Sri Lanka rejects veracity of pictures of bloodstained bodies of bound and blindfolded Tamils

The BBC reports that Sri Lanka’s foreign minister has cast doubt on newly released photos that are said to show a massacre of Tamils during the country’s civil war. On an official UK visit, GL Peiris said images published by the Global Tamil Forum were a bid by rebel sympathisers to tarnish Sri Lanka’s image. Some of the pictures apparently show the bloodstained bodies of bound and blindfolded young people. The Global Tamil Forum (GTF), a group which includes former supporters of the separatist insurgents, released the images as the Sri Lankan foreign minister visited London.

Human rights groups decline to appear before Sri Lankan reconciliation commission

When Sri Lanka’s External Affairs Minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris was at the United Nations last month, he challenged human rights groups to appear before a government-appointed ‘Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’ (LLRC) probing human rights violations during the country’s civil war. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Crisis Group have accused both the Sri Lankan armed forces and the rebel group, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), of war crimes and violations of international humanitarian law – particularly during the final stages of the conflict last year.

The three groups declined Peiris’s invitation and instead called for “an international inquiry into the evidence of war crimes and other abuses during the civil war”. In a joint letter Thursday, the three rights organisations said they would not appear before the commission because “it did not meet international standards for independent and impartial inquiries”.

Madhu Malhotra, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Asia- Pacific region, said her organisation would welcome the opportunity to appear before a “credible commission of inquiry aimed at securing accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka”.

“We believe effective domestic inquiries are essential to human rights protection and accountability. But the LLRC falls far short of what is required,” she added.

Amnesty’s Malhotra said the LLRC’s mandate, its composition, its procedures, and the human rights environment in which it is operating all conspire to make a safe and satisfactory outcome for victims of human rights violations and their families extremely unlikely.

She said Amnesty is particularly concerned about the lack of any provisions for witness protection and the fact that former officials who have publicly defended the Sri Lankan government against allegations of war crimes serve on the commission.

Sri Lanka Tamil Tiger spokesman ‘missing after arrest’

The BBC reports that two prominent Tamil Tiger leaders in Sri Lanka are missing after arrest by the army last year, their wives have told a presidential commission. LTTE spokesman Rasiah Ilantherian and head of the Tiger intelligence wing in Batticaloa, Prabha have not been seen since being detained, they said. The two wives were among hundreds of Tamil and Muslims testifying to the panel in Batticaloa, eastern Sri Lanka.

ICJ paper on Sri Lanka’s mass detention of LTTE Suspects

Although the conflict between the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ended in May 2009, the GoSL continues to detain approximately eight thousand individuals under administrative detention without charge or trial.  “Beyond Lawful Constraints: Sri Lanka’s Mass Detention of LTTE Suspects” addresses the human rights concerns arising from the world’s largest mass detention of persons held in connection with an internal armed conflict. The ICJ is concerned that the GoSL’s “surrendee” and “rehabilitation” regime fails to adhere to international law and standards, amounting to an arbitrary deprivation of liberty and denial of the right to a fair trial.

Addressing the UN General Assembly in New York, President Mahinda Rajapaksa last week stopped short of explicitly calling for the Geneva Conventions to be changed. The president said Sri Lankans had faced the “atrocities of terrorism” for decades, and that the country lost nearly 100,000 lives. It was therefore, he said, worth examining the capacity of international humanitarian law to meet today’s needs.

Sri Lanka: US Report Shows No Progress on Accountability

A US State Department report released on August 11, 2010, shows that Sri Lanka has not yet conducted an effective investigation into laws-of-war violations by government forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the final months of the war that ended in May 2009, Human Rights Watch said. The report states that one post-war government inquiry was “ineffective” and that a second inquiry, just under way, raises concerns about its mandate and composition.

Canada man pleads guilty in first terrorism fundraising case

[JURIST] Canadian resident Prapaharan Thambithurai pleaded guilty Tuesday to raising money for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the nation’s first case involving fundraising for a banned terrorist group. Thambithurai admitted raising between $2,000 and $3,000 between late 2007 and March 2008, acknowledging that he knew part of the money would go to the LTTE, which was banned in Canada in 2006. Thambithurai is the first to be charged under the controversial terrorism financing legislation, introduced almost 10 years ago. The maximum sentence is 10 years in prison, but the prosecution is seeking only a two-year jail term. The defense has requested a three-year suspended sentence. Sentencing is scheduled for Friday.

Sri Lanka has faced numerous allegations of human rights violations originating from incidents that took place during the final months of the civil war by both the government and the rebel LTTE, which ended last year. In January, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Philip Alston urged an investigation into possible war crimes after authenticating a video of members of the LTTE being executed by members of the Sri Lankan military. In October, the US State Department released a report on the conflict, urging Sri Lankan officials to investigate reports of human rights violations and war crimes and prosecute those responsible. While the government of Sri Lanka rejected the findings of the report, President Mahinda Rajapaksa decided in October to appoint an independent committee to investigate allegations of human rights violations.

Sri Lanka ex-chief justice criticizes military trial for detained opposition leader

[JURIST] The former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka on Monday 15 March criticized the government’s treatment of detained opposition leader General Sarath Fonseka. Sarath Nanda Silva, who retired from the Sri Lankan Supreme Court last year, accused the government of using the military justice system to prevent Fonseka from participating in the upcoming elections scheduled for April 8, and of violating Fonseka’s civil rights. Silva’s charge implicates Fonseka’s presence in the military, rather than civilian system, which he says provides no recourse for Fonseka. Silva also said that Fonseka’s arrest was made in violation of the country’s constitution. The military has charged Fonseka with mixing politics with the military, and improperly awarding procurement contracts. Fonseka’s court-martial hearing begins on Tuesday 16 March. Fonseka is also scheduled for a hearing before the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka on April 26, where he will challenge his detention.

Also Monday, Sri Lanka criticized a US State Department report, released last week, which accused Sri Lanka of violating its citizens’ civil rights. Last month, the Sri Lankan Supreme Court rejected a petition to release Fonseka, who was taken into custody in early February. Also in February, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who defeated Fonseka in the January election, dissolved parliament and called for early parliamentary elections in an attempt to harness momentum from his victory to gain more seats in parliament for his political party, Freedom Alliance. The Sri Lankan Supreme Court ruled last month that Rajapaksa’s second term will begin in November. Fonseka has disputed the election results, citing vote counting irregularities and violence.