Sri Lanka found guilty of serious human rights abuses by UNHR

A Statement from CommonwealthNet follows;

(August 28, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) In a case brought by leading Sri Lankan human rights lawyer Mr V.S. Ganesalingam of the NGO Home for Human Rights, together with international NGO INTERIGHTS, Sri Lanka has been held to account for the torture and arbitrary death in police custody of an 18 year old student, Sathasivam Sanjeevan.

Mr Sanjeevan's parents brought the claim to the Human Rights Committee, the body which monitors compliance with the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sri Lanka is a party. The Committee found that the Sri Lankan State had deprived Mr Sanjeevan of both his right to life and right not to be subjected to torture, both guaranteed under the Covenant. This failure was compounded by the lack of any effective recourse to justice for Mr Sanjeevan or his parents.

Following his arbitrary arrest in October 1998 Mr Sanjeevan was subjected to repeated beatings and torture in custody, leaving him with such extensive injuries he was unable to stand. He then suffered four fatal gunshot wounds, which police claim were inflicted as a as result of an ambush by separatist fighters. However, subsequent inquests failed to confirm the police account and it took a further two and half years and interventions by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture before Sri Lanka's Attorney General confirmed that the police version of events was false. Despite this confirmation, no criminal proceedings for the torture or murder were instigated, the Attorney General simply recommending disciplinary action for the perpetrators.

In the decade which has followed, Sri Lanka has never acknowledged responsibility for what occurred, pursued a criminal investigation against those considered responsible or offered any redress to Mr Sanjeevan's family. The Sri Lankan State failed to offer any explanation of the events to the Committee, which found it directly responsible for the arbitrary deprivation of Mr Sanjeevan's life. The Committee also found that Sri Lanka had submitted Mr Sanjeevan to inhuman treatment and torture as well as failing to investigate the events or to provide any effective remedy.

In concluding its examination, the Committee noted that Sri Lanka is under an obligation to provide the victim and his family with an effective remedy including the initiation and pursuit of criminal proceedings and payment of appropriate compensation whilst taking measures to ensure such violations do not recur in the future. It has been given 180 days to respond on what measures it is taking to implement the decision.

The Sri Lankan government now faces an important challenge: whether to abide by the Committee's decision and honour its international law commitments, or to ignore the Committee and sanction immunity. Mr Sanjeevan's family have already waited nearly a decade for justice, how much longer they wait will depend on Sri Lanka's response to this decision.
- Sri Lanka Guardian