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CrisisWatch Database

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Sri Lanka

  |  1 Sep 2014

Unchanged

Govt continued crackdown on civil society groups following July banning of NGOs from holding press conferences, other public activities; continued to promise more restrictive laws on NGO operations. Several instances of intimidation including: mob led by Buddhist monks 4 Aug broke into church in Colombo, disrupted meeting between activists, diplomats and families of people missing since 2009 civil war; attack condemned by U.S., European govts. Series of armed attacks late month against main opposition party offices and workers during Uva province election campaign. President Rajapaksa 19 Aug said govt will refuse visas for UN investigators probing war crimes accusations, UNHCHR Pilay earlier said investigation can continue without access.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Aug 2014

Unchanged

Month saw continued fallout from mid-June attacks on Muslim persons and property in SW: official statements endorsed Buddhist nationalist claims Muslims started violence, Sinhalese equal victims. Justice Minister and Sri Lanka Muslim Congress leader Rauff Hakeem continued probing incident after late June alleging police complicity in attacks, accusing officials of falsifying autopsy reports in cases of 3 Muslims shot dead, possibly by police or off-duty security personnel. Many criticised dispatch of military to rebuild damaged areas fearing destruction of evidence, undermining of independent fact-finding efforts. No leaders or known activists of radical Buddhist group widely blamed for instigating violence, Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), among more than 100 suspects arrested; police questioning of BBS leader Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara 2 July widely seen as public relations move. President Rajapaksa 17 July appointed international legal experts to “advise” ongoing commission of inquiry into missing persons, expanded commission’s mandate to include range of war crimes during civil war, including LTTE abuses; move criticised as attempt to undermine ongoing UN OHCHR investigation. Rajapaksa 11 July reappointed retired general G.A. Chandrasiri as northern province governor despite promising Tamil National Alliance he would be replaced by civilian.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Jul 2014

Deteriorated

Month saw unprecedented violence against Muslims by supporters of radical Buddhist group Bodu Bala Sena (BBS): 4 killed in SW coastal towns Aluthgama and Beruwela 15-16 June, over 100 injured; scores of Muslim businesses, houses, and 3 mosques destroyed or badly damaged. Violence followed BBS rally where leading member, Gnanasara Thero, threatened Muslims; authorities allowed rally despite tensions in Aluthgama following Buddhist attacks on Muslims days earlier, sparked by unconfirmed reports of Muslim assault on monk. Heavily armed police and army largely stood by, failed to stop violence; no charges filed against BBS leaders for incitement; no arrests of BBS activists. President Rajapaksa 19 June promised investigation, accountability; PM Jayaratne 17 June blamed Muslims for attacking BBS marchers, sparking violence; senior officials alleged foreign conspiracy behind violence. Courts blocked 2 BBS rallies late month. Violence condemned by UNSG Ban, UNHCHR Pillay, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, EU, several NGOs and govts, including U.S.. UN OHCHR 25 June announced names of 3 experts appointed to assist UNHRC-mandated investigation into alleged war crimes during civil war, due to begin July. Parliament 18 June voted to endorse govt’s policy of non-cooperation; main opposition parties abstained or boycotted vote; Tamil National Alliance publicly endorsed investigation.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Jun 2014

Unchanged

Govt 18 May celebrated fifth anniversary of civil war’s end with large military parade, public events in south; military-enforced ban on Tamils commemorating dead in north and east, Jaffna University closed; small Tamil National Alliance (TNA) commemoration 16 May outside provincial council building in Jaffna disrupted by police. TNA 24 May condemned govt listing of Tamil diaspora groups and activists as terrorist supporters; Malaysia 26 May deported 3 Sri Lankan Tamils on suspicion of working to revive LTTE. Newly-elected Indian PM Modi met President Rajapaksa 27 May, urged "early and full implementation" of 13th amendment and further devolution to support national reconciliation. University students 7 May held large demonstration against closure of health services degree program outside president’s residence in Colombo, in violation of police ban; more than dozen student leaders arrested 16 May, reportedly beaten in police custody, at least 4 hospitalised. Ruling party urban councillor shot dead 12 May by unknown gunmen outside Colombo. Former Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake refused to plead guilty or non-guilty to corruption charges 12 May.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 May 2014

Unchanged

Crackdown on Tamil activists in north and east that started mid-March continued: military 10 April killed 3 Tamils who govt alleged were working to revive LTTE; scores arrested March/April remain detained without charge under anti-terrorism laws. Govt 4 April released text of new regulation announced 31 March designating LTTE and 15 Tamil diaspora organisations as terrorist organisations, effectively criminalising contact with such organisations by Sri Lankan citizens. Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leaders visited South Africa 9-11 April to discuss South African efforts to restart govt-TNA negotiations. Leader of radical Buddhist group Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) and supporters 9 April disrupted inaugural press conference of group fostering Buddhist-Muslim cooperation; BBS supporters mid-April stormed offices of govt ministry headed by Muslim in search of rival Buddhist monk in hiding. Newly-established police unit to investigate religious hate crimes reportedly received nearly 300 complaints, over 280 from Muslims, on first day of operations late April. Govt supporters, including local mayor carrying gun, 17 April violently disrupted visit by UNP opposition parliamentarians in president’s home district Hambantota.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Apr 2014

Unchanged

UN Human Rights Council (HRC) 27 March passed resolution with 23 yes votes (12 opposed, 3 abstained) criticising Sri Lanka govt for impunity for rights violations and lack of reconciliation; established investigation by OHCHR into alleged war crimes by govt and LTTE. Govt won easy victory in western and southern provincial council elections 29 March, though with reduced majorities; President Rajapaksa, other govt candidates used HRC process and threat of “international intervention” to win votes, sharply criticised Tamil National Alliance (TNA) for supporting HRC resolution. Govt launched military and police crackdown in N and E, alleging attempt to revive LTTE; increased pressure on human rights activists and NGOs, accused of propagating “false information” to tarnish govt’s image internationally. 6 activists arrested, others threatened mid-March; 2 activists held 48 hours under Prevention of Terrorism Act released 16 March following international outcry. Govt 7 March suspended excavation of mass grave outside Mannar following excavation of over 80 bodies.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Mar 2014

Unchanged

U.S. 1 Feb officially announced intention to table resolution at March UN HRC calling for Sri Lankan govt to “do more to promote reconciliation, democratic governance, justice and accountability”; resolution expected to call for international inquiry into war crimes allegations. EU Foreign Affairs Council 10 Feb confirmed support for accountability efforts, including independent investigation. UN OHCHR report to HRC 24 Feb called for “independent, international inquiry mechanism” into allegations of war crimes by govt and LTTE forces; govt rejected report as “unwarranted interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state”. Senior govt delegation 19 Feb visited newly appointed South African special envoy to Sri Lanka in Pretoria to discuss reconciliation issues. Govt using HRC process to bolster support in western and southern provincial council elections scheduled for 29 March. Main opposition United National Party (UNP) 13 Feb announced support for domestic war crimes inquiry, criticised govt human rights and governance record. Over 80 bodies recovered in past 2 months from mass grave outside northern town Mannar.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Feb 2014

Unchanged

U.S. Ambassador for Global Criminal Justice Stephen Rapp visited 6-11 Jan, travelled extensively in north; media reported Rapp promised TNA and other Tamil leaders that U.S. will introduce resolution at March UNHRC meeting calling for international investigation into alleged 2009 war crimes. Rapp and U.S. Ambassador Michele Sisson 9 Jan posted photo of school playground to Twitter, said “site of killing of hundreds of families by army shelling”; U.S. embassy confirmed post was official U.S. govt statement. Officials and pro-govt media reacted angrily but govt declined to protest remark officially. UK 16 Jan reiterated commitment to backing international investigation if govt fails to initiate credible and independent inquiry by March. Presidential secretary late-Jan travelled to Geneva and Washington to present reported progress in implementing recommendations of Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). Over 50 skeletons recovered from mass grave discovered late Dec in Mannar district dating from late 1990s to 2004; contradictory reports over whether area under LTTE or Sri Lankan security forces control during period. No improvement in tense relations between Northern Provincial Council and central govt despite 4 Jan promise by President Rajapaksa to Northern Province chief minister to appoint new chief secretary to council. Radical Buddhist groups led by monks 12 Jan attacked at least 3 evangelical Christian churches in Hikkaduwa.

 

Sri Lanka

  |  2 Jan 2014

Unchanged

Tensions between newly elected northern provincial council and central govt continued: no formal response from President Rajapaksa to council’s call for replacement of provincial governor Ret. Gen. Chandrasiri with civilian governor. Pro-govt thugs 10 Dec violently disrupted protest by families of disappeared in Trincomalee, NW. Harassment of Muslims continued: Buddhist nationalists resumed campaign to remove Muslim residents from Debanagala village; police mid-Dec visited 3 mosques, demanded they cease religious activities; 2 Muslim-owned shops in southern Galle district set alight 19 Dec; mosque in Colombo stoned 18 Dec. Govt 17 Dec announced possibility of truth and reconciliation commission but signs of resistance from high-level politicians. U.S. early Dec called for accountability; UK deputy PM Clegg 11 Dec called for truth commission. Inquiry launched into mass grave found in Mannar district, NE. French charity Action Against Hunger (ACF) accused security forces of killing 17 employees at office in Muttur in 2006, demanded international inquiry.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Dec 2013

Unchanged

Commonwealth Heads of Govt Meeting (CHOGM) held 15-17 Nov in Colombo with lowest attendance on record, with only 27 of 53 heads of govt attending; Indian PM Singh 11 Nov announced decision to boycott summit; Canada and Mauritian PMs also chose not to attend, citing human rights concerns. International media coverage extremely negative, focused on Sri Lankan record of human rights abuses, intimidation of Sri Lankan activists, attempts to block Tamil protests. British PM Cameron 15 Nov visited Jaffna, met with Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leaders, endorsed international investigation into alleged war crimes should Sri Lanka fail to complete credible and independent investigation by March 2014 UNHRC session. Chinese foreign ministry 18 Nov released statement asking govt to “make efforts to protect and promote human rights”. President Rajapaksa 17 Nov mooted truth commission after meeting with South African President Zuma during CHOGM; govt 26 Nov announced census to count civil war deaths. Northern Provincial Council 13 Nov passed resolution calling for replacement of provincial governor on grounds he is retired general.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Nov 2013

Unchanged

Newly-elected Tamil National Alliance (TNA)-controlled northern provincial council held first session 25 Oct. Some dissent within TNA over allocation of provincial ministers and decision of newly-elected chief minister Wigneswaran to take oaths of office before President Rajapaksa 7 Oct. Govt 21 Oct announced 2014 budget including increased defence spending to record $1.95bn. Militant Buddhist organisation Bodhu Bala Sena (BBS) 22 Oct renewed campaign against “halal” meat as part of larger aim to counter threat of “muslim extremism”. UK parliament Foreign Affairs Committee mid-Oct criticised govt decision to back Sri Lanka’s hosting of Nov Commonwealth leaders’ meeting despite human rights concerns; Canada early Oct announced it will not attend in protest at govt human rights record, will review financial support for Commonwealth; India’s Tamil Nadu Assembly 24 Oct demanded Indian govt boycott meeting.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Oct 2013

Unchanged

Northern provincial council elections held 21 Sept: Tamil National Alliance (TNA) won 30 of 38 seats, nearly 80% of vote, with high turnout despite pre-poll violence and intimidation of TNA candidates by military. Commonwealth Election Observer mission 23 Sept expressed concern over heavy military involvement in electoral process. Fears of deepened ethnic polarisation after strongly nationalist rhetoric from TNA campaigners and govt, which repeatedly accused TNA of continuing Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) quest for separate state. Polls also held in central and NW provinces where President Rajapaksa’s United People’s Freedom Alliance won large majorities. Indian govt 24 Sept welcomed elections, called on Rajapaksa to implement fully and go beyond devolution of power under 13th amendment. Supreme Court 26 Sept ruled powers over land belong to central govt, not provinces; TNA 29 Sept said judgment does not conform with previous rulings.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Sep 2013

Unchanged

At least 3 killed, many injured, several journalists attacked 1 Aug when army dispersed protest in Colombo; protesters reportedly chased and beaten in local Catholic church prompting condemnation by Catholic archbishop who called for independent investigations. Army’s actions strongly and widely condemned, including among Sinhalese. Opposition 14 Aug staged rally protesting violence; Defence Sec Gotabaya Rajapaksa accused opposition of using deaths to tarnish army’s reputation; military announced inquiry into deaths. Militant Buddhists 10 Aug attacked mosque in Grandpass area of Colombo, prompting protests and communal clashes between Muslims and Buddhists in Grandpass district injuring at least 12. Govt’s Muslim ministers 11 Aug issued unprecedented joint statement condemning police inaction and calling for president to take action to halt anti-Muslim campaign. Campaigning for 21 Sept provincial council elections began: intra-party violence seen in north-central and central provinces; scattered attacks on opposition campaigners in northern province. Govt 13 Aug appointed presidential commission of inquiry into war-time disappearances in north and eastern provinces. Visiting UN human rights chief Pillay 27 Aug met families of missing and disappeared in north and east; 31 Aug said “deeply concerned” that country “showing signs of heading in an increasingly authoritarian direction”.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Aug 2013

Unchanged

President Rajapaksa 5 July formally set in motion steps towards Sept elections to northern provincial council; Tamil National Alliance (TNA) 15 July announced retired Supreme Court justice C. V. Vigneswaran as candidate for northern province Chief Minister. Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) 16 July decided to contest northern provincial council elections alone rather than ally with TNA. Under intense pressure from Indian govt, Rajapaksa postponed planned 19th amendment to constitution that would reduce provincial powers, established Parliamentary Select Committee to consider changes to 13th amendment on provincial powers, excluding SLMC. Sri Lanka nationalist Federation of National Organisations 29 July staged protest outside Indian embassy in Colombo against perceived Indian interference. President’s brothers Gotabaya (Defence Secretary) and Basil Rajapaksa (Economic Development Minister) reiterated position that power over police and land will not be devolved to northern province despite being mandated by 13th amendment. Anti-Muslim campaigning by Bodhu Bala Sena (BBS) and other radical Buddhists continued, including attack on Muslim prayer centre in Mahiyangana 16 July. Gotabaya Rajapaksa 4 July admitted close ties to BBS leaders. Govt 5 July arrested 12 police officers for Jan 2006 murder of 5 Tamil students in Trincomalee; senior police official suspected of planning killings not arrested, no indictments filed.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Jul 2013

Unchanged

Doubts over date of northern provincial council elections, long-promised for Sept, grew after govt announced parliamentary select committee (PSC) to meet 9 July to discuss constitutional changes to provincial power and cabinet 13 June fast-tracked legislation to remove right of provinces to merge. Tamil and Sinhala opposition parties to boycott PSC; hardline Sinhala nationalist coalition partners launched campaign to either repeal 13th amendment or significantly cut back provincial powers. Indian govt 19 June publicly warned Sri Lankan govt not to weaken 13th amendment on provincial powers following visit by Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leaders to Delhi. Opposition United National Party (UNP) early June released discussion paper outlining new constitution, including end to executive presidency, preservation of provincial powers under 13th amendment, restoration of independent commissions for human rights and police. Govt scrapped proposed “code of media ethics”, including draconian limitations on independent reporting, after widespread criticism. Govt mid-month announced establishment of committee to investigate activities of NGOs critical of govt; director of Sri Lankan office of German NGO Friedrich Ebert Stiftung arrested 13 June; director of Friedrich Naumann Stiftung questioned by police, prevented from leaving country following late-May workshop with opposition leaders.* Muslim-owned shop attacked 18 June in Tangalle town, reportedly by militant Buddhist group Sinhala Ravaya; Sinhala Ravaya members 17 June reportedly assaulted and detained group of Jehova’s Witnesses.


*Sentence corrected 16 July 2013.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Jun 2013

Unchanged

Preparations for Sept northern provincial council elections continued though date not yet set. Indian FM Kurshad 17 May warned Sri Lankan govt against constitutional changes that would weaken provincial powers. Harassment of Tamil National Alliance (TNA) activists ongoing: police early May questioned Tamil National People’s Front leader Gajen Ponnamblam; house of Federal Party (ITAK) leader C.V.K. Sivagnanam attacked 7 May. Tamil nationalist bishop of Mannar Rayappu Joseph mid-May called unity meeting, failed to quell tensions within TNA. Govt critic and Muslim politician Azath Salley arrested 2 May under Terrorism Act following comments that ongoing attacks on Muslims could provoke violent retaliation; President Rajapaksa 10 May ordered Salley’s release following strong international and domestic criticism. Buddhist monk 24 May self-immolated in protest at halal cattle slaughter and Christian conversions of Buddhists. Fourth anniversary of end of civil war marked 18-19 May with military-dominated govt celebration in Colombo; over a dozen activists arrested in Mannar for involvement in banned commemorations of Tamils killed in war. More than 1,000 Jaffna residents filed lawsuits to block govt seizure of their land for military base; army 22 May claimed military camps in Jaffna to be consolidated from 17 to 3.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 May 2013

Unchanged

Anti-Muslim campaign led by militant Buddhists Bodhu Bala Sena (BBS, Buddhist Power Force) continued unchallenged by police. President Rajapaksa 17 April met with Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) ambassadors after OIC expressed concern over rising attacks, anti-Muslim rhetoric. Pressure on Tamil media and politicians increased in run-up to expected Sept northern provincial council elections: offices of Uthayan newspaper attacked twice, injuring staff and damaging equipment. Tamil National Alliance (TNA) 29 April began campaign in Jaffna protesting ongoing military land seizures in north. Commonwealth Lawyers Association, Commonwealth Legal Education Association and Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association 16 April called for Sri Lanka to be suspended from Commonwealth, expressing grave concerns over impeachment of chief justice and other assaults on rule of law. Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group met 26 April, took no action despite strong push from Canada; Canadian FM Baird said govt “appalled” Sri Lanka will be allowed to host Commonwealth heads of govt meeting in Nov.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Apr 2013

Unchanged

UN HRC 21 March approved resolution calling on Sri Lanka to properly investigate war crimes allegations, implement reforms recommended by its own reconciliation commission; U.S. officials 22 March hinted they might press for international investigation if govt does not conduct “independent and credible” inquiry. Thousands demonstrated in Tamil Nadu, India, for strong action at HRC. Minister of Youth Affairs Dalas Alahapperuma 22 March said UN HRC being used by “imperialists” to divide Sri Lanka. Former army chief Sarath Fonseka 20 March said he would answer allegations of involvement in war crimes. Defence Sec Gotabaya Rajapaksa 9 March expressed support for radical Buddhist Power Force, whose protests led Muslim clerics to cease practice of labelling foods as “halal”. Mob reportedly led by Buddhist monks 28 March attacked Muslim-owned store in Colombo.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Mar 2013

Unchanged

UNOHCHR 11 Feb issued report criticising govt failure to implement recommendations of March 2012 Human Rights Council resolution or address war crimes allegations and calling for “independent and credible international investigation”. Human Rights Watch accused govt forces of sexual violence against Tamils in custody 2006-2012. Journalist Faraz Shauketaly, working for Sunday Leader, paper critical of govt, shot 15 Feb by unidentified gunmen at his home near Colombo; UN human rights chief Pillay said she was “deeply disturbed” by “attempted assassination”, called for investigation. Govt mid-Feb dismissed as propaganda pictures appearing to show LTTE chief Prabhakaran’s son killed in army custody; photos reignited calls in India for investigation into alleged war crimes at civil war’s end. Large rally 17 Feb by extremist “Buddhist Power Force” calling for laws to curb Muslim influence in Sri Lanka; threats and attacks against Muslim businesses reportedly on increase.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Feb 2013

Deteriorated

President Rajapaksa 13 Jan ratified parliament’s 11 Jan vote finding Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake guilty of misconduct, finalising her impeachment and marking unprecedented break with constitutional procedures; impeachment occurred despite Parliamentary Select Committee that heard case being declared unconstitutional in 3 Jan Supreme Court ruling. Govt supporters 10 Jan violently dispersed demonstration against impeachment, police failed to intervene; paramilitary police 15 Jan blocked Bandaranayake’s access to office at Supreme Court. Rajapaksa 15 Jan appointed former attorney general and presidential adviser Mohan Peiris as Chief Justice; ceremony boycotted by majority of senior lawyers. U.S., UK, Canada, EU, UNOHCHR and Commonwealth Sec Gen condemned impeachment, called for respect for rule of law. Parliament 22 Jan passed law extending police detention powers from 24 to 48 hours sparking protests in Colombo. Opposition members, journalists and activists 29 Jan demonstrated in Colombo against attacks on media. Anti-terrorist police continued series of raids targeting northern Tamil politicians and civil society activists; Tamil National People’s Front officials questioned in Jaffna; explosives and illegal pornography allegedly discovered 19 Jan in TNA parliamentarian Sivagnanam Sritharan’s Kilinochchi office; TNA officials claim evidence planted.

Sri Lanka

  |  30 Dec 2012

Unchanged

Parliament Select Committee 8 Dec found Chief Justice Bandaranayake guilty of financial misconduct, abuse of power. Court of Appeal 21 Dec summoned parliament speaker, Select Committee members to appear in Jan to respond to Bandaranayake’s suit to overturn ruling; court asked parliament to refrain from impeachment vote until final court judgment. Govt 28 Dec announced impeachment debate to be held 10-11 Jan 2013; Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa 29 Dec said foreign and local elements using judiciary in attempt to destabilise country and govt. Bar Association, religious leaders called on govt to abandon impeachment; Commonwealth Secretary-General, U.S., EU expressed concerns, called on govt to respect independence of judiciary. Lawyers protested two violent attacks on lawyers opposed to impeachment. 4 Tamil university students sent to govt “rehabilitation” centres for alleged support for LTTE following public commemoration of Tamil war dead; Jaffna University shut down in protest at arrests, military harassment.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Dec 2012

Unchanged

Govt 1 Nov began impeachment proceedings against Supreme Court Chief Justice, accused of financial misconduct and conflict of interest. Chief Justice mounted strong rebuttal, supported by unusually strong and widespread opposition to govt move from lawyers, rights groups, Christian and Buddhist religious leaders, opposition parties and leftist members of UPFA coalition; many alleged impeachment politically motivated. Speaker of Parliament 29 Nov rejected Supreme Court summons issued to parliamentary panel looking into impeachment charges. U.S. condemned impeachment; Commonwealth Sec-Gen 15 Nov expressed concern, called on govt to respect independence of judiciary. UN HRC 1 Nov reviewed govt human rights record under Universal Periodic Review process; govt 5 Nov rejected unusually high number of states’ recommendations. Military 27 Nov violently dispersed Jaffna student protests on traditional “heroes day” for LTTE fighters. Civil society groups protested govt plans to post Shavendra Silva, allegedly involved in war crimes and currently Sri Lanka’s Deputy Permanent Rep to the UN, as deputy high commissioner to South Africa.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Nov 2012

Unchanged

Defence minister Rajapaksa mid-Oct repeatedly called for national referendum to abolish 13th amendment to constitution which grants limited devolution of power to provinces, angering Indian govt. Bill to expand powers of economic development ministry at expense of provincial councils awaiting Supreme Court judgment on constitutionality. Judicial Services Commission secretary assaulted 7 Oct, prompting strike by jurists protesting increasing govt attacks on independence of judiciary. Leading opposition politician Sarath Fonseka 18 Oct held first political rally since release from jail; main opposition UNP prevented members from attending. Defence ministry 17 Oct announced release of Tamil Tiger leader Selvarasa Pathmanathan, detained since Aug 2009 and wanted in India for assassination of former PM Rajv Gandhi. University teachers 11 Oct ended 3-month strike calling for increased public funding of education, higher wages and end to politicisation of universities. Hundreds of Buddhist monks, supporters, marched 4 Oct in Colombo to condemn attacks on Buddhists in Bangladesh.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Oct 2012

Unchanged

Govt won nearly 60% of vote in 8 Sept provincial council elections in N Central, Sabaragamuwa provinces; opposition candidates won over two thirds of Eastern province vote, with Tamil National Alliance (TNA) doing well; but govt secured control of council after Muslim Congress agreed to rejoin UPFA coalition. Polls criticised by monitors for widespread abuse of state resources, violence by UPFA members. Supreme Court 17 Sept ruled govt’s bill to establish Department of Divineguma Development must be approved by all 9 provincial councils before being tabled in Parliament. Senior govt ministers joined 18 Sept public protests against judgment; govt media attacked chief justice; president attempted to summon Judicial Services Commission (JSC). JSC issued 18 Sept statement criticising intimidation of judiciary by govt media. University teachers completed 100 mile protest march to capital, as their strike entered 3rd month with no sign of resolution. Head of teachers union reported receiving death threats; leader of JVP-affiliated student union arrested, jailed 20 Sept after leading protest supporting strike. U.S. Asst Sec State Blake visited mid-month, called for “accelerated progress” on LLRC report implementation including demilitarisation of North, resumption of TNA-govt talks on devolution, prosecution of rights violations.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Sep 2012

Unchanged

Govt minister Rishad Bathiudeen appeared in court 27 Aug to answer charges he threatened local Tamil magistrate in Mannar, granted bail. Second Tamil prisoner died mid-Aug from injuries received when security forces took back control of Vavuniya prison following July protest. Election monitors throughout month reported abuse of state resources, violence by parties associated with ruling UPFA coalition in campaign for Sept provincial council elections; incidents included 12 Aug attack on mosque in Batticaola district reportedly by members of pro-govt TMVP. Govt announced closure of most universities as teachers strike entered second month. President Rajapaksa, senior govt officials early Aug met with South Africa govt delegation to discuss possible assistance in reconciliation efforts.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Aug 2012

Unchanged

Lawyers, judges, court officials 20 July boycotted courts following attack on Mannar magistrate’s court by protestors, alleged intimidation of judge by senior govt minister. Journalists, activists, opposition leaders 12 July protested media intimidation after Defence Secretary Rajapaksa threatened Sunday Leader editor with death, legal action. U.S., EU, rights organisations 1 July condemned police raid on 2 opposition websites, arrest of staff; govt announced regulation, censorship measures including new powers to fine, imprison staff. Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) 17 July held protest in Jaffna over June killing of Tamil prisoner, hospitalisation of others following prison protests. 4 Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) members including Chairman and Vice-Chairman of Akuressa Pradeshiya Sabha sacked following allegations of involvement in wave of sexual assaults against women, children. University teachers 4 July went on strike to demand increased govt funds for education. Allegations emerged mid-month of state involvement in facilitating outflow of Tamils seeking asylum from N, E. Govt mid-month announced 8 Sept date for provincial council elections in Eastern, North-Central, Sabaragamuwa provinces; President Rajapaksa 11 July said elections for northern provincial council to be held Sept 2013.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Jul 2012

Unchanged

2 killed, 4 injured in 15 June gunmen attack on JVP party meeting in Hambantota; JVP leaders blamed govt for attack; politically-connected underworld gang-leader identified as chief suspect surrendered to police; attack denounced by UNP and civil society as evidence of institutionalised impunity for rights violations and collapse of law and order. Security forces blocked, disrupted protests by Tamils displaced by military land seizures in North. President Rajapaksa’s planned 6 June speech to Commonwealth Economic Forum, London, cancelled due to security concerns following demonstrations. Ex-army commander Sarath Fonseka 14 June reiterated plan to run in next election. Indian National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon 29 June met President Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, urged serious efforts to renew negotiations with TNA, improve conditions in North. Police 29 June raided web newspaper offices, arrested 9 journalists.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Jun 2012

Unchanged

3rd anniversary of end of civil war commemorated 18-19 May, President Rajapaksa announced govt implementing some LLRC recommendations, would not be dictated to by outside powers. FM G.L. Peiris 18 May met U.S. Secretary of State Clinton during Washington visit, said inquiry into limited set of alleged war crimes by security forces had begun, but presented no concrete plan for accountability or implementation of LLRC. Govt 24 May announced establishment of new courts to accelerate trials of Tamil civil war suspects. Former army chief and Democratic National alliance leader Sarath Fonseka released 21 May following presidential remittance of sentence, terms of release bar him from political office for 7 years. Govt 13 May announced plans for Sept provincial elections in North Central, Sabaragawumuwa and Eastern provinces, but not North. Canadian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka called for full investigation amid allegations of military involvement in early May murder of Canadian citizen of Tamil origin, Kilinochichi.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 May 2012

Unchanged

Govt 22 April ordered removal of mosque in Dambulla following 19 April firebombing, 20 April protest led by Buddhist monks alleging mosque illegally built in area sacred to Buddhists; umbrella Muslim group said attack attempt to damage peaceful co-existence. “White van” abductions continued: 2 lead JVP-splinter group activists kidnapped 6 April, 3 days before launch of their new Frontline Socialist Party, released after 4 days, one deported to Australia. Indian parliamentary delegation visited 16-21 April, met with broad range of govt, party, civil society members, toured N and E, called for rapid progress on political settlement with Tamil parties, improved conditions for resettled population and return to civilian rule in N; govt rejected call to withdraw troops from N. Govt early April rejected calls for implementation of March’s HRC resolution, LLRC recommendations. Reported UN discovery of cluster bombs in N appeared to confirm use during civil war.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Apr 2012

Unchanged

UN HRC 22 March, despite aggressive lobbying by Sri Lankan govt, approved U.S. resolution calling for implementation of Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) recommendations and for govt to address international law violation allegations; govt late March announced intention to close several embassies in Europe. OHCHR 23 March condemned harassment and intimidation of Sri Lankan human rights activists, warned of future govt reprisals and called on govt to protect human rights defenders. Month saw continued reports of abductions including attempted abduction of local Colombo politician, allegedly by army soldiers; soldiers briefly detained, army said politician’s identity mistaken, soldiers looking for army deserters.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Mar 2012

Unchanged

EU 23 Feb criticised Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission shortcomings, called for full implementation of recommendations, further action on accountability, following similar position taken by U.S. mid-Feb. U.S.-drafted resolution calling on govt to implement LLRC recommendations, initiate “credible and independent investigations and prosecutions” of those responsible for war crimes presented to HRC session beginning 27 Feb. Army 15 Feb announced appointment of 5-member court of inquiry into war crimes, widely seen as delaying tactic before HRC session. Govt also facing serious domestic pressure: month saw series of strikes over economic hardship by students, bus owners, electricity workers. One fisherman shot dead by police in 15 Feb protest over fuel price hike in Chilaw town; police used tear gas, water cannons to disperse peaceful opposition protests in Colombo. Abductions and enforced disappearances continued: Tamil businessman abducted 11 Feb 2 days before due to appear in court to testify to govt torture, arbitrary detention.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Feb 2012

Unchanged

UK govt 12 Jan noted failure to address war crimes allegations in Lessons Learned Reconciliation Committee (LLRC) report, called for independent investigation and implementation of recommendations; Tamil National Alliance (TNA) 15 Jan reiterated call for war crimes inquiry. Govt 17 Jan cancelled 3-day talks with TNA, prompting fears progress indefinitely stalled. UK FCO recorded 13 disappearances, abductions or killings Nov to Dec 2011; additional abductions, disappearances reported this month. Govt supporters with police protection 25 Jan disrupted media rights protest in Colombo. Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa 10 Jan defended increased military spending, said LTTE plans to rebuild abroad, support renewed militancy in Sri Lanka. Month saw unconfirmed reports of violent attacks on Tamil activists abroad by ex-militants working with govt.

Sri Lanka

  |  2 Jan 2012

Unchanged

Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) report presented to parliament 16 Dec, said govt forces did not target civilians but some isolated incidents warrant investigation, LTTE routinely violated international humanitarian law. Tamil National Alliance (TNA) 19 Dec rejected report, called for international war crimes inquiry. U.S. expressed concern LLRC report incomplete, called for roadmap to implement recommendations, fill in “gaps”. TNA-govt talks stalled due to disagreement over provincial powers, TNA’s non-participation in parliamentary select committee. Budget passed 18 Dec, included spending increase for defence ministry. Ex-army chief Sarath Fonseka 16 Dec lost appeal against 30-month corruption sentence; President Rajapaksa 20 Dec said he would consider formal pardon request. Govt 15 Dec announced decision to implement watered-down 5-year National Human Rights Action Plan. United National Party (UNP) leader Ranil Wickremasinghe re-elected in rare leadership vote; deep divisions in party remain.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Dec 2011

Unchanged

President Mahinda Rajapaksa 20 Nov received final report of govt’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, promised eventual publication. Sec Defence Gotabaya Rajapaksa 24 Nov announced unpublished govt count of civilian dead in final months of civil war, claiming very few killed by govt forces; acknowledged for first time some soldiers may have committed crimes, promised investigation. Former army chief and presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka, in prison following two courts martial convictions, sentenced 18 Nov to additional 3 years for making “false statement” that Sec Defence Rajapaksa ordered May 2009 execution of surrendering LTTE leaders. UN committee against torture 25 Nov published conclusions expressing concern over “consistent allegations of widespread use of torture” and “prevailing climate of impunity”. Govt 5 Nov announced new regulations requiring all news websites to register; followed action blocking widely-read websites critical of govt.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Nov 2011

Unchanged

Ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) coalition won 8 Oct local elections, but failed to take Colombo, now United National Party’s (UNP) only remaining stronghold. 4 UPFA politicians murdered 8 Oct in Colombo including senior figure Baratha Lakshman Premachandra, reportedly assassinated by gunmen working for rival UPFA politician Duminda Silva, closely linked to Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa; Silva wounded in return fire. Around 1,000 people 30 Sept threw stones, set fire to police station and vehicles in town outside Colombo after young man died in police custody; 6 policemen injured. UNSG Ban 26 Oct met Sri Lankan Human Rights envoy, stressed the importance of dealing with accountability issues in context of national reconciliation. Australian Attorney Gen declined to proceed with war crimes charges filed in Australian court against President Rajapaksa. Commonwealth leaders 29 Oct affirmed Sri Lanka would host 2013 heads of govt meeting, despite calls to postpone meeting in Colombo until rights violations are investigated.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Oct 2011

Unchanged

Despite formal end of emergency on 30 Aug, key emergency regulations reintroduced under Prevention of Terrorism Act. President Rajapaksa 6 Sept invoked Public Security Ordinance to grant police powers to military. UNSG Ban 12 Sept formally transmitted panel of experts report on accountability for war crimes to president of HRC; no action taken after strong SL govt protest on procedural grounds. U.S. Asst. Sec State Blake 14 Sept called for credible, independent war crimes investigation; refrained from endorsing action by HRC. Ban 24 Sept after meeting with Rajapaksa called for “credible national accountability process”. U.S. court 23 Sept filed summons against Major Gen Shavendra Silva, former military commander and current UN envoy, following civil suit by relatives of Tamils killed in final stages of 2009 war; Silva said prepared to fight charges. Govt protested summons at UN, asserted diplomatic immunity for Silva, dismissed charges. Talks between govt and Tamil National Alliance party restarted 16 Sept after pressure from U.S., India. Govt 21 Sept announced Menik Farm refugee camp will close by early Oct; 7,400 remaining refugees to be sent to areas of newly-cleared jungle rather than home villages in areas of final battles of civil war, location of alleged war crimes. 1,800 Tamil Tiger fighters released 30 Sept as part of reintegration process.



Sri Lanka

  |  1 Sep 2011

Unchanged

President Rajapaksa 25 Aug announced govt would not renew state of emergency in Sept, in effect for most of past 30 years. Move welcomed, but govt 31 Aug reintroduced some emergency provisions through new legislation, retains broad emergency powers under repressive Prevention of Terrorism Act. Tamil and Muslim areas in N, E and central hills wracked by wave of alleged attacks on women and clashes with police and army, amid popular suspicions police and army protecting suspects; at least 5 killed in vigilante attacks, over 100 arrested. Main Tamil political alliance TNA 5 Aug suspended talks with govt until govt presents outline of political settlement; govt in response set up all-party parliamentary committee to propose “national unity” policies. 1 Aug Defence Ministry report for first time admitted civilian casualties during final months of civil war 2009 but denied war crimes, need for investigation. 5th anniversary of 2006 killing of 17 aid workers brought calls from rights advocates for effective investigation, end to impunity.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Aug 2011

Unchanged

In 23 July local elections, largest grouping of Tamil parties TNA and allies won 20 of 25 local councils contested in Tamil-dominated areas in north, east; President Rajapaksa’s ruling coalition UPFA won all other contested councils. Local monitoring groups alleged violence against TNA supporters, voter intimidation by army before vote. International pressure on govt mounted after UK Channel 4 documentary alleging 2009 war crimes screened on Indian, Australian TV and before U.S. Congress. Unnamed Army officers quoted 27 July by Channel 4 said alleged May 2009 execution of surrendering LTTE ordered by Defence Secretary and former general now UN Deputy Ambassador; govt rejected claims. UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox, Indian Foreign Ministry, U.S. State Dept reiterated calls for govt to investigate war crimes allegations raised in film. Military 5 July lifted restrictions on foreigners visiting Northern Province, said NGOs still need permits to work there.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Jul 2011

Unchanged

14 June documentary on UK Channel 4 contained videos showing alleged war crimes by govt forces during final months of civil war; UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings 30 May confirmed authenticity of parts of footage, said showed “definitive war crimes”. Responding to video, UK 15 June reiterated calls for independent investigation, said expected “progress” on investigations by Sri Lanka by end 2011. Military 16 June forcibly disbanded meeting of Tamil TNA MPs in Jaffna, claimed TNA lacked permission for meeting. Parliament 21 June rejected bill to increase press freedom. Hundreds of factory workers protested 30 May against govt’s proposed private pension law; at least 1 killed as police fired on protesters in Katunayake. Police Inspector General resigned after accepting responsibility for shooting, later nominated ambassador to Brazil.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Jun 2011

Unchanged

Govt yet to offer detailed response to Apr UN panel of experts report calling for international mechanism to examine alleged war crimes by LTTE, govt forces during 2009 end of civil war; Western govts, EU during month called on govt to act on panel’s recommendations, but stopped short of endorsing international investigation. Following FM Peiris’ visit to India mid-month, New Delhi 17 May in strongly-worded statement urged govt to lift emergency regulations, investigate alleged human rights violations during civil war. Court 12 May lifted block of pro-opposition website Lanka eNews. Student unions 19 May petitioned Supreme Court to end new program requiring all university students to undergo three weeks’ “leadership training” by military.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 May 2011

Unchanged

UN panel of experts 25 Apr released report on accountability in Sri Lanka; finds “credible allegations” govt, LTTE committed serious violations amounting to war crimes during final stage of 2009 civil war, says govt shelling responsible for most of “tens of thousands” civilian deaths.* Report recommends independent international investigation, but UNSG Ban 25 Apr said he first needs consent of Sri Lankan govt or mandate from UN Human Rights Council, GA or UNSC, where China and Russia likely to veto. FM Peiris 13 Apr said report “biased”, “fundamentally flawed”, warned UN against releasing it; President Rajapaksa 17 Apr called for mass protests against UN on 1 May; UN said protests could endanger its staff. U.S. State Dept annual report on human rights 9 Apr said President Rajapaksa’s family “dominates” politics, accused security forces of “unlawful” killings. Police 25 Apr shut down Lanka eNews website, arrested 1 of its journalists; part of continuing govt harassment of independent media.

* Text changed 30 May 2011: “credible evidence” replaced with “credible allegations”.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Apr 2011

Unchanged

Ruling UPFA coalition won 203 of 234 councils in 14 March local govt elections; main Tamil party TNA won most seats in Tamil northern and eastern areas. Opposition UNP party claimed fraud, violence favouring govt, including 7 March grenade attack against Tamil MP in Nochiyagama town. Attorney General 3 March said govt would suspend registration of Tamil civilians in north, but group of TNA MPs 14 March claimed registration continues, requested hearing by Supreme Court. PM Jayaratne 11 March retracted claim, made earlier in March, that LTTE regrouping in training camps in Indian state Tamil Nadu, said he relied on false information. U.S. Senate 1 March passed unanimous resolution calling for independent international investigation into possible war crimes committed during final months of civil war; U.S. Asst Sec State Robert Blake said Sri Lankan govt could “force” independent investigation if its own panel probing civil war (LLRC) fails to meet international standards.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Mar 2011

Unchanged

Thousands rallied in Colombo 8 Feb to mark 1-year anniversary of detention of opposition leader Sarath Fonseka; similar opposition protests 4 Feb attacked by govt supporters. UN 18 Feb said some 5,000 suspected LTTE members still held in camps without access to lawyers or ICRC. Opposition UNP 14 Feb said considering legal action against govt over restriction placed on opposition campaigning in north ahead of March local council elections. UNSG Ban 8 Feb said panel of experts advising him on accountability options for alleged war crimes will visit Sri Lanka, but no sign trip would happen as panel reached end of month reporting deadline.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Feb 2011

Unchanged

UN panel advising on possible war crimes investigation yet to visit Sri Lanka after failing to agree terms with govt; deadline for panel’s report extended to end Feb.  Group of Tamil MPs 6 Jan submitted report to parliament on wave of robberies, abductions and killings in north in Dec, Jan; pro-govt paramilitary groups suspected; govt called reports exaggerated. In testimony to govt commission investigating civil war (LLRC), local Mannar bishop said 150,000 disappeared civilians still unaccounted for, criticised continued large military presence in north. Govt announced local council elections to be held 17 March; several smaller Tamil parties will contest jointly with main Tamil party TNA. After 13 Jan meeting with TNA leader, President Rajapaksa said willing to “share powers” with Tamil minority, but did not specify how or time frame.

Sri Lanka

  |  3 Jan 2011

Unchanged

President Rajapaksa 1 Dec forced to cancel speech at Oxford University after Tamil groups threatened large-scale protests; attempts to have UK court arrest senior military officer in president’s entourage for war crimes failed after target left UK early. UN 7 Dec said most of some 300,000 displaced during end of civil war now resettled, but some 20,000 remain in camps in north. Govt 17 Dec said will allow UN war crimes investigation panel to visit Sri Lanka, reversing previous ban; 30 Dec said panel only allowed to testify before govt’s own commission investigating civil war (LLRC), not conduct own investigation. LLRC hearings continued: doctor present in war zone testified half of families in Vanni had at least 1 family member killed.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Dec 2010

Unchanged

President Rajapaksa sworn in for second term 19 Nov; 23 Nov announced new 90-member cabinet, including members of Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, previously in opposition. Govt 9 Nov extended term of own panel investigating civil war by 6 months; panel early Nov submitted “interim report”, urging govt to address some grievances of Tamils; govt 14 Nov removed ban on BBC attending panel’s sessions in Jaffna. Govt 23 Nov announced order forcing ICRC to close offices in north, no firm date announced; 10 Nov announced all foreign and national NGO workers required to register with defence ministry. Rajapaksa 14 Nov said all 70,000 Muslims expelled from north by LTTE in 1990 will be resettled; rights groups raised concerns over reports govt settling ethnic Sinhalese in majority Tamil areas in north.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Nov 2010

Unchanged

Ex-army chief Sarath Fonseka 7 Oct stripped of parliamentary seat after late Sept sentence to 30 months’ hard labour for corruption; Fonseka’s DNA party said will appeal verdict. Criminal trial of Fonseka began early Oct on charges of falsely accusing Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa of ordering execution of surrendering LTTE leaders. 3 international NGOs, including Crisis Group, 14 Oct declined invitation to testify before govt panel investigating civil war, citing its lack of impartiality, witness protection and mandate to investigate war crimes. Govt 16 Oct claimed some 4,500 of 11,000 suspected LTTE fighters detained after 2009 end of civil war had been released and “reintegrated into society”. PM Jayaratne 20 Oct urged extension of wartime emergency laws, claiming Tamil diaspora leaders trying to revive LTTE. Govt 19 Oct announced 6% increase in defense spending for 2011 budget.

Crisis Group Statement, “Crisis Group Refuses to Appear Before Flawed Commission”, 14 Oct. 2010.

“Sri Lanka’s jailed ex-army boss loses parliament seat”, Reuters, 7 Oct. 2010.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Oct 2010

Deteriorated

Sri Lanka Parliament 8 Sept approved constitutional amendment removing presidential term limits, abolishing Constitutional Council, and granting president power to directly appoint officials to judiciary, police, electoral bodies; main opposition group UNP boycotted vote, said amendment opens way for “dictatorship” under President Rajapaksa. U.S. 11 Sept registered concern over consolidation of presidential power. Hearings before govt panel investigating civil war continued, including in North, where panel heard from Tamils whose family members serving with Tamil Tigers went missing after surrendering to army May 2009; other witnesses accused army of killing civilians, urged govt to apologise to war victims. UNSG Ban’s panel of experts for Sri Lanka war crimes began work 16 Sept. Ex-army chief Sarath Fonseka sentenced by court martial to 3 years’ jail 17 Sept for corruption; said would fight sentence. IMF 24 Sept agreed to release $213mn loan instalment.



 

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Sep 2010

Unchanged

Govt’s own panel investigating civil war started public hearings 11 Aug; 5 Aug U.S. State Dept report raised serious concerns about impartiality and effectiveness of panel. Ex-army chief Sarath Fonseka 13 Aug convicted in court martial of involvement in politics while in the military, stripped of his military rank; still faces 3 separate criminal cases. 2 prominent opposition MPs 6 Aug defected to pro-govt UPFA block; 30 Aug decision by chief Muslim party to support govt’s proposed constitutional changes guarantees required two-thirds majority for passage. The Elders group 3 Aug criticised govt’s post-war conduct, including clampdown on domestic critics, refusal to cooperate with international war crimes investigation, continued marginalisation of Tamil minority. Rights groups raised concerns over increasingly tight govt restrictions on NGO access to northern areas previously under LTTE control.

Sri Lanka

  |  1 Aug 2010

Unchanged

Housing Minister Wimal Weerawansa led protests from 6 July against UN advisory panel on possible human rights abuses during civil war, announced June, outside Colombo UN compound; UNSG Ban 8 July closed UNDP regional office, recalled top envoy for consultation over govt’s failure to prevent protesters from disrupting UN work; U.S., EU 9 July condemned protests. EU 5 July confirmed withdrawal of GSP+ trade concession for Sri Lanka from 15 Aug after govt ignored EU’s conditions, including improving human rights and withdrawing war-time emergency laws. Police 13 July launched new case against ex-army chief and current MP Sarath Fonseka over employing army deserters during 2009 presidential campaign; Fonseka still in military custody, facing 2 courts martial.

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