Lanka Govt responsible for disappearances of its citizens: HRW

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New York, March 6, 2008: In a report that could have damaging ramifications for the Sri Lankan Government, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has laid the blame for widespread abductions and disappearances of the country's citizens at the latter's doorstep.

According to the 241-page report titled "Recurring Nightmare: State Responsibility for 'Disappearances' and Abductions in Sri Lanka," documents relating to 99 of the several hundred cases, examines the Sri Lankan Government's response, which its says has been grossly inadequate.

"Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, once a rights advocate, has now led his Government to become one of the world's worst perpetrators of enforced disappearances," claimed Elaine Pearson, the Deputy Director for Asia at Human Rights Watch.

"The end of the ceasefire means this crisis will continue until the Government starts taking serious measures," she added.

Human Rights Watch has said that Sri Lanka's emergency laws, which grant the security forces sweeping powers to arbitrarily arrest and detain people without being held to account, has facilitated the enforced disappearances.

"So long as the soldiers and the police can commit 'disappearances' with impunity, this horrific crime will continue," said Pearson.

"The Government's mechanisms to address 'disappearances' will remain impotent so long as the president and top officials fail to send a clear signal to the security forces that these abuses will not be tolerated," added Pearson.

Sri Lanka's key international partners and the UN bodies, including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, have raised serious concerns about the alarming number of "disappearances" and prevailing impunity.

They have expressed growing support for the establishment of a UN human rights monitoring mission to investigate and report on abuses by Government forces and the LTTE throughout the country.

"The Sri Lankan Government's rejection of a UN monitoring mission reflects badly on its commitment to human rights," said Pearson. "While the government dawdles, many Sri Lankans will continue to pay the price," she added.

Human Rights Watch also called on Sri Lanka's international partners, in particular India and Japan, to make further military and other non-humanitarian assistance to Sri Lanka contingent on the Government efforts to halt the practice of "disappearances," and to end impunity, including its acceptance of an international monitoring mission.

ANI

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