A number of prosecutions for human rights abuses by the security forces took place in 1995, with the arrests of eighteen members of the security forces and seven civilian informants; ten of those arrested were members of the Special Task Force (STF), a security body in the police that performed military functions and that had acted with particular impunity. A total of twenty-two STF members were arrested in 1995 but were released on bail and soon after resumed police duties; the case has been delayed several times by the failure of the prosecution to appear at court proceedings.37
For a brief history of the bill, see Mario Gomez, ‘Sri Lanka’s New Human Rights Commission,’ Rights Link, Vol. 1, No. 1 (1997), p. 5; Mario Gomez, ‘The Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission,’ Law and Society Trust Review, Vol. 9, No. 13 (1998), p. 31;Mario Gomez, ‘Sri Lanka’s New Human Rights Commission,’ Human Rights Quarterly, Vol. 20 , No. 2 (1998), pp. 281-302.
- 35 Author’s interview with Manouri Muttetuwegama, chair of the island-wide commission and of the previous southern commission, 15 February 1999, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
- 36 Sri Lanka Democracy Forum, ‘Submission to the Universal Periodic Review of Sri Lanka.’
- 37 Amnesty International, ‘Sri Lanka: Amnesty International Welcomes Government Action to Stop Death Squad Activities,’ (1 September 1995), AI Index ASA 37/17/95, reports that the head of the STF was rumoured to have been suspended by the presi- dent;U.S. Department of State, Sri Lanka Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1997, available at http://www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/1997_hrp_report/ srilanka.htm, p. 4 (accessed 15 May 2012).
Further prosecutions for abuses in the north against Tamils took place in 1998 and 1999. In one key case, six soldiers and a reserve police officer were convicted and sentenced to be executed for killings committed in September 1996. In other cases of abuses involving the security forces, however, many of those charged remained free and in some cases remained on active duty. Five senior police officers were forced to go on leave in connection with charges of torture and extrajudicial execution at a government detention center at the Batalanda Housing Estate. In February 1999, in a case involving the disappearance of thirty-two schoolboys in Embilipitiya, seven of the nine persons accused, all but one security personnel, were convicted and sentenced to about ten years in prison. Although these prosecutions marked a break with earlier patterns of impunity, they were quite limited compared to the scope of abuses. NGOs report continuing and extensive police involvement in abductions, for which impunity largely reigns. From 2001 onwards, most cases involving abuse by the security forces continued from year to year without proceedings. However, in 2003 there were five persons sentenced to death for the extrajudicial killings of twenty-seven Tamil men in the Bindunuwema camp; twenty-three others were acquitted and the sentences of those convicted were commuted; in the same year a small number of torture victims were able to claim civil compensation. In 2004 there were two convictions for torture. In 2005, convictions were secured for a number of individuals accused of murdering a judge and his bodyguards, and four defendants were acquitted in the aforementioned killings in the Bindunuwema camp. Several cases against police officers did not proceed, and the officers remained on duty. Outstanding prosecutions remained pending in 2006. Although in 2007 the police inspector general acknowledged that thirty-one police officers had been arrested for human rights violations, details of dates, abuses, and subsequent proceedings were not made available.
-  ‘Judge’s Absence Aborts Chemmani Hearing,’ (26 March 1999), available at http://www.tamilnet.com/ (accessed 15 May 2012).
-  Pinto-Jayewardena, Still Seeking Justice in Sri Lanka; Civil Rights Movement of SriLanka, ‘The Alleged Mass Burials at Chemmany in the North,’ (Colombo, Sri Lanka:Civil Rights Movement, 1998). ‘Executions Ordered for Rights Abuses,’ ChicagoTribune (4 July 1998), p. 4. This was the disappearance of a schoolgirl, KrishanthyKumaraswamy, andfamily members and a neighbour who sought to find her. ‘Sri Lanka:Human Rights Developments,’ available at http://www.hrw.org/hrw/worldreport99/asia/srilanka.html (accessed 15 May 2012). It should be noted that reports are inconsistent regarding the number of indicted and convicted: see V. Varathasuntharam, ‘NineSoldiers Indicted on Abduction and Murder Charges,’ The Island (3 July 1997), andSharmini Fernando, ‘Bitter Victory: Krishanthi Kumaraswamy, The Women’s Vigil,and the Verdict,’ Options, No. 14 (1998), p. 17.
-  P.D.A.S. Gunasekera, ‘Ten Years RI for Seven Accused, Two Acquitted,’ Daily News(11 February 1999), pp. 1, 20;J. Antony, ‘Seven Accused Including Ex-PrincipalSentenced to 10 Years,’ The Island (11 February 1999), p. 1. See also Gunasekera,‘Witness Describes How Torture Instrument Was Used,’ Daily News (11 June 1996);and Gunasekera, ‘First Accused Told Her that a Few Children Should Be Kidnapped,Witness Days,’ Daily News (26 February 1996); ‘Tragedy, Trauma and Finally Justiceat Embilitpitiya,’ Daily News (17 February 1999), p. 3.
-  Wasana Punyasena, ‘The Facade of Accountability: Disappearances in Sri Lanka,’Boston College Third World Law Journal, Vol. 23, Issue 1 (2003), pp. 115-158.
-  U.S. Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2003 (25 February2004) at http://www.state.gov. In 2004, there were no reported indictments, investigations, or prosecutions of security force personnel;see U.S. Department of State CountryReports on Human Rights Practices 2004 (28 February 2005) at http://www.state.gov(accessed 16 June 2011).
-  U.S. Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2005 (8 March2006) and U.S. Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2006(6 March 2007) at http://www.state.gov (accessed 16 June 2011).
-  Human Rights Watch, ‘Recurring Nightmare.’