US Congressional Caucus on Ethnic and Religious Freedom

icgThe International Crisis Group (ICG), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Committee to Protect Jorunalsits (CPJ) and Freedom From Torture (FFT) briefed a US Congressional Caucus on Ethnic and Religious Freedom in Sri Lanka on human rights progress under Sri Lanka’s new regime, in Washington on 20 May 2015.

Speaking at the status update on human rights in Sri Lanka under the new regime, Mark Schneider, noting that legitimate demands of Tamils in North-East had not been met, said that the new government was yet to produce a list of detainees held, establish a clear consultative process for release of military held land and take serious steps towards accountability for atrocities.

Mr Schneider added that the recent appointment of Jegath Dias raised serious concerns about Sri Lanka’s commitment to accountability. Noting that the US should support international prosecutions, he added that domestic prosecutions using US law on potential war criminals that held dual citizenship in the US or green cards should also be pursued.

The Asia director of Human Rights Watch, expressing concerns on issues of accountability, stressed that genuine accountability could not be traded for a truth seeking process and highlighted the need to ensure that there was strong international involvement in any domestic prosecution mechanism that Sri Lanka may implement.

John Sifton added that human rights abuses continued in the North-East under the new regime wit arrests harassment intimidation and violence, noting that though there was a new regime the structure of the state police and security forces responsible for abuses had not changed.

“The new government must not be rewarded for reforms it hasn’t made,” he warned the caucus.

Dr Alison Callaway, who works with the UK based Freedom From Torture on asylum seeker cases from Sri Lanka, said that there was systematic, institutionalised widespread torture by Sri Lanka’s authorities in detention. Dr Callaway also noted that under the new regime intimidation and harassment of families by the military and security personnel carried on as usual.

The Asia program director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) there was complete impunity for the killings of journalists in Sir Lanka highlighted the need for the international community to stay involved to see this change.

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