Time for Justice in Sri Lanka

‘The New York Times’ editorial, January 28, 2016

Just a little over a year ago, voters in Sri Lanka rallied to elect a new president, with high hopes that he would usher in a new era of government accountability and bring healing to a country fractured by the brutal civil war that ended in 2009. President Maithripala Sirisena has taken bold steps to fulfill those hopes since his election last January.

But the wounds of war cannot be healed until a transitional justice process demanded by the United Nations in a resolution last October moves forward. On that score, Mr. Sirisena says his government will not act “in haste.” This is unacceptable. Atrocities were committed by both Tamil rebel troops and the Sri Lankan Army during the civil war. The perpetrators must be brought to trial.

Mr. Sirisena has amply demonstrated a capacity to lead during the year he has held office. He has presided over promised parliamentary elections, and has moved to dismantle the cronyism and the repressive regime of his predecessor, Mahinda Rajapaksa. He has also moved to include Sri Lanka’s minority Tamils and Muslims in the country’s governance, to release political prisoners and to allow more freedom of expression. And he has righted the Rajapaksa government’s tilt toward China, taking a balanced approach to Sri Lanka’s foreign relations that includes warmer relations with India and the United States. This month, Mr. Sirisena announced the beginning of a process to draft a new constitution.

These are welcome steps. But they are no substitute for justice. Troubling allegations of torture under Mr. Sirisena’s watch — which his government denies — must be addressed. Military leaders who oversaw the bloody operations that killed as many as 40,000 Tamil civilians in the final months of the war remain in command, and have even been promoted. A dangerous anti-Muslim campaign by Singhalese nationalists is threatening to further fray Sri Lanka’s ethnic fabric.

Last fall, the United Nations agreed to allow Sri Lanka to set up its own special court on war crimes. Mr. Sirisena needs to move quickly to fulfill his government’s obligation to the United Nations and its moral duty to Sri Lankans.

US Ambassador to UN’s Remarks on Sri Lanka’s Disappeared

Remarks at the UN Security Council Arria-Formula Meeting on the Global Challenge of Accounting for Missing Persons

United States Mission to the United Nations Logo

Ambassador Samantha Power
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
January 27, 2016


Thank you, so much. Ambassador Rycroft, thank you for focusing the Council on this important issue, the, I think, emotional weight of which is hard to capture here in five minute interventions. But the work that each of the people on the panel do every day is incredibly taxing, not least because one is so rarely able to bring good news to the family members that are searching for the people most dear to them. But we are in awe, really, of the work that all of you do – it’s critical.

In recent months, I’ve had the opportunity to visit two countries afflicted by huge numbers of missing and disappeared: Sri Lanka and Mexico. While of course the history and the causes of the problem in each context, and any other context, is completely distinct – and these two countries by no means represent the full spectrum of the problem around the world – I was struck on these two visits by how many of the same themes emerged in my meetings with victims’ families as well as those with NGOs and government officials. So I’d just like to highlight three of those themes very briefly.

The first is the obvious: it’s just the enduring and all-encompassing, searing pain and hardship experienced by families who have had a loved one disappear. Relatives of victims in both Mexico and Sri Lanka spoke of how disappearances upended virtually every aspect of their lives. And we can all imagine if this happened to us the way in which we would not be able to function in the way we once had. Many of those I spoke with withdrew from their communities out of depression or fear; breadwinners often stopped going to work, dedicating themselves instead to searching for their loved ones; children could not sleep at night or focus in school. One mother in Monterrey, Mexico – where I had the privilege of meeting with some of the families working with Sister Consuelo’s remarkable organization, CAHDAC – described the anguish as, “something that overwhelms your entire body.” Another mother in Monterrey told me that every time there was a knock on the door or her phone rang, she hoped it would be her son who had been abducted years earlier. The lack of answers about the fate of loved ones prevents them from obtaining any sense of the closure needed to begin healing.

Second, in many instances, families’ sense of impotence was exacerbated by the routine failure of authorities to take basic steps to search for the missing or to bring to justice those responsible. The lack of proper investigations doesn’t just hurt families – it also sends a message to perpetrators that they can continue to disappear people with impunity. In both Mexico and Sri Lanka, I heard from families who reported cases to authorities, only to see them sit on key investigative leads or misplace crucial evidence. Others were discouraged or even threatened by the very officials whose job it was to help them. In Jaffna, Sri Lanka, just a couple months ago a mother told me how, in March of 2009 she had seen men in military uniforms abduct her 16-year-old daughter, and had been beaten when she tried to intervene. Yet despite promptly reporting that crime to officials, the mother told me, she had never heard anything back. She has spent nearly every day of the six years since searching for her daughter, whose whereabouts remain unknown.

Yet I also saw efforts, as have been described here today, in Mexico and in Sri Lanka that show the possibility for progress. This leads me to my third and final point, which is that we have to do a better job of replicating best practices across the places hardest hit by disappearances – like Syria today, where thousands of people have been disappeared during the brutal conflict – including human rights defenders like Razan Zeitunah; and Iraq, where, as survivor Nadia Murad told the Council last month, at least 3,000 Yazidi women and girls have been abducted by ISIL.

Let me share just a few bright spots. In Monterrey – as we heard from Sister Consuelo – an effort bringing together victims’ families, human rights defenders, and local prosecutors to search for the disappeared has helped rebuild trust, strengthen investigations, and put a dent in a culture of impunity. In Sri Lanka, the Sirisena government passed landmark legislation in September 2015 to issue “missing” certificates to the families of victims – a reform aimed at ending the harmful practice of forcing families to sign death certificates for missing persons in order to access basic services, a dilemma that the panelists have alluded to. In the Balkans, as we just heard, the International Commission on Missing Persons helped set up a credible, comprehensive set of databases on unidentified human remains and the DNA of victims’ relatives, which helped determine the fates of tens of thousands of victims – including 90 percent of the 8,000 people who were massacred at Srebrenica in 1995.

Such efforts are indispensable in countries like Mexico and Sri Lanka, which lack credible, comprehensive databases, and where building them could help thousands of families obtain answers that they have long yearned for.

Let me conclude. At the end of my meeting with families of the disappeared in Monterrey, they sang a song that they sing at the end of their weekly meetings. Composed decades ago by an Argentine musician, it is about the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo – a group of women who, since the Dirty War, have held demonstrations in front of the country’s presidential mansion to demand answers about the disappearances of their sons and daughters. While the song was written about the mothers in Argentina – many of whom are still looking for their children some four decades later – it rings true for so many families of the disappeared worldwide. So let me close by reading to you a verse from that song:

“We still sing, we still ask,

We still dream, we still wait,

For a different day,

Without burden or fasting,

Without fear and without crying,

Because to the nest,

Our loved ones will return.”

I thank you.

HRW: 2016 World Report

by Human Rights Watch, New York, January 2016

Human Rights Watch

Sri Lanka

Events of 2015

Elections in Sri Lanka brought about momentous changes after nearly a decade of increasingly autocratic rule. In January 2015, President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government, in power since 2006, lost to a united opposition front led by Maithripala Sirisena, a former health minister. In August, Ranil Wickramsinghe, longtime leader of the largest opposition party, was elected prime minister.

The new government quickly abolished surveillance and censorship of media and civil society groups, embarked on constitutional reforms to restrict executive powers, and took steps to restore the independence of the judiciary. In contrast to the combative approach of the Rajapaksa government, it also initiated a new, more open dialogue with the international community, including human rights organizations.

However, the government took no significant measures to end impunity for security force abuse, including police use of torture. At time of writing, the government also had not yet repealed the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), despite promises to do so, and continued to detain people under it. Following a sustained hunger strike by an estimated 200 PTA detainees, the government in November released some on bail, sent others for rehabilitation, and pledged to charge and try the rest.

In August, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) issued a scathing report on abuses committed by all sides during Sri Lanka’s 1983-2009 armed conflict with the secessionist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The report, which was mandated by a March 2014 Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution on Sri Lanka, documented credible accounts of unlawful attacks, killings, enforced disappearances, torture, sexual violence, and attacks on humanitarian assistance .

Following the report, HRC member states endorsed a resolution calling on the Sri Lankan government to implement the report’s many recommendations, including to establish a special counsel to investigate and prosecute alleged wartime abuses, and to include foreign judges and prosecutors in a Sri Lankan tribunal.

The government began to investigate some emblematic cases of serious human rights violations during the conflict, including the killing and enforced disappearance of journalists.

Constitutional Reforms

In June, the new government brought in the 19th amendment to the constitution. It places new checks on the power of the executive and seeks to restore the independence of police, judicial, human rights, and election commissions. Although the amendment was not as far-reaching as initially proposed, it limits the presidential term and increases the powers of the prime minister. In September, the government announced that it had established a Constitutional Council which, in turn, will oversee appointments to the independent commissions. Long-time human rights advocates were appointed to the Commission on Human Rights, a body that had been moribund during the Rajapaksa years.

The government has promised to seek further constitutional and legislative changes on electoral reforms and devolution of powers.

Accountability for Past Abuses

In September, the OHCHR, as mandated by a Human Rights Council resolution in 2014, published its report investigating allegations of unlawful attacks on civilians, killings, disappearances, rape and sexual violence, forced recruitment of children, and the intentional denial of humanitarian assistance, and other violations of international law by the government and the LTTE.

The report documented serious violations and called on the government to establish a “hybrid” justice mechanism, including both domestic and international investigators and prosecutors, to adopt legislation criminalizing war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and enforced disappearances without a statute of limitations, and to enact command responsibility as a mode of liability.

Based on the OHCHR report, the Human Rights Council, with Sri Lanka’s acquiesence,  adopted a consensus resolution that recommended establishing a special court “integrating international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators” with an independent Sri Lankan investigative and prosecuting body. The resolution was left with the Sri Lankan government to work out the details for this body, including the role and number of the tribunal’s foreign judges and prosecutors. The government has since turned to civil society groups from across the country for their input on this and a resolution-endorsed truth and reconciliation commission.

The Sri Lankan government, through the resolution, accepted many recommendations to improve the country’s human rights situation, including a repeal of the PTA and reforms to the Witness and Victim Protection Law. The government also agreed to accelerate the return of land to its rightful civilian owners; to end military involvement in civilian activities in the country’s north and east; to investigate allegations of attacks on members of civil society, media, and religious minorities; and to reach a settlement on the devolution of authority to the provinces.

Some key undertakings in the resolution include the establishment of a dedicated office on enforced disappearances; a truth, justice, and reconciliation commission; and an office on reparations. The government also released two sets of presidential commission reports on human rights violations, which included reports that had been completed, but not made public in May 2009.

In November, the government began planning public consultations throughout the country as an initial step towards the establishment of these offices.

In November, the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances visited Sri Lanka at the invitation of the government. The group noted the almost complete lack of accountability for disappearances and the lack of sustained efforts to uncover the truth about what happened to the victims. The group also expressed concern that some of the people they had met with on their trip were subsequently visited by members of the security forces and were questioned about their meeting with the group.

In May, the government appointed as its new army chief, a senior officer whose division was implicated in serious human rights abuses. Maj. Gen. Jagath Dias led the Army’s 57th Division during the last two years of the civil war, and his promotion created concerns that the new government, like its predecessor, would shield senior military personnel from accountability.

Police Torture and Ill-Treatment

Police in Sri Lanka continued to routinely torture and ill-treat individuals taken into custody to extract “confessions,” but also for personal vendettas or to extort funds.

While Sri Lanka has legislation prohibiting torture, the government failed to ensure disciplinary or criminal prosecutions against police officers and their superiors. Many alleged perpetrators remained in active duty or were merely transferred to another police station. Only in a handful of particularly egregious cases in the media spotlight was serious action taken against the offending officers. Even in those cases, superior officers were not held to account as a matter of command responsibility.

Victims of torture and their families faced a daunting path to redress and justice. Those of limited means, particularly from rural communities, often found the various procedural steps overwhelming and prohibitively expensive. Many reported ongoing harassment by the police when back in their villages.

Prevention of Terrorism Act and Politically Motivated Torture

Sri Lanka’s new government agreed to review and repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act, though said it would replace the law with new counter-terrorism legislation. The PTA has long been used to hold suspected LTTE members and others without charge or trial for years. In spite of promises to make the whereabouts of all detainees known to their relatives, many family members received no information about where, or indeed if, their loved ones are detained.

The PTA allows for arrests for unspecified “unlawful activities” without warrant and permits detention for up to 18 months without producing the suspect before a court. The government need not charge the person with an offense; many PTA detainees have been held for years without charge. And the act provides immunity from prosecution for government officials who may commit wrongful acts, such as torture, under the legislation.

The PTA facilitated thousands of abuses over the years, including torture to obtain “confessions,” enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial executions. The law has been used since the end of the war, including under the present government, to detain and torture people suspected of links to the LTTE, including forcibly returned asylum seekers. Many instances of torture, sexual violence, and other ill-treatment occured in the Criminal Investigation Division and Terrorist Investigation Division offices in Colombo and elsewhere, while others occured in unofficial places of detention.

In November, the government announced a plan to deal with the Tamil detainees held under the PTA. At time of writing, authorities had released 39 detainees on bail and sent a further 99 for rehabilitation, although the exact contours of the rehabilitation program remained unclear. The government has pledged to charge and try the rest.

In October, the government decided to issue official certificates to the families of the disappeared affirming their status as “missing” instead of “deceased.” This allows for the families to obtain certain benefits while being more sensitive to the families’ emotional needs and the need for a continued investigation into their cases.

Migrant Workers

More than one million Sri Lankans are employed overseas and many remained at risk of abuse at every stage of the migration cycle, from recruitment and transit, to employment, repatriation, and reintegration. More than a third of Sri Lanka’s migrants are domestic workers, almost exclusively female. The government took some steps to protect their rights abroad, but many continued to face long working hours with little rest, delayed or unpaid wages, confinement in the workplace, and verbal, physical, and sexual abuse.

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Sri Lanka criminalizes “unnatural” sex, acts of “gross indecency,” and “cheating the public by impersonation.” Police have used these and other laws, such as a vaguely defined “vagrancy” prohibition, to target LGBT people. In 2014, government officials told the United Nations Human Rights Committee that the Sri Lankan Constitution’s equal protection clause “protects persons from stigmatization and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identities,” but neither the constitution nor any other law expressly prohibits discrimination on such grounds.

Key International Actors

The United Nations Human Rights Council in October adopted by consensus a resolution calling on Sri Lanka to establish a credible accountability mechanism, with the involvement of Commonwealth and foreign judges, prosecutors and investigators. The United States, United Kingdom, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Australia, among others, sponsored the resolution.

Since it was adopted by consensus, the resolution brought on board key states that did not support the previous resolution in March, notably India.

However, concerns remained about the failure of sponsoring states to ensure proper provisions for international oversight of implementation of the terms of the resolution. The resolution only calls for an oral update from the high commissioner during the council’s 32nd session in June 2016 and a written implementation report at the 34th session in March 2017. The US and other sponors backed away from including language on certain important issues, such as having a majority international judicial presence and command responsibility.


HRW: Fulfill Rights Council Call for Justice

Foreign Judges, Prosecutors are Crucial to Prosecuting Wartime Abuses

by Human Rights Watch, January 25, 2015

(New York) – The Sri Lankan government should fulfill its commitments to the United Nations Human Rights Council by ensuring that foreign judges and prosecutors play a significant role in the mandated accountability mechanism for wartime abuses, Human Rights Watch said today. On January 21, 2016, President Maithripala Sirisena told the BBC, contrary to Sri Lanka’s council commitments, that he will “never agree to international involvement,” saying “[w]e have more than enough specialists, experts and knowledgeable people in our country to solve our internal issues.”
Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena at the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan, New York on September 27, 2015. © 2015 Reuters


Human Rights Council member and observer countries that backed the consensus October 2015 resolution, should make clear that foreign participation in a war crimes tribunal was already decided by the council and is not subject to renegotiation. After adoption of the resolution, Sri Lanka told the council that it was pleased to join as a co-sponsor “as a further manifestation of Sri Lanka’s commitment to implement the provisions of the resolution, in a manner that its objectives are shared by the people and all stakeholders in the country, for their benefit.”

“The Sri Lankan government sought international involvement to ensure justice and accountability so there’s no excuse for backtracking now,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “President Sirisena needs to understand that international participation in a war crimes tribunal was not a vague promise to the UN but a firm commitment to the thousands of Sri Lankans who suffered during the country’s long civil war.”

President Sirisena’s statement comes just weeks before a scheduled visit to the country by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. The high commissioner’s office released a report detailing wartime abuses by both sides, calling for a “hybrid” justice mechanism given the shortcomings of domestic institutions to ensure impartial investigations and witness protection, and the Sri Lankan government’s failure to take meaningful accountability measures since the war ended in May 2009. The 2015 Human Rights Council resolution affirms the importance of participation in a justice mechanism of “Commonwealth and other foreign judges … and authorized prosecutors and investigators.”

The countries that worked so closely with Sri Lanka at the Human Rights Council last year have a responsibility to ensure that this important resolution will be properly adopted. The real rights gains made by the Sirisena administration will rapidly fade if the families of wartime victims feel that their one hope for justice was dropped on the basis of political calculations. — Brad Adams, Asia director

In line with its commitments, the government should be implementing its plans for a war crimes tribunal with international participation, a Commission for Truth, Justice, Reconciliation, and Non-recurrence, and an Office on Missing Persons. Progress on those commitments has been slow and not wholly transparent. A task force on consultations on the Human Rights Council resolution has been established, but there is little public information about its mandate and terms of reference. Victims and their representative groups have not been informed about the consultation, leaving many feeling isolated and shut out from a process ostensibly intended to provide real justice to them. The recent statements by the president and prime minister, who said that all missing persons are presumed dead, raise concerns that consultations will merely be window dressing for a predetermined outcome.

“The countries that worked so closely with Sri Lanka at the Human Rights Council last year have a responsibility to ensure that this important resolution will be properly adopted,” Adams said. “The real rights gains made by the Sirisena administration will rapidly fade if the families of wartime victims feel that their one hope for justice was dropped on the basis of political calculations.”

Sri Lanka’s Torture Machine Continues in Peacetime

By Jared Ferrie, IRIN Asia, January 7, 2016

The abuses carry echoes of the not-so-distant past.

War erupted in the early 1980s in the island nation when the Tamil Tigers began fighting for an independent homeland for the ethnic Tamil minority, which had suffered discrimination under the Sinhalese majority. The conflict finally ended in May 2009 with the defeat of the Tamil Tigers, but by then more than 100,000 people had been killed, mostly civilians.

Thousands more civilians disappeared during the war in a practice that became known as “white vanning”, because of the choice of vehicle used by the security agents.

Sri Lanka’s government resisted international pressure to investigate crimes committed during the war. But the political dynamic changed a year ago when President Maithripala Sirisena took power after a closely fought election. His government has initiated programmes aimed at reconciliation, and even promised a truth commission.

SEE: Will UN report bring justice for Sri Lanka war victims?

The new report by the International Truth and Justice Project is based on testimonies from 20 victims who were abducted during the past year under Sirisena’s tenure. It raises questions about how sincere the government is about reconciliation, and about how much control it has over security forces.

“Sadly Sri Lanka’s notorious ‘white vans’ are still operating; it’s very much business as usual,” said ITJP’s executive director Yasmin Sooka in a statement.

Sooka is a former member of truth commissions in South Africa and Sierra Leone, and was a legal adviser the United Nations secretary general on accountability in Sri Lanka after the war. The identities of most members of the ITJP are kept secret to allow them to work, but they include prosecutors and researchers who have worked with international war crimes tribunals. The ITJP is administered by the Foundation for Human Rights, which was set up by the South African government under the leadership of former president Nelson Mandela.

Here are some key points included in the report:

· All victims were Tamil and many had come home from other countries or came out of hiding in Sri Lanka, because they felt secure after the change in government. The most recent abduction was last month.

· Researchers interviewed 15 men and five women in four countries. In addition to other corroborating evidence of torture, several victims had fresh wounds and two were still bleeding at the time of the interviews.

· Torture occurred in well-equipped rooms and included being hung upside-down and beaten, being branded with metal rods, and asphyxiated using a plastic bag soaked with petrol or chili. Both male and female victims were raped repeatedly.

· The perpetrators were members of the police and military intelligence, and some were senior officers. The torture took place in army bases in the former war zone, at Terrorism Investigation Division headquarters in the capital, Colombo, and in secret facilities throughout the country.

· The abductions were pre-planned operations and the torturers had information about many of the victims’ political activities, including participation in peaceful protests or elections. Several victims were accused of attempting to start up the Tamil Tigers group again.

· All but one victim paid security forces for their release and escape from the country. The bribes ranged from $2,500 to $7,000 for release from detention and $17,000 to $35,000 to then be smuggled out of the country.

· The report concludes that there is a well-organised “machine” within the security forces that practices torture and extortion in order to terrorise and oppress Tamils. It urges the government to stop denying the extent of the problem and to take action immediately to halt the abuses and hold perpetrators accountable.

ITJP Exposes Horrific Human Rights Abuses in Sri Lanka

by Oakland Insitute, California


International Truth and Justice Project Exposes Horrific Human Rights Abuses in Sri Lanka

January 7, 2016, 7:00 AM PST

Anuradha Mittal, amittal@oaklandinstitute.org

Oakland, CA—On the eve of the first anniversary of President Sirisena’s election in Sri Lanka, a new report by the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP), Silenced, brings forward horrific new evidence of torture and sexual violence, perpetrated by Sri Lankan security forces in 2015.

This new report demonstrates that despite the change of government a year ago, serious abuses have continued to be perpetrated against the Tamil population in Sri Lanka, as evidenced by the Oakland Institute reports last year. The Long Shadow of War and We Speak Without Fear, exposed how thousands remain displaced from land in the North East, which is being used by Sri Lankan security forces to run luxury resorts and golf courses. Thousands more remain missing, with no information provided as to their whereabouts or fate.

Long Shadow of War Cover“One year ago, President Sirisena promised truth, reconciliation, and justice to the Tamil people of Sri Lanka,” said Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of The Oakland Institute and the author of the Institute’s reports. “This new report by the ITJP demonstrates the emptiness of these promises.”

Reports by The Oakland Institute, ITJP, and others have shown that reconciliation will not be possible until the North East is demilitarized; until human rights abuses by the government’s own security forces and the culture of impunity in the country ends; and until those testifying against government forces are offered true protection.

In light of the continued violence, the ITJP report sets out steps that the Government of Sri Lanka could immediately take to investigate the cases it has exposed if it is serious about stopping torture and sexual violence. “The Oakland Institute lauds this important report from the ITJP and supports its call for security sector reform, law reform, and the establishment of an effective witness protection program,” said Mittal, “if the Sri Lankan government is serious about accountability processes in accordance with the 2015 Geneva resolution.”

Survivors of Torture & Sexual Violence 2015 Silenced

Silenced ITJP Jan 2016

Press release:

“Silenced: survivors of torture and sexual violence in 2015”

7th January 2016.

Johannesburg: New evidence has emerged of on-going torture and sexual violence by the Sri Lankan security forces one year after a new government came to power promising a radical clean up. “Sadly Sri Lanka’s notorious ‘white vans’ are still operating; it’s very much business as usual,” said ITJP’s Yasmin Sooka, “this demonstrates there can be no accountability without urgent security sector reform that leads to the dismantling of the state’s machinery of repression”.

Twenty Tamil survivors in four countries around the world gave detailed testimony about brutal and repeated torture and sexual assault while in the custody of the Sri Lankan military and police units during 2015. Details of these witnesses have been withheld for their protection and that of family members still in Sri Lanka, all of whom have faced repeated reprisals throughout 2015.

The report by ITJP provides graphic details of the torture and rape of both men and women by members of the Sri Lankan security forces under the period in office of the new government. This abuse occurred in both secret and identified sites, including Joseph Camp in Vavuniya, which ITJP named in previous reports as a torture site. The most recent “white van” abduction involving torture and sexual violence known to ITJP occurred as recently as December 2015.

According to ITJP, several Tamil politicians, ICRC, and diplomats in Sri Lanka are aware of the on-going violations. The report sets out steps that the Government of Sri Lanka could immediately take to investigate these cases if it is serious about stopping torture and sexual violence. It also warns Tamils formerly connected to the LTTE who are now abroad about the risks of returning to the country.

The ITJP report notes the importance of security sector reform, law reform and the establishment of an effective witness protection programme if the Sri Lankan government is serious about accountability processes in accordance with the 2015 Geneva resolution.

“It is hard to see how a war survivor could safely testify to a Truth Commission in this atmosphere of ongoing repression and intolerance,” commented Yasmin Sooka, “one year on it’s time for the Government of Sri Lanka to take urgent meaningful action”.

For the full report by the International Truth and Justice Project please see www.itjpsl.com . Media Inquiries to itjpsl@gmail.com

ITJP Press Release 7 Jan 2016 on new report