Human Rights Watch raises concerns of political victimization

Sri Lanka’s parliament should reject a resolution to exonerate officials implicated in human rights abuses and to prosecute police and prosecutors investigating them, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said.
In a recent statement the HRW alleged that the resolution which was tabled before the parliament on 9th April 2021 by the Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, seeking  approval to implement the recommendations of the ‘Commission of Inquiry to Investigate Allegations of Political Victimization During the Period Commencing 08th January 2015 and Ending 16th November 2019’ which President Gotabaya Rajapaksa established in January 2020 is an attempt to derail investigations of his relatives and allies, launched by the previous Yahapalana Government  in 2015-2019.
The HRW points out that Parliament approval to the resolution would block investigations and prosecutions in emblematic human rights cases, overturn a murder conviction, reinstate security force members disciplined for serious misconduct, and protect Rajapaksa family members and others from investigations into fraud and money laundering.
A few of the listed cases are,
  • Complaints against criminal investigations into several cases such as the case of alleged abductions involving Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda and others, the assassination of MP Nadaraja Raviraj, the death of Wasim Thajudeen, the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge, the assassination of former MP Joseph Pararajasingam, the Welikada prison massacre, the disappearance of journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda and the abduction of Keith Noayhr,
  • Complaints against the investigations of alleged financial irregularities and misappropriation of public funds in the Divi Neguma Department, the Tourism Development Authority, Co-operative Establishment (Sathosa), the Sri Lankan Embassy in the United States,
  • Complaint against the investigation into misappropriation of public property in launching the Carlton Sports Network (CSN)
  • Complaint against the investigation into the alleged misappropriation of funds allocated for the Tharunyata Hetak Organisation
  • Complaint against the imprisonment of Duminda Silva
  • Complaint against the investigation regarding the MiG aircraft deal with Ukraine etc.
Parliament approval to this Resolution would include referring decisions and recommendations made by the CoI on the complaints to the relevant authorities, including the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption, the Public Service Commission, the Inspector General of Police, the Minister in-charge of the relevant Ministries and the Secretaries to the Ministries, for implementation.
“President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is being brazen in his efforts to help his family and associates evade Sri Lankan justice. Rajapaksa’s administration has spared no effort in covering up serious alleged crimes, including those implicating Rajapaksa himself,” said the South Asia Director at the Human Rights Watch, Meenakshi Ganguly.
Responding to the tabled Resolution, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka had also responded, expressing serious concerns that the contents of the report may undermine the Rule of Law in this country, impair the independence of the Judiciary, and erode the impartial and efficient functioning of the Attorney General’s Department and the fact that presenting the Motion to Parliament seeking approval to implement certain findings and recommendations in the Report of PCoI without the report itself being released to the public.
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