Jan 17, Colombo: The New York-based global rights organization, Human Rights Watch (HRW), Thursday said Sri Lanka's political upheaval undermined stalled processes aimed at providing truth and justice for abuses from the country's civil war.
Releasing its World Report 2019 today, the HRW said the political crisis further slowed progress on ensuring truth and justice for grave rights violations during the 27-year-long civil war between the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and government forces.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena's sudden decision to appoint Mahinda Rajapaksa - the former president linked to widespread abuses - as prime minister raised fears about a return to past abusive practices in the country and a further delay in transitional justice.
The crisis subsided after the Supreme Court ruled on December 13 that the president's dissolving of parliament was unconstitutional, and Mahinda Rajapaksa stepped down as proclaimed prime minister.
In September, the newly formed Office of Missing Persons (OMP) recommended interim relief for victims and witnesses. However, recent political changes renders their viability uncertain, the HRW report said.
"Promise of security sector reform remained elusive. The government forwarded several drafts of new counterterrorism legislation, which local groups and the international community criticized for being overbroad, despite some genuine reforms," the report said.
"The many victims of Sri Lanka's three-decade long civil war have seen their diminishing hopes for justice further delayed by presidential politics," said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "This tragedy highlights the failure of the Sirisena government to take swift, meaningful steps toward accountability."
The right organization noted that one important advance for justice was the indictment, in November, of the chief of defense staff, Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne, for protecting a navy officer accused of abducting and killing 11 ethnic Tamil civilians during the civil war.
"Sri Lanka's past pledges to provide justice to conflict victims and to initiate reforms have fallen by the wayside amid political turmoil," Ganguly said. "Sri Lanka's friends need to press the government to meet its commitments to people who have suffered for so long."
HRW country report on Sri Lanka