2nd Lead (Adds links)
"Investigations obstructed by widespread impunity" - Rights Group
[TamilNet, Saturday, 27 March 2004, 13:14 GMT]
The Asian Legal Resource Center (ALRC), a HongKong based human rights organization, criticized the National Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (NHRC) for its "failure to develop an effective complaint and investigation procedure," and said that in Sri Lanka police investigations are still "obstructed by widespread impunity," in written submissions to the 60th session of UN's Commission on Human Rights.
In the following four separate submissions, the ALRC pointed out the severe defects in Sri Lanka's state institutions in upholding human rights:
Referring to enforced or voluntary disappearances, the ALRC said, "Unfortunately, the mass disappearances carried out in Sri Lanka are quickly receding into memory, while the government has taken no steps to prosecute offenders. The four Presidential Commissions of Enquiry into disappearances submitted lists of specific persons against whom there is sufficient evidence to warrant further investigation and prosecution, but no action has been taken. It follows that there are many persons in Sri Lanka against whom there are prima facie cases for being engaged in causing disappearances, but about whom nothing has been done, as is normally the case when there is sufficient evidence of a crime.
"This failure points to a serious gap in how the law is enforced in Sri Lanka, which relates to the investigation and prosecution of crimes: the police investigate crime, but in the case of mass disappearances in Sri Lanka, they are also the suspects. Therefore, it is obvious why they have not investigated these crimes, which occurred on such a colossal scale. At no time also did the government appoint an independent body with the power to investigate and prosecute these crimes."
On the National Police Commission established in 2002 to address complaints the ALRC said, "Proper investigations are obstructed by widespread impunity, which has deep roots in the country's history that have spread since the early 1970s, when draconian powers were given to law enforcement officers on the pretext of curbing dissident elements. The police force in Sri Lanka has been engaged in mass enforced disappearances, torture and extrajudicial killings. To date it is this lifting of disciplinary procedures to make such impunity operative that remains the single biggest problem for policing in Sri Lanka."
On the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the ALRC pointd out several defects in NHRC's handling of cases including, "Advising complainant torture victims to pursue their cases in the courts by themselves," "Lack of investigation into cases where the victim has died in police custody allegedly as a result of torture," "Calling for further particulars and then abandoning the inquiry," and "Intimating to the perpetrators that a complaint has been made against them, and giving the particulars of the victim. This has been done without providing any protection to the victim."