Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Printer-Friendly Version

Comments on the 2006 Human Rights Watch Report

by M. Saravan

Is this deliberate continued denial of the rights, opportunities and freedoms of Tamil civilians in the northeast, who have endured tremendous hardships for over two decades, not an unquestionable denial of human rights and worthy of mention in your Report?   

Comments on 2006 HRW Report with Special Reference to Sri Lanka

HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth, in his opening remarks to the Report ,has stressed that “fighting terrorism is central to the human rights cause.” There can be no dispute on this statement, if only it is applied equitably to all parties in question, including governments, which have a priori the supreme responsibility for proper governance of all their citizens.

Good governance is the central issue that is at the root of the ethnic, religious, political and related failures in Sri Lanka.  

The perception of human rights violations, by reference to your assessment on the Sri Lanka situation, lies in the eyes of the beholders. To highlight human rights violations caused by a non-state actor, even in the absence of evidence, while glossing over worse forms of human rights abuses by the State cannot, ipso facto, be right, when, in fact, violations from any source cause palpable terror to the unfortunate recipients.

To use the biblical saying, “to cast dirt from one party, while ignoring the dirt in the eyes of the other” is both unfair, unreasonable and exhibits distinct bias. One does not have to belong to one party or another to expect a fair Report on a sensitive subject by a Human Rights Organisation. One can expect such a report to be based on justice and balanced treatment.  More so, when human rights violations have caused enormous misery and bitterness to affected civilians in the country.  

Let me illustrate the foregoing by way of comments to your observations on Sri Lanka:  

Political Killings  

The reference in your Report regarding the assassination of the former Foreign Minister is based on the innuendo that it was carried out by the LTTE. How is it possible for HRW to come to this conclusion when even the police investigations have not been not completed and noone has been taken to the Courts to date? Is this conclusion not, therefore, based on propaganda and bias? Besides, a number of suspects have been released after arrest. One of those released has filed action against the state for defamation and damages.

On the other hand, your Report surprisingly fails to make any mention of the assassination of a Tamil Member of Parliament for Batticaloa, the late Mr. Pararajasingham, a doughty defender of human rights of the Tamil people, inside the precincts of a church in the east located inside a government-controlled area, while attending mass last Christmas eve. So far the results of police investigations, if any, are unknown.  

The Report also has no mention of the assaults, disappearances, rape and killings and counter killings in the northeast in government-controlled areas since the election of the new President last November. All these crimes reveal the failure of the due process and equal protection under the law to citizens by their government. The clear responsibilities of the government in such areas due to the involvement of paramilitaries, contrary to the terms of the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA), have been acknowledged both by the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission and by the Co-Chairs of the Peace Process.  

The Report gives publicity to numerical violations of the CFA and compares the LTTE and Government but fails, crucially, to highlight the gross failure on the part of Government to implement a single one of the clauses in the CFA affecting the welfare and livelihoods of civilians, such a withdrawing troops from civilian areas, ever since it was signed in 2002. Is this deliberate continued denial of the rights, opportunities and freedoms of Tamil civilians in the northeast, who have endured tremendous hardships for over two decades, not an unquestionable denial of human rights and worthy of mention in your Report?   

Human rights violations during 2005 have not only been of ethnic origin. Abuses have also taken a new turn by causing damage to religious places of Christian worship and assaults on Sinhala Christians in the south. As far as known, not a single case has been taken to Courts. But such occurrences are not reflected in the Report. Political observers are well aware that this new development is a reflection of the continuing process to establish a highly centralised Sinhala Buddhist state as envisaged in the present constitution.


The failure of the P-TOMS tsunami agreement to share even foreign aid proves much more than an enunciation of the events that led to its failure. It clearly establishes that the Sinhala state is not concerned about good governance for its Tamil citizens, despite their areas being destroyed by a catastrophic natural disaster.   

Child Soldiers  

The continuing occurrence of this problem against the backdrop of the war in the northeast carried out for over two decades, despite progress made in recent years, seems to demonstrate that it cannot be wished away so long as a return to war looms large on the horizon.

It is also quite disconcerting that, while HRW has shown an understandable concern about this issue, HRW has totally ignored the other issues affecting the thousands of war orphaned adn deprived children resulting from the killing fields of the northeast. Is their plight, its causes and cures not important? The Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol note quite explicitly other issues affecting children in war, such as humanitarian access and rights to education.

The Report has not touched at all on other aspects of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, such as sexual exploitation and child labour issues in the country, but which simply dwarf the child soldier problem in terms of numbers affected. The differential treatment and silence on such vital issues are not well understood, except to point distinctly to bias.        

Key International Players  

Reference has already been made to the call to the Government of Sri Lanka by the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission and the Co-Chairs to halt killings by paramilitaries operating within government controlled areas in the northeast. The responsibilities cast upon both Government and the LTTE to observe and implement the Ceasefire Agreement and provide a conducive environment for a peaceful resolution of the conflict are contained  in a recent  notification dated 12 January 2006 issued by the EU Commissioner for External Relations. This development signifies a landmark balanced approach towards solving the internal civil conflict.         

  • Publication date: