cases they heard that day.

"I had worked in public service for 40 years, 20 of them in courts, so this procedure of listening to complaints was not new to me, but it was harder in the sense that some of them touched me," Mr Iqbal says. "Sometimes I felt like sobbing."

He remembers many of the stories, but singles out one, which was not the worst, he adds. According to a woman whom the commission heard from in Badulla, the capital of Uva province, local police arrived at her house one night during the '90s and took two of her three sons. At the police station the next morning, the officers denied arresting the boys, but the woman made such a commotion that her sons heard her and they started shouting. She waited all day on the verandah of the station, and when the night-shift officers arrived, they invited her back inside and then they gang-raped her.

Mr Iqbal says the woman said she could hear her sons shouting throughout the ordeal. "She was almost dead from exhaustion, but she went home and she complained to the elders, who couldn't help her, and then finally she came to us."

A few days after her testimony, the same officers picked up her other son, a 17-year-old, over a robbery. Her two older boys were almost certainly dead, but the commission chairman was able to contact a magistrate and help prove the police were framing the 17-year-old. "She came running to the commission with her son, crying, and laying on the floor shouting 'thank you'," he says. "All we could tell her was that she had better take her son and get out of the area."

That was one of the more rewarding outcomes for Mr Iqbal's team. After two years in the central zone and more work with a follow-up commission, Mr Iqbal helped to write the report, and says that although some of the cases were clear-cut, it was not made public. Parts would be published in 2002, but without naming the accused.

"We thought we had enough materials; we thought that this would at least send a signal to prevent this sort of thing happening in the future, that all victims would get compensation and at least some perpetrators would be punished," Mr Iqbal says. "But the compensation paid was a pittance for most ... Hardly any of the perpetrators were punished."

Not yet disheartened, Mr Iqbal took a job with the National Human Rights Commission and the US-based Asia Foundation, logging the same cases in a database and lecturing on human rights. Still, many of those implicated continued to hold high-profile positions.

The biggest blow came when members of the commission, which was considered relatively independent, were replaced. The new members were appointed by the Rajapaksa government, and, Mr Iqbal says, they had different priorities. The move was criticised in the international press.

"It had become a political commission," he says. "I still remember the chairman, the late Justice P. Ramanathan, telling me to abandon [our work]. To use the exact words, he said: `Why are you raking up all the muck?'"

Mr Iqbal resigned, but he would still receive calls from the families of the disappeared, telling him that they saw one of the perpetrators getting into a car, or that another was still the officer in charge of the local police station. It appeared that the files had simply been put aside.

"I believe the president did not implement our recommendations because she would have alienated the military and police on whom she depended - terrorism was at its height then and they protected her," he says, referring to Ms Kumaratunga.

With no legal reforms and very few people held to account, disappearances continued in Sri Lanka. In 2006, 17 locals working for a French non-governmental organisation were massacred in a military zone. Scandinavian monitors pointed the finger at security forces but no one was charged. Mr Iqbal refused an invitation to join another such inquiry.

However, in 2007, when a group of international observers arrived to monitor the new commission's work, the United Nations office in Sri Lanka suggested they take on Mr Iqbal as an adviser.

"I said, 'Look at this list of perpetrators: so-and-so is now commander in chief there, so-and-so is minister of this district and the president [Mr Rajapaksa] knows and he keeps them there. Now he wants you to start making recommendations?'"

Mr Iqbal recalls what he describes as the shock and displeasure of the attorney general and the higher-ups three months later when the observers publicly backed the earlier recommendations. That was when the death threats started again.

"I'd had such calls in the past, but I didn't take them very seriously. But these were too frequent and sounded a little more genuine," Mr Iqbal says. "They were made to me and my wife, and to me, they would say: `You'll be killed if you keep working there'. Finally the observers' security services monitored the calls and told him he needed to leave immediately.

Late in 2007, without a word to anyone, the Iqbals locked up their house and left the country.

And now, from a colder climate, with six months in a refugee camp behind him, a schedule of seminars and workshops ahead and his name kept out of the phone book, this reluctant keeper of grisly secrets watches the latest Sri Lankan leader with a weary, wary eye.

He has no regrets about the path he took, although it essentially led him into exile, but he doubts he can say the same for the president.

"When Rajapaksa came to power, he had the option of doing something," Mr Iqbal says.

"He was a minister at the time of all this, he knew the contents of these reports and that nothing was being done. He knew who was involved in all the killings, and yet he has put all those people around him, given them positions."

Last month the president declared that he only wanted to look to the future now, that the past, essentially, was dead and buried. To Mr Iqbal, this is eerily close to the truth.

© South China Morning Post

Read More

Bookmark and Share

Saturday, August 22, 2009

'Death Threat Deals New Blow to Free Expression in Sri Lanka' says Freedom House

The Sri Lankan government is solely responsible for ensuring the safety of prominent human rights activist Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, who received an anonymous death threat at his home yesterday. Freedom House urges that the Sri Lanka government demonstrate that it will not continue to tolerate such vigilantism by carrying out a full and impartial investigation and bringing the perpetrators to justice.

Saravanamuttu, executive director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, is the latest in a number of high-profile people who have been threatened, assaulted or, in some cases, murdered in recent months in the country. Almost all of the victims—including activists, journalists and lawyers—have been targeted because of their criticism of government policies.

"The fact that prominent individuals such as Mr. Saravanamuttu are now being targeted shatters the myth that the human rights situation is returning to normal in Sri Lanka," said Jennifer Windsor, Freedom House executive director. "The government must ensure that human rights activists can carry out their work in documenting the aftermath of Sri Lanka's civil war and ongoing abuses without fear of harassment and intimidation."

The letter Saravanamuttu received said he would be killed because he supplied information that may cause the European Union to suspend preferential trading benefits to Sri Lanka. In reality, his organization has consistently urged that the benefits be renewed and that Sri Lanka use the opportunity to bring its human rights record in line with international standards.

Sri Lankan authorities are largely failing to prosecute the perpetrators of attacks on activists, lawyers and journalists, creating a culture of impunity. In January, gunmen murdered Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickrematunga in Colombo just days after he predicted his death in an editorial. Months earlier, human rights lawyer J.C. Weliamuna and his family survived a grenade attack on their Colombo home. Weliamuna is the head of the Sri Lankan branch of Transparency International, an international nongovernmental organization that campaigns against government corruption. Dozens of lesser-known activists and journalists have faced similar threats in recent months.

Freedom of expression has steadily declined in Sri Lanka over the last five years, despite constitutional guarantees. Journalists and activists regularly face verbal and physical attacks, both from official sources and nationalist vigilantes. A number of journalists have fled the country and gone into exile as a result of the threats, while others heavily self-censor. Top-ranking officials, including Defense Secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa, are known to openly equate criticism of government policies with treason. In addition, the Defense Ministry website and state-controlled media often engage in smear tactics against journalists and activists.

"This kind of behavior on the part of top-ranking officials is not befitting of the leadership of a democratically-elected government," said Karin Karlekar, Freedom House senior researcher and managing editor of Freedom of the Press.

The ongoing culture of impunity is likely to further erode Sri Lanka's ranking in Freedom in the World, Freedom House's annual survey of political rights and civil liberties. Sri Lanka is ranked Partly Free in the 2009 edition of Freedom in the World and Not Free in the 2009 version of Freedom of the Press.


Read More

Bookmark and Share

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sri Lanka ranks South Asia’s No.1 human rights violator - Asian Center for Human Rights

A new report by the Asian Centre for Human Rights presents a comparative analysis of human rights situation in South Asia. According to the report, Sri Lanka is the number one violator in the region closely followed by Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) released a comparative assessment of the human rights records of South Asian governments earlier this month.

While Sri Lanka is the worst in the region, the report also underlines that all countries in the region have very poor records.

According to the report, Sri Lanka is South Asia’s worst human rights violator. The country had the worst human rights records for violations of the right to life, the rights of the child, attacks on human rights defenders and violations of the rights of the minorities.

On press freedom, it ranked second worst violator only after Bhutan – which has no independent press. These increased violations are a direct consequence of the war. Civilians in Sri Lanka are deliberately targeted by all sides to the conflict.

“Discrimination lies at the heart of the war with the Tamils and the introduction of restrictions on Tamils travelling to Colombo are a powerful symbol of government intent. The political ramifications of the exclusion - not least in terms of prospects for a peaceful settlement of the conflict - of an entire ethnic group from the nation’s capital are of deep concern,” stated ACHR.

In Sri Lanka, attacks on freedom of expression were of particular concern and led the killing of seven journalists in 2007.

There are no precise figures on the number of civilians killed because reporting on war is banned.

“Not only is Sri Lanka’s conflict resulting in systematic violations of human rights of civilians, but by deliberately oppressing journalists and freedom of expression, this measure closes off any means for the government to have access to independent information and understand the extent of the problem and the negative consequences of its own actions,” said Suhas Chakma, Director of the Asian Centre for Human Rights.

The results are there: disappearances began to rise again: 540 persons disappeared across Sri Lanka from January to August 2007 with ethnic Tamils suffering disproportionately –78.89% compared with 1.85% (Sinhalese) and 3.52% (Muslims) with 50% of the cases being reported from Jaffna district alone.

“In no other South Asian country, so many human rights defenders have been killed. By September 2007, at least 43 aid workers were killed and 14 others were missing in Sri Lanka since the escalation of the conflict,” asserted Chakma.

The South Asia Human Rights Index 2008 finds that under the ACHR’s index scoring system Sri Lanka (with 52 points) is the worst human rights violator in South Asia followed by Bangladesh (45), Bhutan (43), Pakistan (41), Maldives (23), Nepal (24) and India (24).

Apart from strengthening the national mechanism to address such violations, Asian Centre for Human Rights recommends that 15th SAARC Summit establish a working Group of Eminent Persons of South Asia to explore the possibility of drafting a South Asia Human Rights Convention with full and active participation of civil society groups and other stakeholders.

ACHR also urges the National Human Rights Institutions in South Asia to emulate the role of their counterparts in South East Asia to establish a South Asia Sub-Regional human rights mechanism.

© One World South Asia

Read the full report:
South Asia Human Rights Index 2008 - ACHR

Read More

Bookmark and Share

Friday, August 21, 2009

Dr. Saravanamuttu, receives death threat

One of Sri Lanka's most eminent academics has received an anonymous death threat, officials say.

The threat in a letter was sent to the home of Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, executive director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA).

He is the latest in a long line of prominent people, mostly journalists, who have received death threats.

They have in recent months been threatened, beaten up and in some cases murdered.

Nearly all have been critical of government policy.

The letter sent to Dr Saravanamuttu threatens him because Sri Lanka stands to be deprived of the European Union (EU) benefits in October, with resultant job losses.

It says that much of the information used in reaching this decision was supplied by Dr Saravanamuttu to Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU's commissioner for external relations.

The letter has been strongly condemned by the CPA.

"We unreservedly deplore this despicable attempt at causing fear through the use of threats of physical harm... to stifle free expression, dissent and debate. We are equally concerned over the increasing emasculation of... civil society," the CPA statement said.

Police say they are investigating the incident.


Related Articles:
CPA Executive Director, receives death threat - Groundviews

Read More

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sri Lanka to keep defence budget despite rebel defeat

The Sri Lankan government plans to keep up record defence spending despite its recent victory over Tamil rebels that ended nearly four decades of fighting, a senior official said.

Defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse said the military needed to be modernised and payments made on hardware bought on credit.

Sri Lanka raised its defence budget to a record 1.6 billion dollars in 2009, and finally crushed the Tamil Tigers separatists in May after months of intense battles.

"I don't see an immediate need to reduce the defence spending next year," Rajapakse told AFP on the sidelines of a meeting on Tuesday. "We have cut down on our ammunition purchases. But we need to bring in new technology to upgrade our military capacity."

Sri Lanka relied heavily on mortar bombs and ammunition purchased from China and Pakistan during the ethnic conflict.

After routing the Tamil Tigers, the government scrapped a 200-million dollar ammunition order from China.

Rajapakse added that nearly 30,000 government forces were killed and 10,000 disabled in the decades of fighting, with 6,000 killed in the last three months of warfare.

The Sri Lankan army intends to recruit tens of thousands of new troops to be deployed in areas previously under rebel control.

© AFP 2009

Read More

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Vavunia : Over 300 disgruntled families protest at camp's main gate

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Aug. 18 (UPI) -- Refugee camps in northern Sri Lanka are swamped by flooding, endangering Tamils displaced by the country's recently ended civil war, the United Nations said.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said three days of heavy rains and flash flooding damaged or destroyed nearly 2,000 shelters and sanitation facilities in the camps, CNN reported Tuesday.

An internal U.N. memo obtained by CNN indicated more than 300 families marched to the main access gate at one camp to protest the conditions.

"Though ... not violent, they seemed disgruntled and agitated due to the sufferings and expressed their resentment by hooting and making noises," the memo read.

The camps, strung across northern Sri Lanka, house about 280,000 people displaced in the final months of the 20-year-long civil war, CNN said. The flooding was ahead of Sri Lanka's monsoon season, typically from October until January.

"If the rain continues, which is very likely, then the overall situation may go out of control of the management and lead to serious security threat," the memo said, adding that contingency plans were being "discussed and worked out."

The international group Human Rights Watch has called for the release of Tamil civilians living in the camps, saying they are being confined against their will, CNN reported.

© United Press International

Related Articles:
Floods hit Sri Lanka refugee camps - CNN

Read More

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

'Detaining people in the midst of floods is illegal and inhumane' - HRW

(New York) - Floods caused by heavy rains unnecessarily threaten more than 260,000 displaced Tamil civilians whom the Sri Lankan government has unlawfully detained in camps in northern Sri Lanka, Human Rights Watch said today.

Permitting displaced families to move in with friends and host families would quickly address the deteriorating conditions in the camps with the onset of the rainy season, Human Rights Watch said.

"The government has detained people in these camps and is threatening their health and even their lives by keeping them there during the rainy season floods," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "This is illegal, dangerous, and inhumane."

In violation of international law, the government has since March 2008 confined virtually all civilians displaced by the fighting between government forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in detention camps, euphemistically called "welfare centers" by the government. Only a few thousand camp residents have been released and allowed to return home or to stay elsewhere.

During the last several days, heavy rain fell on northern Sri Lanka, flooding several camps. Zones 2 and 4 of Manik farm, a large complex of camps west of the town of Vavuniya, were particularly affected by rain. More rain is expected with the onset of the rainy season next month, further worsening conditions in the overcrowded camps.

"Aanathi," a 30-year-old woman living in zone 2 with her 1-year-old son, told Human Rights Watch: "Within seconds, the water was pouring into our tents. ... After a couple of minutes, everything was flooded. We lost all of our things. We had no place to cook. We couldn't get help from anybody, because everybody was in the same situation. It was terrible. We were already frightened, and this made it worse."

Seven people from three families were living in Aanathi's tent, which was designed to house five people. According to the United Nations, the majority of the camps are severely overcrowded; zones 2 and 4, with a joint capacity of 50,000 people, held more than 100,000 people as of July 28, 2009. For their protection, the residents who spoke with Human Rights Watch were not identified by their real names.

The rain caused emergency latrines to flood or collapse, causing sewage to flood several areas of the camps, heightening the risk of outbreaks of contagious diseases. "Shantadevi," also in zone 2, told Human Rights Watch: "Some of the toilets are completely flooded. It looks like they are floating in water. The pits have collapsed and raw sewage is floating around with the storm water in a green and brown sludge. It smells disgusting."

Aanathi explained to Human Rights Watch that the area where the camp is located usually floods during the rainy season: "If they don't release us before then, we will be washed away by all the water, there will be outbreaks of diseases here. It will be terrible."

The camps have already suffered from outbreaks of contagious diseases with health officials recording thousands of cases of diarrhea, hepatitis, dysentery, and chickenpox.

Observers report that camp residents are getting increasingly frustrated by the difficult conditions in the camps and that the current heavy rain caused unrest that was quickly defused by the military camp administration without the use of force. In late June, camp residents held at least two protests, which were dispersed by the security forces. Since then, the military administration of the camps, apparently fearing more unrest, has divided the camps into smaller sections, which are easier to control.

Humanitarian organizations have long advocated the release of the displaced from the camps. Many of the camp residents have relatives, including close family members, with whom they can live if they are allowed to leave. Aanathi told Human Rights Watch that she would go to live with her mother in Jaffna or her mother-in-law in Trincomalee if released.

"The camp is like a desert, there are no trees here," she told Human Rights Watch. "When it is sunny, it gets really hot. When it rains, you can't walk because of all the mud. With a 1-year old it is very difficult to move around, and I can't leave him alone in the tent. It is painful to speak about my situation here. I am lonely, very lonely. If I could go to Jaffna or Trincomalee, I would have a good life again."

The government has refused to release the displaced from the camps, contending that it needs to screen them for Tamil Tiger combatants. In response to calls to release them, Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona, recently named Sri Lanka's ambassador to the UN, told the BBC on August 10 that it was "mischievous to talk of rights in the absence of security."

On August 15, the minister of resettlement and disaster management, Rizad Bathiudeen, told the Sri Lankan Daily Mirror that he held UN agencies responsible for the flooding in the camps, saying, "[T]he Government cannot be blamed for the poor condition of the drainage systems which burst and failed."

"The government bears full responsibility for the situation in the camps," said Adams. "Locking families up in squalid conditions and then blaming aid agencies for their plight is downright shameful."

© Human Rights Watch

Related Articles:
Rights group urges Sri Lanka to Open flooded camps - AP

Read More

Bookmark and Share
© 2009 - 2014 Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  © Blogger template 'Fly Away' by 2008

Back to TOP