EU must press for Sri Lankan war crimes accountability
(Brussels, 13 May 2013) Ahead of the fourth anniversary of the Sri Lankan conflict’s conclusion, Amnesty International has urged the European Union to demand publicly an independent, impartial and internationally-led investigation which holds to account those responsible for crimes under international law.
“Since the conflict ended, the government has failed utterly to investigate allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity”, said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office. “If anything, we’ve seen a decline in human rights protection in Sri Lanka, with criticism there being violently repressed.”
Amnesty International has criticised the Sri Lankan Government for failing credibly to follow up on domestic and international recommendations to investigate alleged killings of thousands of civilians by the Sri Lankan army and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the armed conflict’s final months.
Despite the conflict’s end, the government has increased its crackdown on dissenting views, which has been widely seen as a bid to consolidate power. Amnesty International’s recent report on Sri Lanka, Assault on Dissent, describes how human rights defenders, journalists and the judiciary are among those targeted by threats, harassment and violent attacks in government-sanctioned abuse, often involving security forces or their proxies.
The judiciary has been a key target, with the government undermining its independence by threatening judges who rule in favour of human rights violation victims. In January, Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake was impeached on charges of misconduct, despite a Supreme Court ruling that the procedure was unconstitutional.
Journalists continue to suffer intimidation, threats and attacks for reports which criticise the government. At least 15 have been killed since 2006 and many others have been forced to flee the country.
Tomorrow, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and International Crisis Group will screen Channel 4’s documentary No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka followed by a panel discussion at the European Parliament. The film is a new feature-length documentary about the final bloody months of the 26-year Sri Lankan civil war.
Pressure is mounting on national leaders not to hold the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo in November unless Sri Lanka can demonstrate it has by then halted systematic human rights violations.
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