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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Rights group details claim of Sri Lanka detention abuses

Keith Herting

Sri Lanka is employing “unlawful detentions” against many of its citizens, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] reported Tuesday. The report [text, PDF] claims that detainees are subject to torture and even extrajudicial executions, often under laws designed to combat terrorism. AI claims that little has changed since the end of the government’s 26-year civil war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) [JURIST news archive] in 2009:

Sri Lankan authorities continue to arrest and detain suspects without minimal safeguards. Sri Lankan law permits police to remove prisoners from their cells and transport them from place to place for the purpose of investigation—a practice that has contributed to torture and custodial killings. Detainees have been held incommunicado and tortured in unofficial places of detention which have included private homes, repurposed schools, administrative buildings and warehouses. Torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions continue in Sri Lanka in part because of these arbitrary detention practices. The culture of impunity that was established in Sri Lanka during the course of the armed conflict continues to pervert the rule of law and hamper the provision of justice.

In a corresponding press release [official press release], AI suggests that “since October 2011, 32 people have been “abducted” or subjected to abduction-style arrests that may qualify as enforced disappearances.” 

The report comes as the United Nations Human Rights Council [official website] prepares to vote next week on a resolution backed by the United States which US attempts to hold Sri Lanka accountable for war crimes and demands Sri Lanka authorities “present a comprehensive action plan” [resolution text, PDF] which would detail steps they will take to end war crimes in the nation, including unlawful detentions. Sri Lanka conducted some independent investigations into allegations of war crimes occurring during the civil war. In December, Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission released a report concluding that Sri Lanka’s military did not intentionally attack civilians [JURIST report] following the country’s civil war. In November, Sri Lankan Secretary of Defence Gotabaya Rajapaksa stated that the government had begun counting the number of civilian deaths from its 26-year civil war with the LTTE. Also in November, a Sri Lankan army chief was sentenced to three additional years of imprisonment [JURIST report], for implicating another Sri Lankan official in war crimes.


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