Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions Sri Lanka Statement

Except that in one instance the Rapporteur is blatantly not evenhanded, his report is overall worthwhile. -- Editor view01/C8D92FFE31B6F259C12570D00047D61F?opendocument

Professor Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions issued the following statement on 6 December in Colombo:

Philip Alston, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, today called upon the parties to the conflict in Sri Lanka to take more determined action to tackle the killings that have plagued the country in recent days.

"The failure to effectively investigate the killings has resulted in many areas of the North and East becoming zones of impunity for killers with different motivations and affiliations", Mr. Alston said, speaking at the end of a visit to Sri Lanka that started on 28 November. "This in turn generates inflammatory and often contradictory rumours that risk giving way to cycles of retaliation".

Mr. Alston denounced the widespread killings of Tamil and Muslim civilians and members of the LTTE and security forces during the course of his visit. "I condemn these attacks without reservation and urge all parties to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation and prevent this tide of violence rising further," he said.

He said immediate confidence-building measures were needed to prevent killings and strengthen the accountability of those responsible. This would require far more effective police investigation, a role for the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) that includes investigation as well as monitoring, and unequivocal denunciations of killings by all parties.

Mr. Alston noted that the LTTE issues many denials of involvement. But he said these statements were not credible in the face of evidence he had gathered and stopped short of unequivocal denunciation of such acts. [Note that this release does not mention the involvement of the Sri Lankan security forces in the killing of Tamil and Muslim civilians and members of the LTTE. Their denials are equally not credible in the face of evidence. Note, for instance, the paragraph below about the grenade attack on the Akkaraipattu Mosque, which has now been claimed by members of the Karuna group that currently openly operating in GoSL areas of Ampara. See the TamilNet story on the Akkaraipattu incident. See the Tamil Guardian editorial about security forces-backed paramilitary violence.]

The upsurge in extrajudicial killings has been accompanied by a vacuum of investigative responsibility. "The Sri Lanka Police have lost much of their appetite for serious investigations. While the difficulties they face must be acknowledged, they have in too many cases become a recording agency", Mr. Alston said. "This deters witnesses from coming forward and leaves the groups involved free to accuse one another regardless of the facts which might emerge from serious investigation".

Mr. Alston noted that the attack last month on the Akkairapattu mosque which killed six persons and seriously wounded 29 others was a case in point. Visiting the mosque to meet with victims, Alston condemned this particularly heinous act, involving the violation of a place of worship and an assault on innocent parties at prayer.

Mr. Alston encouraged the Government and LTTE to explore models for strengthened human rights monitoring, including an enhanced role for the SLMM. The SLMM should be accorded a stronger and better equipped role to enable it to carry out more in-depth monitoring of killings and to publicly report its findings of the facts in different cases. The Minister of Foreign Affairs said the Government had a long-standing desire to strengthen the effectiveness of monitoring arrangements, and LTTE leader Thamilchelvan indicated that the SLMM's role should be upgraded and 'given teeth'.

"While both parties should continue to explore other, specialized models for human rights monitoring, strengthening the role of the SLMM on these issues would be an important first step in promoting respect for human rights and building confidence among the parties and the people," Mr. Alston said.

During his visits to the southern, eastern, and northern regions of Sri Lanka, he met with a number of victims of the recent violence. He also met with senior officials of the Government, with representatives of political parties and civil society, with Muslim community leaders, with senior representatives of the LTTE, with the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, and members of the diplomatic community.