Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: no cooperation with war crimes inquiry

Sri Lanka's foreign minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris announced on April 7 that Sri Lanka would not cooperate with a UN investigation into alleged war crimes committed during the country's civil war. The UN Human Rights Council last month voted to launch an investigation into alleged violations committed by government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009 towards the end of the civil war. However, speaking at a Foreign Correspondents Association forum, Peiris signaled Sri Lanka's intent not to cooperate due to concerns over legality, fairness, and conflict of interest. Peiris also expressed criticism of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Navi Pillay, who has previously been accused of being partial given her Tamil background.

Sri Lanka authorities arrest human rights activists

Sri Lankan authorities on March 16 arrested human rights activists Ruki Fernando, advisor to the Human Rights Documentation Center, and Catholic priest Father Praveen of the Centre for Peace Building and Reconciliation for alleged violations of anti-terror laws. Reports indicate authorities arrested the activists for assisting the families of allegedly "disappeared" persons living in Northern Sri Lanka. In particular, the men reportedly sought to uncover information with respect to the March arrests of activist Balendran Jeyakumari and her 13-year-old daughter. Several human rights groups, including the Law and Society Trust, have declared the arrests a violation of international law. Sri Lankan authorities reportedly intend to detain the men pending further investigation.

Sri Lanka opposition demand war crimes probe

The main opposition party in Sri Lanka, the United National Party (UNP), released a statement Feb. 13 demanding the government conduct an investigation into alleged war crimes that occurred during the 26 year Sri Lankan civil war that ended in 2009. The Sri Lankan government and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (or Tamil Tigers) have both been accused of war crimes and human rights violations, primarily in the final months of the conflict. According to the AP, the government has been accused of deliberately shelling civilians, blocking food and medicine for civilians trapped in the war zone and deliberately undercounting civilians caught up in fighting. The Tamil rebels have been accused of using civilians as human shields, killing those who tried to escape their hold and recruiting child soldiers. According to a November 2012 UN report (PDF) an estimated 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the final months of the conflict.

Buddhist pogroms in Burma, Sri Lanka

Reuters reports that Muslims are "disappearing" from villages in central Burma, as Buddhist attacks spread from the coastal area where they began last year. A reporter in the village of Sit Kwin (Thayarwady district , Bago division, see map), says the some 100 Muslim residents have all fled, some to displaced persons camps, after a wave of attacks in which their homes, shops and mosques were destroyed, and several killed. Since 42 were killed in violence that erupted March 20 in Meikhtila town (Mandalay division), attacks led by Buddhist militants have spread to at least 10 other towns and villages in central Burma, with the latest only a two-hour drive from the commercial capital, Yangon (Rangoon). (Reuters, March 29) 

HRW calls on Sri Lanka to investigate war crimes

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on March 28 called on the government of Sri Lanka to begin its investigation into war crimes by examining the role of its own Deputy Minister of Resettlement. HRW alleged that Deputy Minister Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan, known as Colonel Karuna, is a former leader of the the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which is accused of war crimes committed during a 26-year civil war. Ultimately, Karuna and his unit changed sides, joining forces with the Sri Lankan government. In March, Karuna called for an investigation of war crimes by the LTTE. HRW released a statement, saying, "Karuna's call for war crimes investigations should not allow him to airbrush out his own role in atrocities. His LTTE forces were implicated in some of Sri Lanka's most horrific abuses, so the government's long-stalled war crimes investigations might as well begin with him." 

Sri Lanka: mass grave recalls bloody past

Sri Lanka's Marxist party Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) is demanding the government conduct a comprehensive investigation into a mass grave uncovered by a construction project late last year in the Central province town Matale, asserting that the more than 140 sets of human remains date to a wave of bloody repression 25 years ago. In 1988 and '89, when the JVP was outlawed and led an armed insurrection, paramilitary groups and death squads were formed by the army, and some 60,000 were killed in massacres and assassinations. The JVP was allowed to re-enter the political process after 1993 peace accords and now holds seats in parliament, but charges that there has never been an accounting for the bloodletting of the 1980s. (Groundviews, Feb. 24; Sunday Leader, Feb. 10; Colombo Page, Feb. 5, JVP)

Buddhist-Muslim tensions follow Bangladesh riots

Authorities in Bangladesh say Muslim rioters over the weekend torched at least a dozen Buddhist temples and some 50 homes, in Cox's Bazar district near the Burmese border (Chittagong division, see map). Authorities said the attacks were prompted by a photo posted on Facebook that showed a local Buddhist trampling on a Koran. (Mizzima, Oct. 2; ANI, Sept. 30) After the rioting, more than 100 Buddhist monks protested at the Bangladeshi embassy in Rangoon, Burma, where a banner read "No Terrorist Muslim War on Religions." Hundreds of Buddhist monks also demonstrated in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (AP, Oct. 5; VOA, Oct. 4)

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