Rights group: Sri Lanka denying justice for victims of human rights abuses

Rights group: Sri Lanka denying justice for victims of human rights abuses

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[JURIST] The independence of Sri Lanka’s judiciary is under attack by the nation’s government, according to a report [text, PDF; press release] released Thursday by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) [advocacy website], a human rights group composed of lawyers and judges from around the world. In the report, “Authority without accountability: The crisis of impunity in Sri Lanka,” the ICJ contends that because Sri Lanka’s government has exerted so much political pressure on the judiciary, victims of human rights abuses, particularly during Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war that ended in 2009, cannot obtain justice against their abusers. The report proclaims that the recent pistol whipping of a High Court justice who complained of political interference with the judiciary highlights how violent and corrupt [Reuters report] the situation has become. The report states that by failing to bring perpetrators of human rights abuses to justice, Sri Lanka has not only wronged its own people but has also violated its international duty to protect human rights:

It is increasingly difficult, in fact nearly impossible, for people who have suffered serious violations of their human rights to receive justice and accountability. Victims and survivors do not receive redress, and perpetrators are not brought to justice. The absence of justice removes an important deterrent to future perpetrators. This situation constitutes a serious breach of Sri Lanka’s international obligation to protect and promote human rights.

The ICJ also declared that judicial corruption is part of more widespread lack of political accountability in Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan government has faced various allegations of human rights violations and war crimes by civil rights organizations and the UN since the end of its civil war. Last month nearly 500 lawyers and judges in Sri Lanka held a protest [JURIST report] to express their dismay over the assault of an outspoken judge. In July the government of Sri Lanka said that it may take up to five years to prosecute people accused of war crimes [JURIST report] during the civil war it fought with the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) [CFR backgrounder]. Earlier in July Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] urged Sri Lanka to stop arresting journalists who criticized the government [JURIST report]. In November the Sri Lankan government was subjected to criticism for its failure to investigate [JURIST report] issues of torture for past human rights violations and to enforce laws against continued torture and ill-treatment by government officials against civilians. In April 2011 a UN panel of experts on Sri Lanka found credible allegations of war crimes [JURIST report] committed during the country’s war with the LTTE, warranting further investigation. In June 2010 UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] called for an international inquiry [JURIST report] into the conduct of the Sri Lankan government during its civil war.