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* Sri Lanka's respect for human rights have declined, U.S. Human Right Report says
Fri, Mar 12, 2010, 01:28 am SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Mar 12, Colombo.: While faulting both sides of Sri Lanka's three decades-long war between the government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices released by the United States on Thursday, Department of State said Sri Lankan government's respect for human rights declined as the armed conflict reached its conclusion in 2009 May.

Before the 33-year conflict in Sri Lanka came to an end in May, government security forces, pro government paramilitary groups, and the LTTE used excessive force and committed abuses against civilians, the report accused.

The report blasted the LTTE for not allowing several hundred thousand ethnic Tamil civilians freedom of movement from the LTTE-controlled areas and dramatically increasing its forced recruitment of child soldiers from January to May.

It blamed both sides for artillery shelling and mortar fire occurred close to and among civilian encampments, resulting in thousands of civilian deaths during the last months of the conflict.

The confinement in camps of nearly 300,000 persons displaced by the end of the conflict called into question the government's post conflict commitment to human rights, although the government began to make significant progress on the treatment of internally displaced persons and other human rights improvements toward the end of 2009, in the run up to the January 2010 presidential election, it said.

The report criticized the lack of progress on several high profile killings specifically citing the killing of the chief editor of the Sunday Leader in January 2009 Lasantha Wickramathunga.

Commenting on the disappearances and abductions the report noted that although declined from the previous years it continues to be a problem. Reliable statistics on the number of disappearances were difficult to obtain, but estimates from some sources ranged from 300 to 400, with the majority occurring in the north and east.

The report noted that the executive failed to appoint the Constitutional Council, which is required under the constitution, thus obstructing the appointment of independent representatives to important institutions such as the Human Rights Commission, Bribery Commission, Police Commission, and Judicial Service Commission.

Releasing the report the Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton said the report provides a fact base that will inform the United States' diplomatic, economic, and strategic policies toward other countries in the coming year.

These reports provide essential data points for everyone in the United States Government working on them and she views them as an important tool in the development of practical and effective human rights strategies by the United States Government, Secretary Clinton said.

The complete report can be read here.

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