Amnesty urges human rights agenda for new PM
[TamilNet, Wednesday, 19 December 2001, 00:34 GMT]
Ahead of the first sitting this week by Sri Lanka’s new Parliament, Amnesty International, the human rights watchdog Tuesday wrote to recently-elected Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe about human rights concerns in the country, and called for an end to impunity for violators, faster investigations of cases and sought assurances executions would not be resumed. Amnesty also called for a review of Sri Lanka’s notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and “an investigative body fully independent of the police.”
The organization said that it hoped that human rights commitments outlined in the political manifesto of the new ruling party, the United National Party (UNP), would become reality.
Amnesty pointed out that those commitments include reinforcing the fundamental rights of the people, safeguarding women's rights, the appointment of an independent commission to solve the problems of the internally displaced, de-politicising the armed forces, and addressing issues of freedom of movement and access to food and medicine for people living in the conflict areas.
"One of the key issues for the new government is impunity. In order to prevent human rights violations and secure the confidence of the people, security forces must be held to account for the abuses they commit. The Prime Minister must clarify the government's policy on this when he addresses parliament," Amnesty said.
“In the past, investigations have proceeded very slowly, and in relation to some violations such as torture, including rape, no member of the security forces has ever been convicted,” Amnesty said, urging the PM to “to issue a clear and unequivocal declaration that human rights violations will never be tolerated and that those responsible will be held to account.”
“Over the years, many expert bodies, … have made recommendations for the prevention of grave human rights violations such as ‘disappearances’. The new government should revisit these recommendations and take action to implement them,” Amnesty said. “In particular, the government should prioritise a review of the Prevention of Terrorism Act.”
Planned negotiations with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) could also bring about an improved human rights situation in the country, Amnesty said, cautioning that “any agreements reached should guarantee the security of Sri Lankan people and establish a system of justice and equality before the law.”
Amnesty International also asked for assurances that executions will not be resumed, as was the practice during 17 years of UNP government and said the London-based organization hoped to continue its substantive dialogue about human rights with the new administration and looked forward to receiving a response to the letter.