X. Impunity for Rights Violations

Since the beginning of Sri Lanka’s civil war more than two decades ago, successive governments have consistently failed to adequately investigate or prosecute those in the security forces responsible for serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. In cases of enforced disappearances, torture, indiscriminate attacks, and targeted killings, successive Sri Lankan governments have consistently failed to hold accountable members of the police or military who commit serious crimes.232

Some observers seeking to explain this culture of impunity point to weaknesses in the criminal justice system, which has proved unable to deliver justice for victims of common crimes, let alone victims of serious crimes involving the military or police. Sri Lankan lawyers report long delays in hearings, threats to witnesses and family members, and government officials working on behalf of the accused.

These structural obstacles seriously hinder the judicial process. But they are not as significant as the government’s lack of political will to prosecute soldiers, police, and other government officials and agents implicated in wrongdoing. Even when there is overwhelming evidence of government forces responsibility for abuse, successive governments have rarely conducted an investigation resulting in a successful prosecution.

Then Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera highlighted the problem of impunity in the December 2006 letter he sent to President Rajapaksa: “Even when investigations are being carried out, the process of perpetrators being brought to justice is extremely slow,” he wrote. “As a result, there is a perception that authorities are turning a blind eye to these matters. As such, the impression of a culture of impunity gains further credence.”233

Over the past 18 months, the government has failed to adequately investigate dozens of prominent crimes in which the involvement of the security forces is alleged. The most publicized case is the execution-style murder of the 17 aid workers from the Paris-based NGO Action Contre la Faim in Mutur in August 2006 (see Chapter VIII). Available evidence indicates that the killings could have been committed by government security forces.234

The attorney general has been conducting an investigation but, according to international monitors, the process is fraught with difficulties that place the government’s sincerity in doubt. In March 2007, based on observations of the legal proceedings, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) found “significant flaws” in the investigation by the local police and criminal investigation department. ICJ recommended “the establishment of a team independent of the police and security forces to investigate this crime, to identify the perpetrators and to report to the Attorney-General, who should then ensure that those responsible are prosecuted.”235

Action Contra La Faim also went public with its concerns, saying in June 2007 that it questioned “whether the investigation will lead to an indictment against those responsible.”236

In his report to the Human Rights Council on September 19, 2006, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions summed up the inability of state institutions to address serious crimes:

National accountability mechanisms are important but insufficient for achieving the necessary accountability. The criminal justice system police investigations, prosecutions, and trials have utterly failed to provide accountability. Indeed, it is an enduring scandal that convictions of government officials for killing Tamils are virtually non-existent.237

The Sri Lankan government claims that it prosecutes abusive members of the security forces to the fullest extent of the law. It said that in 2006 the attorney general issued 10 indictments against security force personnel, followed by seven indictments in 2007. In addition, the government said that the military took disciplinary action against six members of the military in 2006, and the police did the same against 26 members of that force.238 The government has not provided details on any of these cases.

The one specific case the government has publicized is the November 2006 arrests of a police officer and army soldier in relation to the killing of five students from the Thandikulam Agricultural College near Vavuniya earlier that month.239 On November 18, an explosive devise near the college ostensibly placed by the LTTE killed five government soldiers as they drove the A9 highway towards the Kokilai army camp. According to media reports, security forces arrived in the area after the explosion, assaulted college students, and shot at some, killing five. A spokeswoman for the SLMM said the soldiers “fired indiscriminately at a group of students who had thrown themselves on the ground seeking safety after an LTTE claymore mine blast nearby.”240 The government denounced the SLMM for its “biased statement” and, citing military sources, said the students were caught in crossfire when the LTTE opened fire from behind the college.241 In July, however, the government said the attorney general would forward an indictment in the case.242

Lack of witness protection

A key problem in prosecuting cases is the lack of a witness protection law or program, which discourages cooperative individuals from giving evidence against members of the security forces.243 Without adequate protection, the risk of retaliation for some remains too high. According to Sri Lankan lawyers and human rights activists, witnesses in criminal cases who implicate members of the security forces have been targeted in the past with threats, harassment, and violence.

Witness protection is a serious concern in the murder case of five Tamil young men in Trincomalee on January 2, 2006. According to University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), members of the security forces beat and then executed the young men.244 Initially the security forces reported that five LTTE cadres preparing an attack had been killed by their own grenade, which had accidentally exploded, but the authorities soon abandoned that claim.245

In January 2006 President Rajapaksa promised donor co-chairs that abuse of power by security forces would not be tolerated under any circumstances and that perpetrators of the Trincomalee killings would face justice, irrespective of rank.246 However, at this writing the investigation has not progressed. A dozen STF members were effectively discharged in April,247 but to date several of the security personnel implicated in the murders remain in Trincomalee. A senior police officer cited in a special investigator’s report as allegedly being “behind the shooting incident” received a promotion and remained in Trincomalee until July 31, 2006, seven months after the crime.248Because of fear of reprisals, only one witness—Dr. K. Manoharan, the father of one of the victims—has offered to testify as a prosecution witness. No one else among the many persons in the vicinity of the killings has agreed.

After testifying at a magistrate’s inquest in January, Dr. Manoharan and his family were subjected to repeated threats, forcing them eventually to leave Trincomalee. On the evening of the inquest, unidentified men banged on Dr. Manoharan’s door and threw stones at his house. Dr. Manoharan subsequently received anonymous phone calls threatening to kill him and his family. In June the police threatened one of Dr. Manoharan’s sons as he went to school, and at a checkpoint a policeman delayed Dr. Manoharan, saying, “You are supporting the LTTE and our high officers are supporting you, so how can we do our duty?” Naval officers and police also came to Dr. Manoharan’s home in the evening offering “protection” in a manner suggesting not a genuine offer of assistance, but a thinly veiled threat.249

Potential witnesses were also scared by the January 24, 2006 killing of the journalist Subramaniyam Sugirdharajan, apparently because he had taken photographs of the five murdered youth, which contested claims that the men were killed by a grenade. (See Chapter VIII, “Freedom of Expression and Association.”)

Non-implementation of the 17th Amendment

In October 2001 the Sri Lankan parliament unanimously voted in favor of the 17th amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution, which created a Constitutional Council.250 The council’s task is to nominate members of the Human Rights Commission, the Election Commission, Public Service Commission, the Permanent Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption, the Finance Commission, the Delimitation Commission, and the newly formed National Police Commission.251 The president cannot appoint any commission members without the recommendation of the council.

The logic behind the amendment was to create a neutral and independent body to make appointments to the various commissions. Previously, the president had directly appointed the members of the Human Rights Commission, the Public Service Commission, and the Bribery Commission.

According to the amendment, the 10-person Constitutional Council is comprised of the prime minister, the leader of the opposition in parliament, and the speaker of parliament, who acts as chairperson. Of the seven other members, one is chosen by the president, five are appointed by the president after nomination by the prime minister and leader of opposition,252 and one is appointed by the president after majority vote of the deputies from the smaller parties in parliament. The nominated members are people of “eminence and integrity who have distinguished themselves in public life and who are not members of any political party.”

In March 2005 the terms of six of the 10 council members expired, and the Constitutional Council lost its necessary quorum, thereby rendering it inoperative.253 President Rajapaksa was elected in November 2005. After months of haggling, the prime minister and leader of the main opposition party finally decided on the individuals they would recommend to the president for appointment to the council. Rather than immediately appoint those five members to the council, however, which would have given the council nine members, the president argued that the council could not function without the tenth member, who had to be nominated by a majority vote of the smaller parties in parliament. To date, the smaller parties have been unable to decide on the name of their recommended appointee, ostensibly due to disagreement over the proper process of selection. Lawyers and human rights activists in Sri Lanka view the president’s decision as a way to keep the council from operating.

The decision had a direct impact in April 2006, when the mandates of the Human Rights Commission members expired. Arguing that the Constitutional Council could not appoint the new members because it was inoperative, the president appointed the members himself. The president also directly appointed new members to the National Police Commission.254

The president’s appointments to the police and human rights commissions contravened the letter and spirit of the 17th amendment. Sri Lankan human rights groups protested that “[t]he failure of the government to implement the 17th amendment to the Constitution and to establish a Constitutional Council has rendered independent bodies such as the Human Rights Commission invalid and impotent.”255

The president’s unwillingness to constitute the council has undermined the independence of the Human Rights Commission and the National Police Commission. Both of these institutions are intended to provide some oversight of the behavior of the government, and in particular the security forces. Both, if functioning properly, could help to promote accountability for violations of human rights.

Throughout 2006 Sri Lankan organizations have filed petitions in courts to challenge President Rajapaksa’s circumvention of the 17th amendment and his unilateral appointment of individuals to serve on the commissions. Thus far they have all failed.256

The president has directly appointed more than one dozen commissioners to the various commissions, including to the Human Rights Commission. Human Rights Watch asked the Sri Lankan government why the president has not appointed the necessary members to the Constitutional Council. “Because the minority party nominee has not been proposed, there is a current impasse in this process,” the government replied. “However, the matter is now before a committee in parliament.”257

Inefficacy of the Human Rights Commission

Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Commission (HRC) was created as “an independent body to monitor the state agencies in their performance of human rights, to investigate violations of rights by using its own mechanisms, to recommend corrective action for individual rights violations, and to make recommendations for the improvement of human rights within the country.”258 Particularly in recent years, the lack of resources and insufficient support from other arms of government and security forces have hampered its effectiveness as an independent monitor.

With respect to specific cases, the HRC has the authority to conduct public inquiries where the evidence suggests there has been a gross violation of human rights; inquire and resolve complaints brought by the public concerning alleged human rights violations; and inquire into such matters on its own initiative and litigate on behalf of victims when necessary.259 In addition, the HRC has the very specific task of monitoring the welfare of detainees and making recommendations to improve conditions of detention.260

Under its mandate, the HRC can initiate litigation directly or bring a case before a court on its own initiative when investigations disclose an infringement of fundamental rights. The HRC can refer a matter to any court with jurisdiction, and initiate litigation where prior proceedings have been flawed. It also has the power to intervene in litigation before any court dealing with the infringement of a fundamental right.

In practice, the HRC’s ability to jump-start prosecutions has been limited. It must first try to settle a complaint through mediation. If this fails, it can recommend to the appropriate authorities that the persons responsible for a violation be prosecuted. Security personnel frequently fail to cooperate with the HRC and have often denied commission staff access to detention facilities. “We have the power to take up [laws of war] cases but during the war the military always tells us that they can’t guarantee our safety,” one Human Rights Commission officer told Human Rights Watch. “So in effect we can’t investigate.”261

In addition, many Sri Lankans face great difficulties in accessing the HRC, particularly in the rural areas where serious abuses take place. While the HRC has 11 regional offices around the country, many lack adequate resources and are understaffed. Furthermore, field officers do not have proper protection when their inquiries place them in danger.

With the onset of the peace talks after the 2002 ceasefire, the Norwegian government, which mediated the negotiations, called on the HRC to assume a larger role in the peace process because both the government and the LTTE rejected proposals for international human rights monitoring. On March 21, 2003, during the sixth round of peace talks in Japan (the last round before the LTTE pulled out), the parties resolved to strengthen the Human Rights Commission by helping

[to] enable it to develop the capacity for increasingly effective monitoring throughout the country. These proposals would involve international advice and assistance to the HRC from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other sources, and close coordination with the roles of UNICEF in relation to child protection, UNHCR in relation to the protection of returning internally displaced persons and refugees, and SLMM in relation to acts against the civilian population.262

The HRC balked at what it considered an unmanageable task. After a mission to the east in December 2003, it declared,

It is the Commission’s belief that no national or regional human rights entity will be able to effectively monitor and implement human rights standards in the north and the east. No organization or individual enjoys that kind of universal authority and legitimacy. If a national organization is entrusted with this task it must be with substantial international aid and assistance. The Commission believes that the following course of action should be agreed to by the parties to the peace process…. A monitoring mechanism must be set up which involves substantial international assistance. The monitoring mechanism must have a strong and independent investigating wing which is fully trained and competent. Witness protection schemes and victim protection schemes should also be in operation.263

The HRC reiterated this position after its mission to the east in April 2005.264 Thus, while a strengthened and better funded commission with genuine independence can play an important role in monitoring human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, it could not substitute for an international monitoring mission under UN auspices.

Inadequacy of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry

Under pressure from foreign governments and domestic and international human rights groups to address the growing culture of impunity, the Sri Lankan government agreed on November 3, 2006, to establish a Presidential Commission of Inquiry (CoI) to investigate serious cases of human rights violations since August 1, 2005.265

Instead of an international commission, as many human rights groups urged, the CoI is composed of Sri Lankan members, with an international group of observers, called the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP).266

According to the chairman of the commission, Justice Nissanka Udalagama, the purpose of the CoI is “to collect sufficient evidence to launch prosecutions against person who are responsible for having perpetrated such violations.”267

The CoI mandate lists 15 serious cases of alleged human rights violations since August 1, 2005, and the commission is allowed to expand that list:

1. Assassination of Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar on August 12, 2005.

2. Killing of 17 aid workers from Action Contre La Faim in August 2006.

3. Killing of Muslim villagers in Mutur in early August 2006 and the execution at Welikanda of 14 persons from Mutur who were being transported in ambulances.

4. Assassination of Mr. Joseph Pararajasingham, member of parliament, on December 25, 2005.

5. Killing of five young men in Trincomalee on January 2, 2006.

6. Assassination of Deputy Director General of the Sri Lanka Peace Secretariat Mr. Ketheesh Loganathan on August 12, 2006.

7. Death of 51 persons in Naddalamottankulam (Sencholai) in August 2006.

8. Disappearance of Rev. Nihal Jim Brown of Philip Neri’s Church at Allaipiddy on August 28, 2006.

9. Killing of five fishermen and another person at Pesalai beach and at the Pesalai Church on June 17, 2006.

10. Killing of 13 persons in the Kayts police area on May 13, 2006.

11. Killing of 10 Muslim villagers at Radella in Pottuvil police area on September 17, 2006.

12. Killing of 68 persons at Kebithigollewa on June 15, 2006.

13. Incident relating to the finding of five headless bodies in Awissawella on April 29, 2006.

14. Killing of 13 persons at Welikanda on May 29, 2005.

15. Killing of 98 security forces personnel in Digampathana, Sigiriya, on October 16, 2006.

The CoI subsequently decided to add another case:

16. Assassination of Nadarajah Raviraj, member of parliament for Jaffna district on November 10, 2006.

The decision to create the CoI in itself suggests an admission on the government’s part that domestic institutions have been incapable of investigating and prosecuting these serious crimes. If the police, attorney general’s office, and courts were functioning properly, then a special commission would not be required.

The government presented the commission as a good faith effort to investigate serious human rights violations. But the commission’s ability to promote accountability remains very much in doubt, and it is clearly not a substitute for international human rights monitors who can follow ongoing abuses as they take place.

First, there is little evidence to suggest that the commission is making significant headway on the 16 cases on its list. Considerable energy and resources have been devoted to the commission, yet the only impact thus far is to take pressure off the criminal investigation arm of the government and the attorney general’s office to bring prosecutions. In the meantime, abuses continue to take place.

Second, the commission is only advisory. It can only recommend to the government the steps to take, including by the attorney general. Within two months of receiving the report, the president must pass the recommendations onto the relevant state authority, but there is no legal obligation for that authority to act.

Third, neither the Commission on Inquiry Act of 1948268 nor the commission’s mandate specifies that the government must make the CoI reports public. Though CoI hearings can be public, the reports themselves may never reach the public domain.269 In the past, the government has failed to release the reports of some independent commissions looking into human rights abuses.270

Fourth, the commission is saddled with the same concerns about witness protection as the courts (see above). In recognition of the problem, chairman of the commission Justice Nissanka Udalagama said that witnesses were often fearful to come forward. “We are trying to establish a victim and witness protection unit to encourage them to give evidence before the commission,” he said.271 Until then, it remains to be seen how many individuals are willing to take such a serious risk, especially when their evidence may never result in prosecution.

Members of the IIGEP have also expressed concerns. “We need to set up the network of protection before [asking] the people to talk, otherwise we will face assassinations,” said Bernard Kouchner, a member of the IIGEP until May, when he became foreign minister of France. He added, “Without that, this is impossible. The number of people who have been assassinated is too high.”272

Fifth, the mandate of the commission allows a high level of participation by the attorney general’s office and the police. The former assists with investigations and inquiries and the latter works with the commission’s investigating unit. The involvement of government agencies in an ostensibly independent commission’s work raises serious concerns about conflict of interest. The issue of the independence of the attorney general’s office is particularly relevant given that the attorney general is unilaterally appointed by the executive, bypassing the 17th amendment (see above). As the Centre for Policy Alternatives wrote in one of its briefing papers on the CoI,

With the increasing involvement of the [attorney general’s] department, many will question whether the CoI and IIGEP are in reality independent of the State or whether they are indeed functioning with and/or on the advice of the Government and Government actors.273

The first months of the CoI’s work have heightened these concerns. Although the Commissions of Inquiry Act and the CoI mandate empower the CoI to obtain information for its investigations, the government is reported to have withheld some of the requested material. According to a press account, the Colombo magistrate refused to provide the CoI with records it wanted on the assassination of Foreign Minister Kadirgamar because releasing the documents would interfere with an ongoing investigation.274

The decision to withhold information does not bode well for the other 15 cases under investigation. And in the Kadirgamar case the victim was a government official, apparently killed by the LTTE. It seems even less likely that the authorities will provide information on cases in which the alleged perpetrator is the military or police.

Finally, the commission’s first months suggest that it is relegating the group of eminent observers to a marginal role. Indeed, commission chairman Justice Udalagama made that clear during his inaugural address. “The IIGEP has not been appointed to conduct any substantive or alternate investigations or inquiries into any incident amounting to serious violations of human rights,” he said, adding that “their role is to observe the functions of the commission.”275

Sri Lankan organizations have urged that the government remove all restrictions on the IIGEP, and allow it to collect information and interview witnesses, in addition to monitoring the work of the CoI.276

The IIGEP submitted its first interim report to the president on June 11, 2007. According to an IIGEP statement, the report informed the president that the CoI has “so far made hardly any noticeable progress in investigations and inquiries since its inception in November 2006.”277 In addition, the IIGEP expressed concern that the government had not taken adequate measures to address issues such as “the independence of the Commission, timeliness and witness protection.”

In particular, the IIGEP expressed concern about the role of the attorney general’s office in the investigations, citing a potential conflict of interest because investigators “may find that they are investigating themselves.” It also disapproved of the Presidential Secretariat controlling the commission’s finances.

The IIGEP also made clear that the CoI’s existence did not obviate the need for wider human rights monitoring:

In the current context, in particular, the apparent renewed systematic practice of enforced disappearance and the killings of Red Cross workers, it is critical that the Commission and IIGEP not be portrayed as a substitute for robust, effective measures including national and international human rights monitoring.

Commission chair Udalagama defended the CoI’s work. “Members of the commission are confident that the CoI could continue to discharge its functions independently and that the mandate of the commission can be implemented in the best interests of justice,” he said.278

Regarding the involvement of the attorney general’s office, he said the commission was “satisfied regarding the professional integrity and the professional services being rendered.” On funding, he said the government “has assured the CoI that it will make available all required resources for the commission.”

The IIGEP issued a second report four days later, which said the commission’s conduct was “inconsistent with international norms and standards” and that failure to take corrective action “will result in the commission not fulfilling its fact-finding mandate in conformity with those norms and standards.”

In particular, the IIGEP again questioned the role of the attorney general’s department in assisting the CoI, highlighting the conflict of interest that “compromises national and international principles of independence and impartiality.”279

The report cited specific examples of the lack of impartiality by the attorney general’s office, such as the improper leading of witnesses. The report concluded that “the commission does not seem to have taken sufficient corrective measures to ensure that its proceedings are transparent and conform with international norms and standards of independence, impartiality and competence.”

In his reply, commission chairman Udalagama expressed satisfaction with the services provided the CoI by members of the attorney general’s office:

We are confident that, in accordance with the rules of procedure of the Commission and the practices of the Commission applied so far, the Commission would be able to identify those responsible for having committed Human Rights violations pertaining to incidents being investigated and inquired into by the COI.280

The attorney general took great exception to the IIGEP’s criticism of its role. In a sharply worded response, the attorney general reminded the IIGEP of its mandate “to observe the functions of the CoI and comment on compliance with international norms and standards, and to also propose correctional action to be taken by the CoI.”281 The attorney general told the IIGEP that, in view of its terms of reference, it is “inappropriate for the IIGEP to propose the setting up of an “international monitoring mechanism to address ongoing alleged Human Rights violations.” The attorney general also reiterated that at least one of the 11 IIGEP members should be present in Sri Lanka to observe the functioning of the CoI.

The last point resonated with Sri Lankan lawyers and activists. Two lawyers told Human Rights Watch that many IIGEP members have not stayed in Sri Lanka for a substantial time, and consequently they have not been very involved in the proceedings.282

Chairman Udalagama’s assurances aside, the problems raised by the IIGEP suggest the Commission of Inquiry is unlikely to obtain prosecutions in the cases it is investigating, let alone bring an end to Sri Lanka’s climate of impunity. The government of Mahinda Rajapaksa has shown no willingness to seriously address the deepening human rights crisis, and the commission seems an effort to stave off domestic and international criticism, rather than a sincere attempt to promote accountability and the rule of law.

The need for international leverage

Foreign governments and international organizations should not view the CoI as an effective means to address persistent human rights violations. They can and should devise creative methods to promote human rights and the rule of law in Sri Lanka.

In particular, international donors should encourage and press the Sri Lankan government to take the necessary steps to end abuse. The government has time and again pledged to the international community and to the Sri Lankan people that it will protect the human rights of all Sri Lankans. Now donor governments should hold them to respect that claim.

The co-chairs for the peace process (United States, the European Union, Japan, and Norway), as well as other governments, should use their leverage with both the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE to encourage respect for international law, including the obligation to minimize harm to civilians during hostilities. Financial aid is one lever that international governments have, and some states have recently elected to go that route.

Concretely, the international community should work with the government and the LTTE to establish a United Nations human rights monitoring mission to monitor violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by all parties, report its findings publicly, and act to promote respect for basic rights at the local level.

232 See Law & Society Trust, Sri Lanka, “State of Human Rights 1999.”

233 The Sunday Times Online, vol. 41-no. 39, February 25, 2007, (accessed July 2, 2007).

234 Human Rights Watch interview with official from the Attorney General’s department, Colombo, June 25, 2007.

235 “Sri Lanka: ICJ Inquest Observer Finds Flaws in Investigation into Killing of ACF Aid Workers,” International Commission of Jurists press release, April 23, 2007, (accessed May 14, 2007).

236 “The Muthur Massacre: ACF Questions the Facts,” Action Contra La Faim press release, June 22, 2007.                       

237 Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Mission to Sri Lanka, 28 November – 6 December 2005 (E/CN.4/2006/53/Add.5).

238 Letter from Sri Lankan Ambassador to the United States Bernard Goonetilleke to US Congressman Rush Holt, July 9, 2007, available at (accessed July 18, 2007).

239 “Soldier, PC Arrested in Thandikulam Killing,” Daily News (Colombo), November 27, 2006, (accessed July 18, 2007).

240 “S. Lankan Troops Opened Fire on Students – Monitors,” Reuters, November 19, 2006.

241 “SLMM is Biased and Unreasonable – Minister Rumbukwella,” News Portal of the Government of Sri Lanka, November 22, 2006, (accessed July 18, 2007).

242 Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights, “Government to Prosecute Army and Police Personnel Indictment to Be Served on Thandikulam Killings,” July 5, 2007, (accessed July 18, 2007).

243 The attorney general has drafted a new bill, currently before the law commission, entitled “Assistance and Protection to Victims of Crime and Witnesses.” According to the Sri Lankan government, it is “keen on having the bill formally approved by the law commission, so that it could be present to parliament soon.” Sri Lankan government response to Human Rights Watch, July 12, 2007.

244 University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), “The Five Students Case in Trincomalee,” April 19, 2007, (accessed May 30, 2007).

245 D.B.S. Jeyaraj, “Terrible truth of the Trincomalee tragedy,” TamilWeek, January 15, 2006, (accessed July 16, 2007).

246 President Mahinda Rajapaksa meets donor co-chairs, Embassy of Sri Lanka, Washington D.C., January 9, 2006, (accessed July 24, 2007).

247 Human Rights Watch interview with official at Presidential Secretariat, June 27, 2006.m the Attorney General'aboutresearch team on the grounds that government officials

248 “Flight, Displacement and the Two-fold Reign of Terror,” University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), Information Bulletin No. 40, June 15, 2006, (accessed July 25, 2007).

249 “Sri Lanka: Protect Witnesses in Trincomalee Killings,” Human Rights Watch news release, June 28, 2006,

250 See the full text of the 17th amendment at (accessed May 30, 2007).

251 Under the amendment, the membership of the Judicial Services Commission is composed of the chief justice and two sitting judges recommended by the president and approved by the Constitutional Council.

252 Three of the five persons nominated jointly by the prime minister and opposition leader should “represent minority interests.”

253 According to Article 41E(3), the commission’s quorum is six.

254 While some constitutional experts believe the Constitutional Council must await the naming of its tenth member before it can resume functioning, others believe the council can function with just nine members. With political will to ensure effective implementation of the 17th Amendment, the President could refer the matter to the Supreme Court for a determination. Furthermore, the speaker of parliament (ex officio chair of the Constitutional Council ) could rule which parties are entitled to be part of the electoral college to elect the tenth member.

255 Joint statement of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, Civil Monitoring Commission, Free Media Movement, INFORM, International Movement Against All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Law & Society Trust, and Rights Now, “Time for the UN Human Rights Council to Turn Its Concerns on Sri Lanka into Action,” April 10, 2007, (accessed May 30, 2007).

256 Teles Anandappa, “Court Rejects Petition, Calls for Action against Petitioners,” Sunday Times, July 2, 2006.

257 Sri Lankan government response to Human Rights Watch, July 12, 2007.

258 Radhika Coomaraswamy, “Human Rights Commission will cease to function from April,” Asian Human Rights Commission, March 30, 2006.

259 Human Rights Commission Act, No. 21, § 14 (1996). See also Mario Gomez, “Sri Lanka’s New Human Rights Commission,” 20 Human Rights Quarterly 281, 284-5 (1998).

260 Human Rights Commission Act, §11(d).

261 Human Rights Watch interview with Human Rights Commission officer, date and place withheld.

262 “New Progress in Sri Lanka Peace Talks,” News of Norway, March 21, 2003, (accessed July 3, 2007).an population. t had not replied. ankan government when

263 Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, “The Human Rights Situation in the Eastern Province,” December 2003, p. 33.

264 Human Rights Commission, “The Human Rights Situation in the Eastern Province (April 2005),” April 12, 2005, (accessed May 16, 2007).

265 Hon. Nissanka Kumara Udalagama is chair of the CoI. The original members were: Upawansa Yapa, Dr. Devanesan Nesiah, Kanapathipillai Cathiravelpillai Logeswaran, Manouri Kokila Muttetuwegama, Jezima Ismail, Somapala Samarasinghe Srimega Wijeratne, and Ahamed Javid Yusuf. Upawansa Yapa has since died and Kanapathipillai Logeswaran resigned.

266 The original IIGEP members were: Justice P.N. Bhagwati (chair), Bernard Kouchner, Gene Dewy, Sir Nigel Rodley, Yozo Yokota, Marzuki Darusman, Kamal Hossain, Andres Mauromatis, Prof. Dr. Cornelis Fasseur, Prof. Bruce Matthews, and Prof. Ivan Shearer. Bernard Kouchner resigned in May after his appointment as foreign minister of France.

267 “Address of Hon. Justice Nissanka Udalagama, Chairman, Presidential Commission of Inquiry to Investigate and Inquire into Serious Violations of Human Rights,” Inauguration of Sessions of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry, May 14, 2007, (accessed May 30, 2007).

268 The Commissions of Inquiry Act No. 17 of 1948 grants the president the power to set the terms of reference of a CoI and appoint all its members (sec.2); add new members at his/her discretion (sec. 3); revoke the warrant establishing the CoI at any time (sec. 4); and appoint the commission’s secretary (sec. 19) without needing to consult the commission or its chairperson.

269 The Sri Lankan government told Human Rights Watch that the president will make the CoI report public “in accordance with the provisions of the presidential warrant establishing the commission.” Sri Lankan government response to Human Rights Watch, July 12, 2007.

270 The report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Bindunuwewa Massacre of October 25, 2000, for example, has never been released. The report examines the attack by a mob of Sinhalese civilians and police on Tamil youth that killed 28 and wounded 14. The commission headed by Justice PHK Kulatilaka was set up on March 8, 2001, and its report was submitted in early 2002. For detailed information on the incident and the commission, see Alan Keenan, “Bindunuwewa: Justice Undone?” at (accessed May 30, 2007).

271 “Commission Urges Witness Protection,” BBC, May 14, 2007, (accessed May 30, 2007).

272 Simon Gardner, “INTERVIEW-Witness Protection Vital to Sri Lanka Abuses Probe,” Reuters, March 10, 2007.

273 Centre for Policy Alternatives, “Commission of Inquiry and the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons: Commentary on Developments,” January-April 2007, CPA Policy Brief no. 2, 2007 (accessed May 30, 2007).

274 Susitha R. Fernando, “Release of Kardigamar documents to Presidential Commission refused,” Daily Mirror, March 30, 2007, (accessed July 16, 2007).

275 “Address of Hon. Justice Nissanka Udalagama, Chairman, Presidential Commission of Inquiry to Investigate and Inquire into Serious Violations of Human Rights,” Inauguration of Sessions of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry, May 14, 2007.

276 CPA Policy Brief no. 2, 2007.

277 “International Independent Group of Eminent Persons Public Statement,” June 11, 2007.

278 “Response from the Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry to the IIGEP’s Public Statement,” June 11, 2007. For the full text of the response, see (accessed June 28, 2007).

279 “International Independent Group of Eminent Persons Public Statement,” June 15, 2007.

280 “Response from the Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry to the Statement,” June 15, 2007. For the full text of the statement see (accessed July 3, 2007).

281 “Response from the Attorney General to the Statement,” June 15, 2007. For the full text of the statement see (accessed July 17, 2007).

282 Human Rights Watch interview with two Sri Lankan lawyers, Colombo, June 26, 2007.