• Saturday, June 15, 2024

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Amnesty International criticises Sri Lanka’s lack of ‘political will’ in delivering justice for war victims

The upcoming election in Sri Lanka will have a major impact on the future of the island nation and human rights considerations for years to come, said Secretary General Agnes Callamard. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

By: Vibhuti Pathak

Amnesty International has highlighted a ‘lack of political will’ in addressing the needs of victims of Sri Lanka’s three-decade-long internal conflict. The organisation calls for international cooperation with Sri Lankan authorities to build a foundation for a more just and free society. This statement comes at a crucial time, with presidential elections approaching between mid-September and mid-October, which are expected to have a significant impact on the future of human rights in the country.

The upcoming election in Sri Lanka will have a major impact on the future of the island nation and human rights considerations for years to come, the global rights NGO said in a statement issued at the end of a five-day visit by its Secretary General Agnes Callamard to the country.

“The visit has provided insights into many challenges that Sri Lanka is confronting 15 years after the end of the war (with the LTTE),” the statement said.

Callamard visited the northeastern Mullaithvu district on Sunday to commemorate the fallen victims from the Tamil side to mark the 15th anniversary of the end of the final conflict.

“A seemingly lack of political will, along with complacency in delivering justice prevents reconciliation,” the statement said, calling on the international community to work with the island’s authorities to secure truth and justice for all victims of the war and the ongoing human rights violations and lay the foundation for a freer and fairer Sri Lanka.

Amnesty said during the visit, the focus had been centred on threats to civil society; freedom of expression; the right to peaceful protest; the use of anti-terror laws such as the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) to suppress dissent; harassment; intimidation; surveillance and obstacles to press freedom.

It said the new legislation such as the Online Security Act and the proposed non-governmental organisation law are worrying evidence of the dangers faced by civil society in the country.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had run a military campaign for a separate Tamil homeland in the northern and eastern provinces of the island nation for nearly 30 years before its collapse in 2009.

On May 18, 2009, the Sri Lankan Army declared victory with the discovery of the body of the dreaded LTTE leader Velupillai Prabakaran.

Despite the passage of nearly 15 years since the end of the armed conflict and many decades since the earliest waves of enforced disappearances, Sri Lankan authorities are still failing to ensure accountability for these violations. Tamil groups claimed a large number of civilians had perished during the final battle.

A report issued by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Friday said the Sri Lankan government must take meaningful action to determine and disclose the fates and whereabouts of tens of thousands of people who have been subjected to enforced disappearance over the decades and hold those responsible to account.

It called for renewed action by Sri Lanka at the domestic level to hold it to account through criminal justice. The report also called for the international community to be engaged with Sri Lanka for investigation and prosecutions for targeted sanctions.

Sri Lanka maintains that OHCHR is not mandated by the member states to issue any such report.

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