[JURIST] US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher [official profile] Sunday called [statement text] on the government of Sri Lanka [JURIST news archive] to provide better human rights protections [2008 DOS human rights report] as it fights separatist rebels from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) [official website; CFR backgrounder]. Speaking at a South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation [official website] conference in Colombo, Boucher pledged additional military and humanitarian support to the country, but said that the government could not sacrifice its democratic or humanitarian principles in the name of security:
We are concerned about the human rights situation here. We have been concerned about some of the reports of abuses of the past that have not been fully investigated or have not had legal action taken at this point such as the killings of aid workers. We have been concerned about the continuing reports of abductions, disappearances, some of the detentions of individuals, reports of intimidation against the media. All of these things need to be stopped. The government needs to take action to stop the perpetrators, and investigate and prosecute where necessary the people who have done these things. I think we will continue to focus attention on those problems and we will continue to call on the government, but also work with the government, to try to help a democratic government achieve the highest standards of democracy, because that is what the citizens expect of their government.Boucher said respecting basic rights would would improve the government's efficacy against the group, and called on local militias to disband so that official security forces could better implement the rule of law. Reuters has more. The Daily News has local coverage.
The Sri Lankan government has been sporadically fighting with the LTTE since 1972 and has been widely criticized for ignoring basic human rights in the process. In July, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] accused Sri Lanka of creating a de facto internment camp [HRW press release; JURIST report] for those fleeing areas controlled by the LTTE. In January, the country's Supreme Court [official website] ordered the government to stop [JURIST report] the practice of detaining and searching large groups of civilians in LTTE-controlled areas. The same month, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour urged the government to continue to respect rights [JURIST report] in the region after the expiration of a 2002 ceasefire. In August 2007, HRW accused the Sri Lankan government of being responsible for a dramatic increase in unlawful killings and other human rights violations [JURIST report].