Posts Tagged ‘Sri Lankan government’

Sri Lanka: End Indefinite Detention of Tamil Tiger Suspects

February 13, 2010

Incommunicado ‘Rehabilitation’ Raises Fears of Torture and Enforced Disappearances

Human Rights Watch, February 1, 2010
2010_SriLanka_TamilIDPs.jpg

Tamil women in a camp for displaced persons in Sri Lanka asking for news of their relatives who were taken away by the army, allegedly for rehabilitation.

© 2009 Pedro Ugarte/AFP/Getty Images

The government has been keeping 11,000 people in a legal limbo for months. It’s time to identify who presents a genuine security threat and to release the rest.

–Brad Adams, Asia director

(New York) – The Sri Lankan government should end its indefinite arbitrary detention of more than 11,000 people held in so-called rehabilitation centers and release those not being prosecuted, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

The 30-page report, “Legal Limbo: The Uncertain Fate of Detained LTTE Suspects in Sri Lanka,” is based on interviews with the detainees’ relatives, humanitarian workers, and human rights advocates, among others. The Sri Lankan government has routinely violated the fundamental rights of the detainees, Human Rights Watch found. The government contends that the 11,000 detainees are former fighters or supporters of the defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

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Sri Lanka: Tamil oppression worsens despite war’s end

July 19, 2009
Brian Senewiratne | Green left Online, July 19, 2009

The Sri Lankan government claims that, after its military victory against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which was fighting for an independent homeland in the island’s north-east for the Tamil minority, Tamil “terrorism” has been crushed, and that the outlook for the country is rosy.

In reality, Sri Lanka’s problems have gotten worse. The need for international action against the crimes of the regime is more urgent than ever.

This year, the regime’s genocidal war on the Tamil people killed more than 30,000 Tamils this year. This occurred after the government removed international witnesses.

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Tamil death toll ‘is 1,400 a week’ at Manik Farm camp in Sri Lanka

July 10, 2009

The Times /UK, July 10, 2009

A Tamil girl in a refugee camp in Cheddikulam in the northern district of Vavuniya

(Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images)

A Tamil girl at a refugee camp in the northern district of Vavuniya

Rhys Blakely in Mumbai


About 1,400 people are dying every week at the giant Manik Farm internment camp set up in Sri Lanka to detain Tamil refugees from the nation’s bloody civil war, senior international aid sources have told The Times.

The death toll will add to concerns that the Sri Lankan Government has failed to halt a humanitarian catastrophe after announcing victory over the Tamil Tiger terrorist organisation in May. It may also lend credence to allegations that the Government, which has termed the internment sites “welfare villages”, has actually constructed concentration camps to house 300,000 people.

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Sri Lankan police interrogate doctors who witnessed war crimes

June 13, 2009
By Nanda Wickramesinghe |wsws.org, 13 June 2009

The Sri Lankan government is continuing to detain and interrogate three doctors—Dr Thurairajah Varatharajah, Dr Thangamuttu Sathyamurthi and Dr V. Shanmugarajah—who risked their lives to provide medical care to thousands of Tamil civilians caught in fighting between the army and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

With journalists and most aid workers barred from the war zone, the government-appointed medical officers provided a glimpse into the horrific conditions facing over a quarter of a million civilians in the small LTTE-held enclave. Their testimony provided first-hand evidence of the war crimes being carried out by the Sri Lankan military in shelling civilian areas. Their makeshift clinic was hit several times in the last weeks of fighting.

The three doctors fled along with thousands of civilians just days before the army overran the last LTTE territory. They were detained by soldiers and handed over to police. To deflect attention from its own crimes, the government accused the doctors of aiding the LTTE and denounced their accounts as propaganda. Only the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has had access to the men.

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Sri Lanka: End Illegal Detention of Displaced Population

June 12, 2009

Nearly 300,000 Tamils Enduring Poor Conditions in Camps

Human Rights Watch, June 11, 2009

Treating all these men, women, and children as if they were Tamil Tiger fighters is a national disgrace. Displaced Tamil civilians have the same rights to liberty and freedom of movement as other Sri Lankans.

Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

(New York) – The Sri Lankan government should end the illegal detention of nearly 300,000 ethnic Tamils displaced by the recently ended conflict in Sri Lanka, Human Rights Watch said today.

For more than a year, the Sri Lankan government has detained virtually everyone – including entire families – displaced by the fighting in the north in military-run camps, in violation of international law. While the government has said that most would be able to return home by the end of the year, past government practice and the absence of any concrete plans for their release raises serious concerns about indefinite confinement, said Human Rights Watch.

“Treating all these men, women, and children as if they were Tamil Tiger fighters is a national disgrace,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Displaced Tamil civilians have the same rights to liberty and freedom of movement as other Sri Lankans.”

While the Sri Lankan authorities are expected to screen persons leaving the war zone to identify Tamil Tiger combatants, international law prohibits arbitrary detention and unnecessary restrictions on freedom of movement. This means that anyone taken into custody must be promptly brought before a judge and charged with a criminal offense or released. Although human rights law permits restrictions on freedom of movement for security reasons, the restrictions must have a clear legal basis, be limited to what is necessary, and be proportionate to the threat.

Since March 2008, the government of Sri Lanka has detained virtually all civilians fleeing areas controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam at so-called “welfare centers” and “transitional relief villages.” A small number of camp residents, mainly the elderly, have been released to host families and institutions for the elderly. The vast majority, however, remain in detention. As of June 5, the United Nations reported that the authorities were keeping 278,263 people in detention in 40 camps in the four northern districts of Vavuniya, Mannar, Jaffna, and Trincomalee.

A significant number of the detainees have close relatives in the region, with whom they could stay if they were allowed to leave.

“Many people are in the camps not because they have no other place to go,” said Adams. “They are in the camps because the government does not allow them to leave.”

Before the recent massive influx of displaced persons, the government proposed holding the displaced in camps for up to three years. According to the plan, those with relatives inside would be allowed to come and go after initial screening, but young or single people would not be allowed to leave. After international protests, the government said that it would resettle 80 percent of the displaced by the end of 2009. But the government’s history of restricting the rights of displaced persons through rigid pass systems and strict restrictions on leaving the camps heightens concerns that they will be confined in camps much longer, possibly for years.

More than 2,000 people displaced from their homes in northwestern Mannar district by the fighting two years ago were released from the camps only in May, when the government said they could return to their homes.

Conditions in the camps are inadequate. Virtually all camps are overcrowded, some holding twice the number recommended by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Food distribution is chaotic, there are shortages of water, and sanitation facilities are inadequate. Camp residents do not have access to proper medical services and communicable diseases have broken out in the camps.

Since May 16, the military camp administration has imposed numerous restrictions on humanitarian organizations working in the camps, such as limiting the number of vehicles and staff members that can enter the camps, which has delayed the provision of much-needed aid. The military does not allow organizations into the camps to conduct protection activities, and a ban on talking to the camp residents leaves them further isolated. The military has also barred journalists from entering the camps except on organized and supervised tours.

“The poor conditions in the camps may worsen with the monsoon rains,” said Adams. “Holding civilians who wish to move in with relatives and friends is irresponsible as well as unlawful.”

UN praise for Sri Lanka criticised

May 29, 2009

The United Nations was today accused by human rights groups of failing to hold the Sri Lankan government accountable for alleged abuses against civilians ­during the suppression of the Tamil Tiger insurgency.

The accusations followed a resolution in the UN human rights council welcoming the Sri Lankan government victory, with no reference to human rights concerns over civilian casualties and the 300,000 Tamils made homeless, many of whom are interned in government camps.

But criticism was also aimed at the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, who ­visited the biggest camp over the weekend and complimented the Sri Lankan government on its humanitarian role, and the security council for not speaking out officially about the human cost of the military victory.

“The human rights council performed abysmally,” said Tom Porteous, London director of Human Rights Watch. “It’s there to monitor human rights and the laws of war, and it completely failed – and failed to register any concern over the situation.”

The Sri Lankan government took the unusual step of submitting its own resolution to a council session in Geneva convened to examine its conduct in the conflict. Colombo won substantial support from friendly governments, derailing an attempt to launch an inquiry into war crimes allegations.

“It was a deplorable result, a self-congratulatory resolution that Sri Lanka imposed on the council,” said Peter ­Splinter, Amnesty International’s representative in Geneva.

Sen Kandiah, a Tamil community leader in Britain, said: “The Tamil diaspora feel the system is not working. We feel justice is not going to be done.”

The Geneva resolution hailed “the liberation by the government of Sri Lanka of tens of thousands of its citizens that were kept by the LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] against their will as hostages”. It won 29 votes, with six abstentions. Britain’s was one of 12 votes against it. A European diplomat admitted that if EU states had been more organised they might have put forward a more critical resolution that could have been accepted by the council.

Sri Lanka’s foreign minister, Rohitha Bogollagama, todaysaid the government had been able to defeat countries that were “trying to undermine Sri Lanka’s efforts in countering terrorism”.

Colombo was also buoyed by the remarks of Ban Ki-moon after his visit to Menik Farm internment camp, noting the government’s “tremendous efforts”. The comments infuriated aid workers. “It seems to me Ban … didn’t raise the really hard questions about human rights,” Porteous said.

Sri Lanka accused of ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Tamil areas

May 26, 2009

The Sri Lankan government has been accused of launching a campaign of “ethnic cleansing” following its victory over the Tamil Tigers in the country’s 26 year civil war.

By Dean Nelson in Trincomalee |Telegraph.co.uk
Last Updated: 9:14PM BST 25 May 2009

Sri Lankan government has been accused of launching a campaign of

Sri Lankan government has been accused of launching a campaign of “ethnic cleansing” following its victory over the Tamil Tigers Photo: KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH/AP

Aid officials, human rights campaigners and politicians claim Tamils have been driven out of areas in the north-east of the country by killings and kidnappings carried out by pro-government militias.

They say the government has simultaneously encouraged members of the Sinhalese majority in the south to relocate to the vacated villages.

One foreign charity worker told the Daily Telegraph the number of Tamils disappearing in and around Trincomalee, 50 miles south of the final conflict zone in Mullaitivu, had been increasing in the last three months.

He claimed to have known 15 of the disappeared, three of whom had been found dead. He said all three bodies showed signs of torture, while two were found with their hands tied behind their backs and single bullet wounds in their heads.

Another aid worker said the killings were part of a strategy to drive out the Tamils.

“Eastern province is vulnerable, there’s cleansing by the Sinhalese. There will be more problems with land grabbing. The demography changes and the Tamils who are the majority will soon become a minority,” he said.

He claimed many villagers had moved out after the army declared their land to be part of a ‘high security zone’ and Sinhalese had been given incentives to move in to provide support services to new military bases.

Many Tamils sold their homes and land at below-market prices after members of their families had been killed or had disappeared, he said.

One western human rights advocate said Tamils in and around Trincomalee were terrified because they believed the police were either complicit in, or indifferent to, the numbers disappearing or found dead. “There’s no investigation. It’s a climate of terror and impunity,” he said.

A local campaigner for the families of the disappeared said the killings were speeding the flight of Tamils from the area. “When there’s a killing other Tamils move out. Who goes to the Sinhalese police? You either live under threat or you move out,” he said.

He said much of the “ethnic cleansing” was being done in the name of economic development in which Tamil villagers were being moved out to make way for new roads, power plants and irrigation schemes, while Sinhalese workers were being drafted in with incentives including free land and housing.

“Thousands of Sinhalese are coming in, getting government land and government assistance from the south. It’s causing huge tensions,” he said.

He and others fear this model will now be applied to the north where the final army onslaught to defeat the Tamil Tigers left 95 per cent of the buildings demolished or heavily damaged.

Since the victory earlier this month, President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government has been under pressure to ‘win the peace’ with a generous devolution package for Tamils in the north.

Ministers have said they want to break the identification of the Tamils with the northern and eastern provinces and integrate them into the Sinhalese majority population throughout the country.

In Colombo, billboard posters have contrasted the “divided” pre-victory Sri Lanka, with the Tamil north and east shaded red, and the “united” post-war island.

Ministers have said billions of dollars will be needed to rebuild the area’s roads, buildings, schools, hospitals and water, electricity and communications infrastructure. Community leaders and Tamil politicians fear this will mean a further influx of Sinhalese.

R. Sampanthan, the parliamentary leader of the Tamil National Alliance and an MP for Trincomalee said he shared these fears. A new road being constructed from Serubilla, a Sinhalese village in Trincomalee district to Polonaruwa, a Tamil village, was under construction and Sinhalese families were being settled on either side of the road as it snakes further north-east.

“It’s ethnic cleansing, and we’re concerned that this is what they will also do in the north,” he said.

Report: 25,000-30,000 Civilians Maimed in Final Days of Sri Lanka War

May 25, 2009

Reporter Says Slain Rebel Leaders Were Promised Safety Right Before Final Offensive

by Jason Ditz | Antiwar.com, May 25, 2009

While the Sri Lankan government maintains that no civilian casualties were caused in the final offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Sri Lanka’s branch of the French-based aid organization Handicap International says that between 25,000 and 30,000 people are believed to have been seriously maimed in the final days of the military offensive against the separatist rebels.

Sri Lanka declared victory in the 26 year long civil war last week, having killed the leader of the LTTE and captured the last tiny swath of the island controlled by the rebels. The final months of the violence took a considerable toll on the Tamil population of the island’s north.

Information about the final clash has been tough to come by, but journalist Marie Colvin gave a compelling report of the final hours today, in which she obtained a guarantee of safety for top rebel chiefs just hours before the final offensive, and was reassured by the government that the army would not harm them. All the chiefs involved in the deal were slain.

Sri Lanka on brink of catastrophe as UN aid blocked

May 20, 2009

May 20, 2009

The body of Vellupillai Prabhakaran is carried on a stretcher through a group of Sri Lankan soldiers at Nanthikadal lagoon
Image :1 of 3

The Sri Lankan Government has blocked access to aid workers trying to help the nearly 300,000 civilians displaced by the army’s victory over the Tamil Tigers, raising the prospect of a humanitarian catastrophe.

In the capital, Colombo, President Rajapakse announced the “complete defeat” of the rebels yesterday as state television showed pictures of what was said to be the corpse of Velupillai Prabhakaran, the Tigers’ leader. Mr Rajapakse vowed in an address to the nation to press ahead with a “homegrown political solution” to end ethnic divisions between the majority Sinhalese population and minority Tamils.

As he spoke, an estimated 80,000 people — mostly Tamil, many of them sick, malnourished or suffering from battlefield wounds — were making their way on foot from the war zone In the north to government-run camps that are already swamped. The UN is not being allowed any access to them, The Times has learnt.

Accounts of conditions inside the camps — gained from testimony recorded covertly by aid workers — and the journey to them are

Preema, a Tamil woman, arrived at the 400-hectare (990-acre) Menic farm camp on Sunday. She had left Mullaivaikal, the centre of the fighting, where the Tigers had made their final stand before being defeated, days before, after being shelled heavily.

She set out with her husband, mother and two children, to wade through the Nandikadal lagoon — a waterway strewn with mines — in a desperate attempt to reach safety.

There were deep craters where the lagoon had been bombed and people often drowned, she said. A man offered to carry her ten-year-old daughter. Preema never saw them again. Her husband was taken away later by government troops at a checkpoint in Oomanthai, where refugees are being forced to strip before being allowed to pass, after admitting that he had worked for the Tigers. Her mother died in the lagoon.

“Everything is lost,” said Preema, holding her son, 7. “Please help me find my daughter. Not knowing anything is making me crazy.”

Inside one camp, Nandani, 76, described being forced to stand for up to five hours a day queueing for food.

Kala, a middle-aged woman, spoke about the constant indignities of her new life. “I do not have underwear. I am unable to use the Kotex that the Red Cross handed out,” she said, holding a packet of sanitary towels she had been given before the organisation’s access to the camp was restricted.

Kothai, another woman, said: “There is a bad distribution system within the camp. Every time it is the same people that get \. Men crowd around and push the women and children aside.”

Government officials did not answer requests for comment. Access for aid agencies to another 200,000 refugees already in the internment camps — which the Government call “welfare villages” — has been severely restricted since Sunday, preventing the administration of basic care.

Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary-General, is due to travel in Sri Lanka on Friday to offer help to rebuild the ravaged northeast of the country and urge the Government to reach out to the Tamil population.

“These people have endured one of the cruellest military sieges of modern times — daily shelling over several months,” an international aid worker said. “They need urgent help.” There are fears that the camp populations — especially children — will be hit by contagious diseases. Chickenpox, hepatitis A and dysentery outbreaks have been reported. Medical facilities are said to be woefully inadequate.

There are also concerns that the suffering will radicalise previously moderate Tamils, especially amongst the community’s international diaspora, which had been a key source of funding for the Tigers.

Most Sri Lankans are delighted by the defeat of the Tigers, a terrorist force that fought for 26 years for an independent Tamil homeland, propagating a war that left at least 70,000 dead. Many Tamils were against the rebels after they recruited child soldiers and terrorised their own people.

Tamils in the camps describe being fired on by both sides in the conflict.

Vavathan, 59, said that Tiger troops had forcibly recruited children as young as 15 in the conflict zone, even in the final stages when it was clear that they had lost the conflict. “The war was over, why were they still taking the children?” she asked.

There were doubts over the sincerity of Mr Rajapakse’s pledge to build bridges between the Sinhalese and Tamil minority. He has seldom brooked dissent, his opponents say.

Sri Lanka’s uneasy peace

May 19, 2009
Al Jazeera, May 19, 2009
The Sri Lankan army says it has killed the top leaders of the LTTE [AFP]

Al Jazeera correspondent Tony Birtley has covered the Sri Lankan conflict since 1992. As the government declares victory over the Tamil Tigers he takes a look at the prospects for peace in the country.

In the lair of the Tigers the last bullets, apparently, are being fired in a bloody war that has cost tens of thousands of lives, billions of dollars and deprived one of South Asia’s most beautiful countries of peace for more than 30 years.

According to the Sri Lankan government, the war is all but over, one of the world’s most ruthless and sophisticated rebel organisations has been defeated.

Peace and reconciliation will follow, it says, and Sri Lanka will pick up the pieces and live in harmony.

But will it?

Certainly the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have ceased to exist as the conventional fighting force they evolved into.

They once numbered 30,000 strong and inflicted heavy defeats on the Sri Lankan military over the years, defeats that hurt the pride and prestige of the armed forces.

To understand the strength of the Tigers you have to understand the support they commanded from nearly a million Tamil diaspora spread throughout the world.

They provided the money and the network that gave the LTTE their arms, supplies and channels.

Continued support

Political and financial support for the Tamil Tigers remains strong [AFP]

Although some were forced to donate to the cause, many gave voluntarily and that support remains. If anything it is stronger than ever before.

The images of wounded, suffering Tamil civilians hurt and cowering in so called safe zones enraged many.

To critics of the Sri Lankan government it merely reinforces the view that injustice and discrimination against Tamil civilians that led to the start of this conflict still exists.

They point to the use of army controlled camps for the displaced, the fact that thousands of Tamils have disappeared without anyone being charged, and that few have been allowed to return to their homes.

The Sri Lankan government has always denied discrimination against Tamils.

They argue that their mission was to liberate Tamils from Tigers control and refute allegations that the security forces have been involved in either abductions or extra judicial killings of civilians.

Right or wrong it indicates the level of mistrust that exists between the two sides, mistrust that will take time to break down, mistrust that led to the formation of the Tamil Tigers in the 1970s.

Everyone said that the Sri Lanka problem could never be solved by military means, only by political means.

‘Political solution’

In video

Can Sri Lanka win the peace?
Sri Lankans celebrate end of war

Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Sri Lankan president, proved everyone wrong, but he had to spend a small fortune on the military to make it happen. He says a political solution will now follow.

But the question is, with whom? Who is there left to talk to?

The LTTE leadership has been decimated and many free thinking Tamil leaders have been killed or fled the country.

Critics say any political solution with the Tamils who remain will be meaningless.

The Tamil Tigers started as a hit and run guerrilla organization with deadly effect.

It is not beyond possibility that it could rise from the ashes and go back to doing what it did best.

In 30 years the Tigers never touched the coastal areas where foreign tourists spend their holidays. That could easily change.

The Sri Lankan Tourism Industry is already preparing for an end of war campaign to bring holidaymakers back to the Island. A cash strapped government is banking on it.

But one bomb could so easily shatter those hopes.

As a government Sri Lanka has lost some friends. It has replaced them with the likes of China and Libya.

But money cannot buy happiness.

Thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed and wounded in pursuit of a united Sri Lanka. That has been achieved geographically, but not yet politically.

The war has been won but what about the peace?


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