Political crisis in SL threatens justice efforts: HRW

Published : 12:30 am  January 18, 2019 | No comments so far |  | 

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(New York) – Sri Lanka’s political upheaval undermined stalled processes aimed at providing truth and justice for abuses from the country’s civil war, Human Rights Watch said yesterday in releasing its 2019 World Report.

The crisis subsided after the Supreme Court ruled on December 13 that the president’s dissolving of parliament was unconstitutional, and Mahinda Rajapaksa stepped down as proclaimed prime minister.  
“The many victims of Sri Lanka’s three-decade long civil war have seen their diminishing hopes for justice further delayed by presidential politics,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “This tragedy highlights the failure of the Sirisena government to take swift, meaningful steps toward accountability.”  


The administration of Rajapaksa was implicated in egregious violations during the final months of Sri Lanka’s brutal civil war in 2009, and in suppression of freedoms of the media, expression, and association.  After Maithripala Sirisena won the election in 2015, the government improved the climate for civil society, reversed some repressive measures, and supported a resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council that promoted four transitional justice mechanisms for truth and accountability.  


Of these four, only the Office of Missing Persons has been formed, but it has yet to become fully functional. 


Long-promised security sector reforms are also stalled. Although the government proposed a new counter terrorism law to repeal the draconian and long-abused Prevention of Terrorism Act, the bill did not meet international human rights standards.  


One important advance for justice was the indictment, in November, of the chief of defence staff, Adm. Ravindra Wijegunaratne, for protecting a navy officer accused of abducting and killing 11 ethnic Tamil civilians during the civil war.  


“Sri Lanka’s past pledges to provide justice to conflict victims and to initiate reforms have fallen by the wayside amid political turmoil,” Ganguly said. “Sri Lanka’s friends need to press the government to meet its commitments to people who have suffered for so long.”     

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