Address Human Rights problem in Sri Lanka: Human Rights Watch
March 1: Sri Lanka’s new government should advance a reform agenda to address past and ongoing human rights problems in the country, Human Rights Watch said in a letter to the newly elected president, Maithripala Sirisena.
The government has already undertaken important new initiatives, such as reviewing cases of detainees under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, lifting restrictions on media reporting, ending Internet censorship, and removing nongovernmental organizations from Defense Ministry oversight.
However, Human Rights Watch said that many important human rights concerns still need to be addressed. Among them are the use of torture by police, the protection of minority communities, the independence of government oversight committees, and the repealing of the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
Holding accountable those responsible on both sides for violations of international law during Sri Lanka’s long civil war is crucial for the country’s future, Human Rights Watch said.
Asia director at Human Rights Watch Brad Adams said, “President Sirisena has an important opportunity to right the wrongs of his predecessor.” He added that the government’s strong initial steps should be followed by lasting measures to re-establish Sri Lanka as a rights-respecting democracy.
The Sri Lankan police routinely torture and ill-treat criminal suspects taken into custody. The government should act to eliminate the use of torture against detainees and improve redress mechanisms for victims.
During the Mahinda Rajapaksa government, Sri Lanka’s minority communities increasingly came under threats and violence instigated by ultra-nationalist Buddhist groups. While the new president in several speeches has acknowledged the government’s failure to act on behalf of these minority groups, more needs to be done to alleviate their concerns.
The government should fully investigate and appropriately prosecute members of sectarian groups for inciting communal violence, as well as police who failed to stop such crimes.
The Oslo Times