US reports rights violations in Sri Lanka

Last Updated: Thu, Mar 11, 2010 18:00 hrs

Sri Lanka violated human rights last year as it dealt a final blow to Tamil Tiger insurgents and clamped down on media freedom, the US State Department said Thursday.

But in an annual report, the State Department also reported some signs of progress since May when Sri Lankan forces defeated the Tigers who had waged a 37-year war for a separate Tamil homeland.

"The government's respect for human rights declined as armed conflict reached its conclusion," the State Department said.

It said that young Tamil men accounted for an "overwhelming majority" of victims of human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, even though Tamils only make up some 16 percent of the population.

The State Department said that "media freedom deteriorated" in much of Sri Lanka, with "most journalists" practicing self-censorship after threats and violence against them.

Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickrematunga, a member of the Sinhalese majority who was critical of the war, was gunned down near Colombo in January 2009.

"Senior government officials repeatedly accused critical journalists of treason and often pressured editors and publishers to run stories that portrayed the government in a positive light," the State Department said.

"Statements by government and military officials contributed to an environment in which journalists who published articles critical of the government felt under threat," it said.

But the State Department also reported some improvements.

It said that the number of disappearances went down with the end of the war and found that Sri Lanka made "significant progress" in reducing the use of child soldiers by the pro-government Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal.

It also said that Sri Lanka improved conditions in detention camps for tens of thousands of Tamil civilians after an international outcry.

In December, Sri Lanka allowed civilians to leave the camps. The government said it had needed months to weed out Tiger partisans.

More from Sify: