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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Sri Lanka Accused at United Nations > UN Commission on Human Rights 1994
UN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
50TH SESSIONS: FEBRUARY 1994
- Joint Statement by 17 Non Governmental Organisations under agenda item on 'the right of peoples to self determination and its application to peoples under colonial or alien domination or foreign occupation'
"...It is our view that the peaceful and just resolution of the conflict in the island will not be furthered by a blanket categorisation of the armed resistance of the Tamil people which arose in response to decades of oppressive alien Sinhala rule as 'terrorism'. It is also our view that there is a need to recognise that the deep divisions between the Sri Lanka government and the Tamil people cannot be resolved by the use of force against Tamil resistance...." more
- Joint Statement by 19 Non Governmental Organisation under Agenda Item 12 on the Question of violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms, 28 February 1994
"...The Sri Lanka government has rejected a number of offers to mediate including one made in August 1993 by four Nobel laureates. The government continues with its military operations against the Tamil people and the Sri Lanka President continues to insist that there is no ethnic problem..." more
- Appeal by Humanitarian Law Project of International Educational Development
entitled "Tamil people and their historical homeland"
- Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (E/CN.4/1994/26), 22 December 1993 - Excerpts on Sri Lanka
"...During the period under review, the Working Group transmitted 1,567 newly reported cases of disappearance to the Government of Sri Lanka... A police officer, Udugampola, who was held responsible for numerous disappearances and extra-judicial executions between 1988 and 1990, was suspended last year from his duties in the police force. It has come to the attention of the Working Group that this person has now been appointed Acting Chairman of the Sri Lanka Port Authority, a post with a substantial salary and additional allowances..." more
- Report By Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions
(E/CN.4/1994/7), 7 December 1993 - Excerpts on Sri Lanka
- Report of the Special Rapporteur, on Torture and other cruel treatment
(E/CN.4/1994/31), 6 January 1994 - Excerpts on Sri Lanka
"....It was also reported that in the north-east torture and ill-treatment of prisoners continued in military, Special Task Force and police custody. Methods of torture include severe beatings; electric shocks; burning with cigarettes or matches; pouring petrol into prisoners, nostrils and then placing a plastic bag over their heads; suspending prisoners from their thumbs and beating them; beating with barbed wire and repeatedly submerging prisoners, heads in water while they were suspended from their ankles. Women have reported being raped by soldiers...." more
- Statement submitted by the Humanitarian Law Project
under Agenda item 12 relating to the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms
Joint Statement by 17 Non Governmental Organisations
consisting of International Association of Educators for World Peace, International Educational Development, International Indian Treaty Council, Consejo Indico de Sud America, Comision de Deeches Homonas de El Salavador, Commission for the Defence of Human Rights in Central America, World Council of Churches, International Movement against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism,Action des Christians Pour L'Abolition de la Torture,FIMARC, International Council of Women, American Association of Jurists, Centre Europe-Tiers Monde, Servieiv Pax Justica America Latina, Pax Romana, International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples, and World Christian Live Community
- under agenda item on 'the right of peoples to self determination and its application to peoples under colonial or alien domination or foreign occupation', 4 February 1994
''The armed conflict in the island of Sri Lanka and the continuing violations of humanitarian law cause us deep and grave concern.
In March 1987, the Commission in a Resolution on Sri Lanka called upon all parties to the armed conflict in the island to respect fully the universally accepted rules of humanitarian law.
Six years later in February 1993, at the 49th Sessions of the Commission, 15 non governmental organisations in a joint statement under agenda item 9 declared that there was an 'urgent need for the international community to recognise that the Tamil population of the North and East of the island were a people with the right to freely choose their political status' and further that such' recognition would prepare the ground for the resolution of a conflict which had taken such a heavy toll in human lives and suffering during the past several years.'
However, today, an year later, the economic blockade imposed on the Tamil homeland continues and Tamil civilians continue to be subject to indiscriminate aerial and artillery bombardment by the Sri Lanka armed forces.
The attacks on the Tamil homeland have been coupled with the declared opposition of the Sri Lankan Government to the merger of the North and East of the island into a single administrative and political unit.
After more than two years of deliberations, the Parliamentary Select Committee mechanism has failed to resolve the conflict and in August 1993, Sri Lanka rejected a peace initiative submitted by four Nobel Laureates.
Furthermore, the President of Sri Lanka has declared in recent months, on more than one occasion, that there is no 'ethnic problem' in the island, but that there is only a 'terrorist problem'.
It is our view that the peaceful and just resolution of the conflict in the island will not be furthered by a blanket categorisation of the armed resistance of the Tamil people which arose in response to decades of oppressive alien Sinhala rule as 'terrorism'. It is also our view that there is a need to recognise that the deep divisions between the Sri Lanka government and the Tamil people cannot be resolved by the use of force against Tamil resistance.
The Tamil population in the North and East of the island, who have lived from ancient times within relatively well defined geographical boundaries in the north and east of the island, share an ancient heritage, a vibrant culture, and a living language which traces its origins to more than 2500 years ago.
The 1879 minute of Sir Hugh Cleghorn, the British Colonial Secretary makes it abundantly clear that:
"Two different nations, from a very ancient period, have divided between them the possession of the Island: the Sinhalese inhabiting the interior in its Southern and western parts from the river Wallouwe to Chilaw, and the Malabars (Tamils) who possess the Northern and Eastern Districts. These two nations differ entirely in their religion, language and manners."
Before the advent of the British in 1833, separate kingdoms existed for the Tamil areas and for the Sinhala areas in the island. The Tamil people and the Sinhala people were brought within the confines of one state for the first time by the British in 1833. After the departure of the British in 1948, an alien Sinhala people speaking a language different to that of the Tamils and claiming a separate and distinct heritage has persistently denied the rights and fundamental freedoms of the Tamil people.
It was an alien Sinhala domination which found expression in the disenfranchisement of plantation Tamils, the enactment of the Sinhala Only law, discriminatory employment policies, inequitable allocation of resources to Tamil areas, exclusion of eligible Tamil students from Universities and higher education and in genocidal pogroms in 1958, 1977 and again in 1983.
At the sametime systematic state aided Sinhala colonisation attempted to render the Tamil people a subject minority in parts of their own homeland. In 1946, there were 23,400 Sinhalese in the Eastern Province constituting 8.4% of the population. By 1981 this number had increased tenfold to 234,000 and constituted 25% of the population of the Eastern Province.
A social group, which shares objective elements such as a common language and which has acquired a subjective political consciousness of oneness, by its life within a relatively well defined territory, and by its struggle against alien domination, clearly constitutes a 'people' with the right to self determination and in our view, the Tamil population of the north-east of the island are such a 'people'.
It is also our view that the Secretary General should consider invoking his good offices with the aim of contributing to the establishment of peace in the island of Sri Lanka through respect for the existence of the Tamil homeland in the NorthEast of the island of Sri Lanka and recognition for the right of the Tamil people to freely determine their political status."
Joint Statement by 19 Non Governmental Organisations
consisting of International Educational Development, SERPAJ, FIACAT, CODEHU, MRAP, Pax Romana,Centre EuropeTiers Monde, Fundacion Mexicano panal Rehabilitacion del enferm omental, Consejo Indio Sud America, Coordinaro Nacional de Denecnos Homanes del Peru, Internet, Survival International, International Indian Treaty Council, IWGIA, Organisation Mondiale Contra Ia Torture, FEDEFAM, Association International Educators, American Association of Jurists, 28 February 1994.
‘‘For the past ten years this Commission has heard hundreds of statements raising grave concern at the failure to resolve the armed conflict in the island of Sri Lanka. Yet the conflict continues and innocent lives continue to be lost.
During recent months the Sri Lanka government has intensified its indiscriminate aerial bombardment of the North of the Tamil homeland and the three year old economic blockade continues. Since the last session of the Commission, several hundred Tamils have been arrested in the East of the Tamil homeland by Sri Lanka’s military and para military forces and many have ‘disappeared’. Recent Amnesty reports confirm that in Colombo thousands of young Tamils have been arbitrarily arrested and detained.
At the sametime the Sri Lanka government plans to hold local government elections in the East on 1 March at a time when several thousands of Tamils have ben displaced from the East (see Report E/CN/4/1994/44/Add.1) and have sought refuge in the North of the Tamil homeland.
The Sri Lanka government has rejected a number of offers to mediate including one made in August 1993 by four Nobel laureates. The government continues with its military operations against the Tamil people and the Sri Lanka President continues to insist that there is no ethnic problem.
In our view the situation in the island is extremely serious and demands the urgent attention of the Commission. We request the Commission to adopt a resolution calling upon the two parties to the conflict, the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, to enter into a ceasefire and to commence negotiations with a view to establishing peace in the island and securing the right of self determination of the Tamil people.
Appeal by Humanitarian Law Project of International Educational Development
- to Chairman and Delegates to UN Commission on Human Rights, February 1994
Dear Mr. Chairman and Delegates:
The Tamil people and their historical homeland
International Educational Development appeals to you on an urgent basis to address the serious situation faced by the Tamil people in their homeland in island of Sri Lanka.
In recent months-the Sri Lankan Air Force has intensified aerial bombardment of the Tamil homeland, attacking temples, churches, hospitals and public offices. As you know, attacks of this type constitute violations of the Geneva Conventions and customary humanitarian law.
On November 12, 1993 the Jaffna Secretariat. was bombed. One person was killed and over 25 injured. on November 13, Sri Lankan jets bombed St. James Church, one of the oldest and largest Roman Catholic churches in Jaffna, killing 10 and injuring 30. on that same day, bombs were dropped on the area of Jaffna Hospital under the control of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Then the Nanthavil Hindu temple was attacked. The next day, Vairavar Hindu Temple at Varany was bombed. On November 15, the Killinochi Hospital was bombed, badly damaging the maternity ward. This was followed by bombing of the Mullativu District Hospital.
On November 17, Bishop D.J. Ambalavainar, Bishop Thomas Saundranayagam and Nallai Thiru Sampandar Atheenam issued the following joint statement:
- "These events are not just sporadic occurrences but have been repeated so often in the past that we cannot but conclude it is part of a state policy against the Tamils. A close statistical study of the air raids carried out by the Sri Lankan airforce in the North will show that the victims of the raids have almost always been innocent helpless civilians. When this is the case how could anyone avoid concluding that this is organised State terrorism?
Since that tine, bombings have continued. On December 28, Alampil village was bombed. On December 30, the center of Chavakachcheri town -- its market, Dreiberg College and CSI Church was attacked. This attack similar in gravity to that recently carried out against Sarajevo, resulted in the death of the vicars wife, numerous other civilians and severe damage of the market, the Church and vicarage and the college. As of January 7, Thavady village, Kumilamunai village, the school at Atchuvely Maha Vi.dyalyam, Thondamanrul Navandil, Udupiddy, Valvettiturai, Puttur and Avarangai villages were also subjected to aerial bombing.
These systematic violations of humanitarian law have been coupled with the continued blockade of the north and disappearances in the cast as well as the pronouncement by Sri Lankan President that there is not ethnic conflict but simply a "terrorist" problems. "When a war is continuing there is not law. What exists is a race to kill" he stated.
The Sri Lankan government now has scheduled local elections in the Fast to take place in March. Yet thousands of Tamil have fled their traditional territories in this area for refuge in the North. The absence of these Tamils voters along with widespread allegations that several candidates have been compelled at gunpoint place serious questions about the validity of such elections.
Our organization has repeatedly drawn to your attention the situation of the Tamil people in their homeland on the island of Sri Lanka. Last year, we joined with 14 other non governmental organizations to urge you to recognize the Tamil historic homeland as well as the obvious fact that the Tamil people are a "people'' with the right to self determination.
We sincerely all believe that recognition of these obvious facts is a critical step to resolve this long-standing conflict between the Tamil people and successive Sri Lankan regimes. This year, we are among 17 non-governmental organizations, who in a joint statement under agenda item 9 drew to the attention of the Commission the law and facts relating to self-determination of the Tamil people, including the armed resistance of the Tamil people to oppressive alien Sinhala rule. We also note the recent rejection by the Sri Lankan government of offers of mediation from Nobel Laureates.
In Report on the Visit to Sri Lanka (E/CN.4/1993/25/Add.1) issued by the Commission's Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, the Working Group characterized Sri Lanka as "professedly a peace-loving nation, guided in large part by the pacifist teaching of Buddhism. (Report at p.36).
Mr. Chairman and members of the Commission, Sri Lanka is not Buddhist -- the Sinhala people are. The Tamil people are Hindu and Christian (Roman Catholic and some Protestant sects). The Moors or Muslims on Ceylon are Muslim. The clear misstatement of the nature of the people of Sri Lanka by the Working Group illustrates the failure of so many to recognize the vestiges of colonialism still rampant on the island of Ceylon. The Working Croup saw and understood Sri Lanka as Sinhala, defining Sri Lanka and "traditional Sri Lankan society" as Sinhala (Report at p. 36) - - perhaps not even aware of the pervasive power of this majority over others on the island or with any comprehension of this dominance as a cause of the profound conflict between the Tamil people and the Sinhala regime.
International Educational Development urges this Commission to address the continuing attacks on Tamil civilians, their schools, hospitals and markets and their cultural heritage as a matter of grave and immediate urgency. In particular we urge that the Commission-.
- Call upon the Sri Lankan government to cease all bombing in the Tamil homelands;
- Call upon the Sri Lankan government to lift the economic blockade on the north of the island;
- Call upon the parties to the conflict (the government of Sri-Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) to take immediate steps to bring about a cease fire;
- Call upon the Sri Lankan government an the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to agree to international mediation with a view to settling the armed conflict through respect for the integrity of the Tamil homeland, namely Tamil Eelam, in the north and east of the island and recognition of the right of the Tamil people to freely deter-mine their political status.
Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
- (E/CN.4/1994/26), 22 December 1993 - Excerpts on Sri Lanka
Information reviewed and transmitted to the Government (of Sri Lanka)
433. The Working Group's activities in relation to Sri Lanka are recorded in its previous 11 reports to the Commission.
434. During the period under review, the Working Group transmitted 1,567 newly reported cases of disappearance to the Government of Sri Lanka, of which 29 were reported to have occurred in 1993; 25 of those cases were transmitted under the urgent action procedure. All of the cases transmitted in the course of 1993 were also sent to the Government on diskette in order to facilitate the exchange of information.
435. By letters dated 15 June, 20 October and 3 December 1993, the Government was notified that eight cases were now considered clarified, based on its replies. The Government was also informed that in six cases the Group had applied the six-month rule. By letters dated 22 January and 5 July 1993, the Government was reminded of reports of disappearance transmitted during the previous six months under the urgent action procedure. By letter dated 15June 1993, the Working Group reminded the Government of all outstanding cases.
436. General allegations on the situation of human rights in Sri Lanka having an influence on the phenomenon of disappearances in the country were transmitted to the Government in a letter dated 20 October 1993.
437. By letter dated 3 December 1993, the Government was informed that 246 cases had been deleted owing to duplication.
Follow-up on observations and recommendations made by the Working Group during its visits
438. By letter dated 17 August 1993 the Working Group addressed to the Government of Sri Lanka a letter containing further questions relating to the Working Group's recommendations contained in the reports of its visits to the country in 1991 and 1992. The Questions referred to outstanding issues such as the prevention of the phenomenon of disappearances and the clarification of cases, to the governmental bodies set up in Sri Lanka, with specific reference to the Presidential Commission of Inquiry, and to the detention procedures and emergency regulations in force.
Information and views received from relatives of missing Persons or from non governmental organizations
439. During the present reporting period, information was received by the Working Group from Amnesty International, Parliamentarians for Fundamental Human Rights, the Mothers' Front, the Batticaloa Peace Committee, the Amparai Peace Committee, Asia Watch and INFORM, which indicated that certain positive legislative changes were made on 17 June 1993:
(a) Section (7) of Emergency Regulation 18 was amended to oblige arresting officers to report arrests to their superiors who are then obliged to report the arrests to the Human Rights Task Force. It is not clear what effect this has had on preventive detentions for the purpose of interrogation where no formal arrest is made. Secondly, the revision of this law did not foresee a penalty for failure to report an arrest.
(b) Section (4) of Emergency Regulation 19 was amended to require the Secretary of the Ministry of Defence to publish a list of all places authorized by that Ministry as official places of detention and to make this list available to the Magistrate of each jurisdiction where these places of detention are located. A list of unofficial places of detention, such as military outposts or temporary centres, where disappearances are most likely to occur, was not foreseen under this amendment. Emergency Regulation 17 still allows for prolonged detention, with extensions of the detention every three months indefinitely.
440. It was further reported that the conflict in the north and north-east continued to create a situation in which disappearances were likely to occur. The armed conflict situation continued to displace thousands of persons, many of whom have been sheltered in temporary centres and who have become particularly vulnerable to detention and disappearance. Emergency Regulation 23 required every household in the areas of conflict to provide a list of all inhabitants. It was reported to the Working Group that, by virtue of this regulation, hundreds of young Tamils have been detained, many for a period without acknowledgement and that some have disappeared. The cases transmitted to the Government by the Working Group during the reporting period reflected these reported situations.
441. Regarding the mandate of the Presidential Commission of inquiry into the Involuntary Removal of Persons, the organizations reported that its mandate remained applicable only to cases reported to have occurred after 11 January 1991. A new entity has been set up with a mandate to investigate or to seek to clarify the more than 8,000 cases of disappearance so far transmitted to the Government by the Working Group. To date, the Working Group is unaware of any statement of responsibility or official condemnation of the phenomenon of disappearances in Sri Lanka by the Government. Several cases of impunity for persons known to have been responsible for carrying out disappearances have tended to highlight concern of the Working Group in this regard. A police officer, Udugampola, who was held responsible for numerous disappearances and extra-judicial executions between 1988 and 1990, was suspended last year from his duties in the police force. It has come to the attention of the Working Group that this person has now been appointed Acting Chairman of the Sri Lanka Port Authority, a post with a substantial salary and additional allowances.
442. It was further reported that in the case of 16 missing schoolboys from Embilipitiya, believed to have been killed in 1990 and buried in a mass grave, the persons alleged to have been responsible have not been interrogated, brought to trial, or been relieved of their military or police duties.
Information and views received from the Government
443. By notes verbales dated 23 and 27 September and 13 October 1993, the Government provided information on 20 cases of disappearance. As a result, three of these cases were placed under the six-month rule. In three of the cases, the Government responded that the persons had not been arrested or detained and that the Presidential Commission on Involuntary Removal of Persons considered these cases unsubstantiated.
444. In 14 cases, the Government responded that the cases were under investigation by the Presidential Commission. Two cases were considered unsubstantiated by the Presidential Commission. Information from the Human Rights Task Force (HRTF) was also received on these 16 cases. This information, contained in the annual report of the Task Force dated 29 September 1993, was that:
"They (the 16 farmers) were strung together on a long rope and marched off in Indian file and have not been heard of since. This incident had a disturbing effect on the Army Command at Batticaloa and Colombo. A committee of three high ranking Army officials was said to be making inquiries. A Police probe was also said to be on. Nothing has however materialized so far. The HRTF did its usual search but drew a blank. We have the stark possibility that they have been killed staring us in the face. This was aftermath to a confrontation between soldiers of the Rugam Army Camp and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelan (LTTE) in this area, who it is alleged were getting these farmers to reap the harvest in the fields of Vannathi Aru.11
445. In relation to a question put to the Government by the Working Group in a follow-up letter of 17 August, relating to conclusions and recommendations included in the Group's reports on visits to the country in 1991 and 1992, the Government responded, by note verbale dated 29 September 1993, as follows.
446. With regard to prevention and clarification, the Government stated that a new unit would soon be set up to investigate the whereabouts of outstanding cases of disappearance. In regard to the number of habeas corpus petitions filed, the Government indicated the relevant figures would have to be obtained from the Provincial High Courts and the Court of Appeal.
447. In respect of governmental bodies, the mandate of the Presidential Commission into Involuntary Removal of Persons was not extended to investigate cases of disappearance alleged to have occurred prior to 11 January 1991. The Commission had completed inquiries into 13 cases to date. The Government stated that the Commission had revised its methodology in order to expedite its work to the effect that the Commission would proceed directly to the determination of whether a prima facie case existed for investigation with a view to prosecution. Eight of the thirteen cases so far examined have been transmitted to the President, at whose discretion the cases may be sent to the Attorney General. None of the cases inquired into by the commission and forwarded to the Court have been concluded.
448. Information taken against officers in regard to their responsibility for disappearances would reportedly be forthcoming. In regard to the Task Force, 11 district offices were now reported to be in operation, including the head office. The Government stated that the regional officers were required to visit police stations and other places of detention. It was admitted that, although they had full power to receive and obtain information, they were hampered by lack of transport facilities. The details of the places of detention visited by the officers of the Task Force were delineated.
449. The Government further reported that, in regard to the Task Force, there were no established mechanisms but the information obtained was generally satisfactory. It did not have a mechanism for tracking detainees transferred from temporary or unofficial sites of detention, such as military outposts or interrogation centres in areas of conflict. Detainees were visited by the Task Force when they were in an official detention camp.
450. It was furthermore stated that all police officers and armed personnel had been informed by Gazette notification (29 June 1993) that they should inform the relevant senior authorities within 24 hours of arrest (regulation 187). The senior authorities were instructed that they should inform the Task Force forthwith of arrests, although the Emergency Regulations did not indicate a time period for the notification of arrest, except to designate "forthwith". interpreted by the Government as "without undue delay" and "within a reasonable time depending on circumstances of the arrest and facilities available for reporting".
451. As to detention procedures and emergency regulations, the Government stated that administrative steps had been taken to establish reporting requirements for police and security forces.
452. The revised Emergency Regulations had removed several penal provisions contained in the earlier Emergency Regulations. The only punishable offences in the current regulations were terrorist acts, such as those attributed to the LTTE. Since LTTE acts were reported to be perpetrated island-wide, the Government stated that the regulations had to be island-wide. Another factor in this expansion of the emergency regulations was in order to deal with the JVP suspects awaiting trial, who otherwise would be required to be released.
453. Regulation 18 (7) of the Emergency Regulations (17 June 1993) required, in addition, that all officers in charge of places of detention, furnish to the magistrates a list of all detainees at official sites of detention, and notification to a magistrate plus authorization from a deputy inspector-general of police for removal of a detainee from an official site.
454. In regard to persons in the south detained since 1990 under Emergency Regulation 17, the Government stated that they had never been "indefinitely detained" inasmuch as they were detained "on suspicion" of having committed, or being concerned in the commission of a crime under the emergency regulation, and that the investigations leading to trial had not yet been completed. Some had been released after rehabilitation. All releases, transfers, escapes or deaths in custody were monitored.
455. By note verbale dated 19 November 1993, the Government of Sri Lanka provided the Working Group with a situation report which included several topics, inter alia: restoration of law and order in the south; the situation in the north and east of Sri Lanka; relief and rehabilitation measures for the Northern and Eastern provinces; prospects for a long-term political solution; measures for dealing with human rights violations by security forces; measures initiated nationally and internationally to deal with human rights concerns; economic performance and potential for growth.
Report on Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions
- (E/CN.4/1994/7), 7 December 1993 - Excerpts on Sri Lanka - Report by the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Bacre Waly Ndiaye, submitted pursuant to Commission on Human Rights resolution 1993/71
547. The Special Rapporteur received reports indicating that human rights violations, including extra judicial, summary or arbitrary executions, continue to occur in Sri Lanka.
548. The military conflict between government troops and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was said to have continued, particularly on the Jaffna peninsula and in the Mannar and Vavuniya districts. The Special Rapporteur received numerous reports about civilian casualties as a consequence of counter-insurgency operations carried out by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces. Despite assurances allegedly made by the authorities that air attacks were directed only against LTTE bases and camps, many civilians were said to have been killed during large-scale aerial bombardments by the Sri Lankan Air Force as well as naval strafing and shelling from military bases.
549. During the forty-ninth session of the Commission on Human Rights in February 1993, the head of the Sri Lankan delegation reiterated an invitation to the Special Rapporteur to carry out an on-site visit to Sri Lanka.
550. The Special Rapporteur transmitted to the Government of Sri Lanka allegations he had received concerning violations of the right to life of more than 110 persons, including 19 minors and 8 women.
551. The Special Rapporteur sent an urgent appeal to the Government of Sri Lanka in response to reports expressing fear for the life and physical integrity of Tharmalingam Selvakumar, who had allegedly received death threats after filing a complaint with the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka in which he protested about torture and ill-treatment during police detention (27 April 1993)
552. The Special Rapporteur transmitted to the Government of Sri Lanka the cases of more than 100 civilians who were said to have been killed during indiscriminate army attacks on residential areas (all names are available with the secretariat). These attacks were reportedly launched from army bases with support from aeroplanes and helicopters. Several persons were killed at sea, when their boats were allegedly intercepted by the Sri Lankan Navy.
553. Nineteen minors were said to have been killed in these attacks. Their names have been reported as follows: Swakumar Ponnuthurai (15); Chandran Ponnuthurai (10); Yoganathan Yoganari (12); Yoganathan Rajanimalar (3); Sasikumar Thangarasa (17); Rangithkumar Thangarasa (15); S. Nanthan (12); S. Suganthan (10); S. Subagini (7); Nandakumar (9); Charles Robinson (11); Sarvily (daughter of Nagamuttu Thamrirasa) (10); ieyasuthanage (son of Johnson Saraswathy) (10); Sri Nanthagopal (son of Nanniyar Nagamuttu) (10); Sebastian George Marcel (17); Sivanantham Suthaharan (12); Sathiyaseelan Robinson (13); Liggury James (16); and Yogatharsan (16).
554. The Government of Sri Lanka provided the Special Rapporteur with a reply to the urgent appeal on behalf of Tharmalingam Selvakumar, informing him that he had indeed filed a complaint with the Supreme Court alleging violation of his fundamental rights. The date for the hearing of the case was fixed for 25 February 1994. However, although Mr. Selvakumar filed further affidavits in June and July 1993, he did not mention that he had been threatened. Any complaints about death threats would undoubtedly have been inquired into (12 November 1993).
555. The Special Rapporteur sent a follow-up letter to the Government of Sri Lanka in which he referred to a reply received from the authorities in 1992 concerning the killing of 130 villagers in Alanchipothana, Karapola and Muthugal in April 1992 (see E/CN.4/1993/46, paras. 539 and 543). The Government informed him that a committee chaired by a retired judge of the Supreme Court had been appointed to inquire into these killings. The Special Rapporteur requested to be informed about the progress of the investigations. He also asked the Government to provide him with detailed information about the working of the committee, in particular the legal basis for its inquiries, the procedures followed, its relations with other, judicial or administrative, investigations, etc.
556. The Special Rapporteur appreciates the willingness to cooperate shown by the Government of Sri Lanka in providing him with replies to cases transmitted in 1992 and the urgent appeal sent in 1993. He would also like to thank the authorities for the invitation to visit Sri Lanka. The special Rapporteur envisages carrying out this visit after the elections scheduled for April 1994, at a date to be fixed in consultation with the Sri Lankan authorities. In the meantime, the Special Rapporteur continues to monitor the situation of the right to life in Sri Lanka, in particular with regard to areas of concern such as the reported killings of civilians during counter-insurgency operations. The Special Rapporteur calls upon the Sri Lankan authorities to take steps with a view to the prevention of civilian casualties.
Report on torture and other cruel treatment
- (E/CN.4/1994/31), 6 January 1994 - Excerpts on Sri Lanka from the Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Nigel S. Rodley, submitted pursuant to Commission on Human Rights resolution 1992/32
Information transmitted to the Government
500. By letter dated 3 November 1993 the Special Rapporteur advised the Government that he had received reports according to which prisoners still continue to be tortured and ill-treated in both military and police custody, despite positive measures taken by the Government since 1992 in order to improve the human rights situation in the country. These measures include, for instance, the issuance of circulars by the security forces on arrest and detention procedures intended to avoid abuses, as well as the establishment of the Human Rights Task Force, a body entrusted with monitoring the observance of the fundamental rights of detainees.
501. However, special legal provisions which differ from normal criminal procedure are still in force and can be applied to prisoners detained under the Emergency Regulations or the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Thus, prisoners held under the PTA need not be brought before a judicial authority for 90 days, and under the Emergency Regulations prisoners can be held for 30 days before a magistrate sees them.
Also, confessions made before a police officer of the rank of assistant superintendent of police or above are admissible in court under the Emergency Regulations, unlike under normal criminal law, which requires confessions to be made before a magistrate in order to protect prisoners from confessing under duress. Furthermore, under these provisions prisoners need not be held in publicly known places of detention and officials of various ranks are empowered to decide where detainees can be held, without any requirement that they make these places publicly known. According to the sources, all these elements facilitate the practice of torture.
502. It was also reported that in the north-east torture and ill-treatment of prisoners continued in military, Special Task Force and police custody. Methods of torture include severe beatings; electric shocks; burning with cigarettes or matches; pouring petrol into prisoners, nostrils and then placing a plastic bag over their heads; suspending prisoners from their thumbs and beating them; beating with barbed wire and repeatedly submerging prisoners, heads in water while they were suspended from their ankles.
Women have reported being raped by soldiers. Torture was also reported to occur in both police and military custody in the south with respect to political detainees arrested under the Emergency Regulations and the PTA, as well as criminal suspects. It was further reported that, in the majority of cases, victims of torture do not file complaints or report their cases to governmental or non-governmental bodies for fear of reprisals.
503. In addition to the foregoing the Special Rapporteur received affidavits concerning the following two cases:
(a) Sinnathurai Mohan, from Mylanny North, Chunnakam, went to Thirukeetheswamram on 16 January 1991 for reasons related to his business. On the boat to Vidathiilithivu he was reportedly arrested by members of the Sri Lankan navy together with three other persons. After being beaten he was allegedly handed over to the Sri Lanka army which took him to the Thallady army camp where he was allegedly beaten again and hung by the thumbs of his hands. For the three following days he was made to stay in a room called the "meat stall" as it was covered in a pool of blood. On 17 November 1991 he was taken to the Kalutara prison where he was frequently assaulted. He was released in August 1992.
(b) Packinyanathan Anton was arrested at sea on 14 October 1990 by members of the Sri Lankan navy and taken to Karainagar camp where, for several days, he was reportedly hung upside-down and beaten with iron rods and clubs. He was subsequently transferred to the Palaly prison where he was reportedly forced to eat pieces of shoe leather and cotton dipped in diesel oil. For some months, the beatings reportedly continued and he was kept blindfolded and handcuffed. He was released in July 1993.
Written Statement submitted by the Humanitarian Law Project, a non-governmental organization on the Roster
- under Agenda item 12 relating to the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms on 14 February 1994
The Secretary-General has received the following written statement which is circulated in accordance with Economic and Social council resolution 1296 (XLIV).
THE SITUATION IN SRI LANKA
1. International Educational Development notes Commission resolution 1987/61 of 12 March 1987 in which the Commission called upon the Government of Sri Lanka to "pursue a negotiated political solution [to the conflict], based on principles of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms". The Commission's call for a negotiated political solution to the conflict was repeated in the Statement of the Chairman of the Commission on Human Rights made on 27 February 1992 on behalf of the commission:
"The commission urges the Government of Sri Lanka to continue to pursue a negotiated political solution with all parties, based on principles of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, leading to a durable peace in the north and east of the country." (E/1992/22-E/CN.4/1992/84, para. 416)
2. The conflict addressed in that resolution and statement is the conflict between the Tamil people, the original inhabitants of the north and east of the island of Ceylon, and the Sinhala-controlled Government of what is now called Sri Lanka. Prior to colonization by the British, there were separate Tamil and Sinhala States. The Tamil people, primarily Christian and Hindi, speak their own language and have their own traditions and customs. The Sinhala people are primarily Buddhist and their traditions and customs reflect that heritage.
With the forced unitary rule, first as a result of colonization and then under the post-colonial Sinhala majority rule, the Tamil people were increasingly threatened. In the late 1970s, after nearly 30 years of attempted peaceful resolution to the many points of profound differences, the Tamil people began forming armed defence forces. At present, Tamil forces are consolidated in the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which continues to defend Tamil areas in a war against the Sinhala Government's armed forces, "home guards" and other armed entities.
3. The Commission's Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances also discusses the possibility of a political resolution to the conflict and has raised the important issue of "how the LTTE is to be incorporated into the negotiating process. ... The future relationship between the north and east is the most important substantive item for the negotiations". (E/CN.4/1993/25/Add.1, para. 124)
4 - But there has been no negotiated settlement. The current Government even rejected a mediation offer made in September 1993 by Nobel laureates.
5. It has now been more than 10 years since the rampage of violence against the Tamil people produced 100,000 refugees in a matter of weeks and resulted in the first resolution on Sri Lanka in a United Nations human rights body resolution 1983/16 of 5 September 1993 of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities.
It has been more than 40 years since the Government of Sri Lanka embarked on anti-Tamil policies that led both to the communal violence of 1983 and to the continuation of the conflict between the Tamil people and the Sri Lankan Government - now controlled almost exclusively by Sinhala power blocs. Regarding the policy of relocation of Sinhala people into traditional Tamil areas, one senior official (a Sinhala), regretted his role publicly:
"My role was that of executor. We moved in a large group of 48,000 land-hungry peasants (Sinhala) into the Batticaloa and Polonnaruwa districts. ... we were seeking to have in Batticaloa zone a mass of persons opposed to a separate State-" (Statement of H. Gunaratne, The Sri Lanka Sunday Times, 26 August 1990)
6. The pervasively Sinhala nature of the Government has even clouded the judgement of the Commission's Working Group, which in its 1993 report cited above characterized Sri Lanka as "professedly a peace-loving nation, guided in large part by the pacifist teaching of Buddhism. ..." (annex I, p. 36).
Sri Lanka is not Buddhist - the Sinhala people are. The Tamil people are Hindu and Christian. The Moors on Ceylon are Muslim. The clear misstatement of the nature of the people of Sri Lanka by the Working Group illustrates the failure of so many to recognize the vestiges of colonialism still rampant on the island of Ceylon.
The Working Group saw and understood Sri Lanka as Sinhala, defining Sri Lanka and "traditional Sri Lanka society" as Sinhala perhaps not even aware of the pervasive power of this majority over others on the island or with any comprehension of this dominance as a cause of the profound conflict between the Tamil people and the Sinhala regime.
7. In recent months, the Sri Lankan Air Force has intensified aerial bombardment of the Tamil homeland, attacking temples, churches, hospitals and public offices, in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions and customary humanitarian law. Due to the large number of recent attacks on Tamil civilians, on 17 November, Bishop D.J. Ambalavalnar, Bishop Thomas Saundranayagam and Nallai Thiru Sampandar Atheenam issued the following joint statement:
"These events are not just sporadic occurrences but have been repeated so often in the past that we cannot but conclude it is part of a State policy against the Tamils. A close statistical study of the air raids carried out by the Sri Lankan Air Force in the north will show that the victims of the raids have almost always been innocent helpless civilians. When this is the case how could anyone avoid concluding that this is organized State terrorism?"
8. Since that time, bombings have continued. On 28 December, Alampil village was bombed. On 30 December, the centre of Chavakachcheri town - its market, Dreiberg College and CSI Church - was attacked. This attack, similar in gravity to that recently carried out against Sarajevo, resulted in the death of the vicar's wife, numerous other civilians and severe damage of the market, the church and vicarage and the college.
As of 7 January, Thavady village, Kumilamunai village, the school at Atchuvely Maha Vidyalyam, Thondamanru, Navandil, Udupiddy, Valvettiturai, Puttur and Avarangai villages were also subjected to aerial bombing.
9. International Educational Development regrets the continuing attacks on Tamil civilians, their schools, hospitals and markets and their cultural heritage. In the interest of peace on the island of Ceylon, the Commission must demand an immediate cessation of all bombing in the Tamil homelands an a lifting of the economic blockade imposed by the Sri Lankan Government on the north of the island. The blockade is causing untold hardship for Tamil civilians.
The Commission must urge the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE to take immediate steps to bring about a cease-fire. Finally, the commission must insist that the Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to agree to international mediation. Such mediation should respect the integrity of the Tamil homeland (Tamil Eelam) in the north and east of the island and should recognize the right of the Tamil people to freely determine their political status.