Unlawful detentions, torture and enforced disappearances remained rife and went unpunished. Government officials and supporters harassed and threatened human rights defenders, journalists and members of the judiciary who spoke out about abuses of power or advocated human rights accountability. More than three years after the armed conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ended, impunity persisted for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity. The government failed to implement recommendations aimed at accountability made by Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) and the UN Human Rights Council. The authorities continued to rely on the Prevention of Terrorism Act to arrest and detain suspects for lengthy periods without charge or trial. Despite government claims, many people displaced by the armed conflict were not fully settled, including some whose land remained occupied by the Sri Lankan military.
More than 20 alleged enforced disappearances were reported. Victims included political activists, business people and suspected criminals. Prominent cases from past years remained unresolved.
The authorities continued to arrest people without warrants and detain them for extended periods without charge or trial. As of October, the authorities acknowledged holding almost 500 alleged former LTTE members without charge for what they termed “rehabilitation”. Hundreds of other Tamil prisoners remained in administrative detention pending investigation into their suspected links with the LTTE; many had been detained for years. Surveillance and re-arrest of people released from rehabilitation continued.Top of page
Torture in police custody persisted. In at least five cases, victims died in custody after beatings or other ill-treatment by the police.
The UN Human Rights Council adopted resolution 19/2 in March, calling on Sri Lanka to implement the LLRC’s human rights recommendations and address accountability for alleged violations of international law. The government’s Plan of Action on the LLRC recommendations, unveiled in July, failed to commit to new or independent investigations, and relied on the military and police – implicated in serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law – to police themselves. Sri Lanka’s human rights record was assessed under the UN Universal Periodic Review in November; Sri Lanka maintained that it did not need independent investigations into alleged human rights violations and past crimes under international law despite concerns raised by UN members.
A report by the UN Secretary-General’s Internal Review Panel on UN Action in Sri Lanka, released on 14 November, acknowledged the UN’s failure to protect civilians during the country’s armed conflict.Top of page
Government officials and state-owned media lashed out at human rights defenders who attended the UN Human Rights Council session in March, calling them traitors. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the President of the Human Rights Council denounced Sri Lanka’s threats and called for an investigation. On 23 March, Sri Lanka’s Public Relations Minister threatened physical harm against journalists and human rights defenders, and claimed responsibility for a violent attack in 2010 on a journalist who then went into exile. The Health Minister accused the Catholic organization Caritas of conspiring to undermine the government.Top of page
Journalists continued to come under pressure for their reporting.
On 7 October, armed assailants assaulted Manjula Thilakaratne, a senior high court judge and Secretary to Sri Lanka’s Judicial Services Commission (JSC), and attempted to drag him from his car. On 18 September, he had issued a statement on behalf of the JSC complaining of attempts to interfere with the independence of the judiciary and particularly with the JSC through threats and intimidation.
In December, Parliament initiated impeachment proceedings against Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake. The UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers criticized the impeachment process as “extremely politicized,” and lacking due process and fair trial guarantees.Top of page
In late September, the authorities closed the vast Manik Farm displacement camp and announced that the last of more than 200,000 inhabitants had returned home. According to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, tens of thousands of displaced people still could not go home or fully resettle elsewhere by the end of the year and depended on host families for shelter and assistance.