Rights violations continue says Amnesty
[TamilNet, Thursday, 17 June 1999, 18:18 GMT]
(News Feature) The human rights pressure group, Amnesty International, said in the Sri Lanka section of its international review of events in 1998 that human rights violations continued to occur in the of context of ongoing armed conflict between the government of President Chandrika Kumaratunga and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Sri Lankan security forces and Tamil groups working alongside them were responsible for torture, disappearances and extra judicial killings said the Amnesty review.
"Thousands of Tamil people, including scores of possible prisoners of conscience, were arrested in the north and east of the country and in the capital, Colombo. Torture and ill-treatment were widespread," the report said and went on to list the various methods that included beatings, near suffocation and rape.
According to the human rights group there have also been several reports of extra judicial executions by Sri Lankan security forces in the Northeast of the island.
Some alleged extra judicial executions were often difficult to corroborate because of "pressure exerted by the security forces on relatives and witnesses,” said the report adding that relatives were often" forced to sign statements saying that those killed were members of the LTTE or had been killed by the LTTE."
The annual review also noted that three Presidential Commissions of Inquiry appointed in 1994 to look into past human rights violations and a Board of Investigation that inquired into the disappearances reported in Jaffna between 1995 and 1997 published their reports last year.
Cases that the Presidential Commissions of Inquiry had recommended were being investigated said the report: "485 of the 3,861 such cases had been completed by mid-October and 150 alleged perpetrators had been charged in the High Court," the report added.
Over the year there were "several incidents of harassment of and threats to journalists," the review also said. One journalist had been "taken in for questioning by police and reportedly tortured," while another received "anonymous telephone threats warning him against criticising the government," it said.
Amnesty said that the LTTE was responsible for the killing of two Jaffna Mayors: Sarojini Yogeswaran on May 17 and Ponnuthurai Sivapalan on September 11.
Ten civilians were killed in an attack on the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy while 34 civilians were killed when a bus thought to be driven by an LTTE member exploded at Mardana junction in Colombo.
Amnesty was concerned that despite assurances given in May to the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict there were reports that children were forcibly recruited by the LTTE.
Amnesty called for a proper investigation into the alleged mass grave site in Chemmani with the help of international forensic experts.
The report said that Amnesty had asked the Sri Lankan government to fully implement the findings of the Presidential Commissions and the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and appealed to the leadership of the LTTE to adhere to international humanitarian law.