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Sri Lanka: Killings of Journalists and Media Workers



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Sri Lanka: Killings of Journalists and Media Workers
Violation alleged: Impunity
Subject(s) of appeal: 11 males
Character of reply: Largely satisfactory response
Observations of the Special Rapporteur
The Special Rapporteur appreciates the information provided by the Government of Sri Lanka and looks forward to receiving information on any prosecutions that take place.
Allegation letter dated 23 August 2007 sent with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
We would like to bring to your Government’s attention information we have received concerning reported killings of eleven journalists and media workers in Sri Lanka since January 2006. All those killed either worked on Tamil language publications or reported violations relating to the conflict. Many of the killings appear to share common elements: the shootings occurred in Government controlled areas and sometimes during curfew hours. Furthermore, investigations into most of the killings have reportedly been inconclusive and the perpetrators have not been found.
According to information we have received:
Mr Thanikasalam Sarirooban, a journalist with the Daily Mirror newspaper, was shot dead on 2 August 2007. It was reported that he was returning home in Jaffna and was shot by two gunmen on a motorcycle.
According to information received, Mr Sahathevan Nilakshan, a student of journalism and one of the editors of a magazine Chaa’laram was shot dead at his house at Kokuvil, 3km from Jaffna on 1 August, 2007. Mr Nilakshan was reportedly shot dead by two gunmen who entered his home during the early morning before the end of a night time curfew. It is reported that Chaa’laram is a publication linked to the Federation of Jaffna District students which is known for supporting Tamil nationalism. It was also reported that death threats were made in May 2007 against students selling Chaa’laram at Jaffna University.
According to information we have received, Mr Selvaraja Rajivaram a journalist working for the Tamil language Uthayan (Dawn) newspaper in Jaffna was shot dead on 29 April 2007 in Jaffna. Mr Rajivaram reported on human rights issues in the Jaffna peninsula and had earlier written for the Namathu Ealanadu.
According to information received, Mr Subash Chandraboas, editor of the magazine Nilam was shot dead on the evening of 16 April 2007 at his home in Thirunavatkulam, near Vuvuniya. Mr Chandraboas was reportedly also wrote for the Colombo-based magazine Aravali and the London-based Tamil World.
On 20 August 2006, Mr Sinnathamby Sivamaharajah, the managing director of Namathu Eelanadu, a Tamil-language newspaper, in Jaffna, was shot dead at Vellippalai. Mr Sivamaharajah was a former Member of Parliament for the Tamil United Liberation Front, and a member of the Tamil National Alliance. The shooting reportedly occurred at night time within an area controlled by the Sri Lankan army and during a curfew.
On 16 August 2006, Mr Sathasivam Baskaran a delivery man for the Jaffna based Uthayan newspaper was reportedly shot dead whilst in his Uthayan delivery van in an area controlled by the Sri Lankan armed forces, during a temporary lifting of the curfew.
On 1 August 2006, Mr Mariathas Manojanraj was reportedly killed by a mine as he was travelling to Jaffna on 27 July, 2006 to collect newspapers for distribution. Mr Manojanraj’s death reportedly occurred at a time that death threats were being made against distributors of Tamil-language newspapers.
In July 2006, the independent Sinhala journalist Mr Sampath Lakmal de Silva was found dead in Colombo. He was working as a freelancer after covering the conflict between the government and the Tamil separatists for the newspaper Sathdina. It was reported that he was abducted during the night of 1 to 2 July in Borallasgamuwa, Colombo and that his body was found the next morning. He was reportedly the first Sinhala journalist to be killed in eight years.
On 2 May 2006, it was reported that two employees of the Tamil-language daily Uthayan were shot dead. According to information received, gunmen burst into the newspaper’s offices and demanded to see the editor and on learning of his absence, they opened fire and shot Mr Suresh Kumar, the newspaper’s marketing manager, and Mr Ranjith Kumar, another employee. Two other people reportedly sustained bullet wounds. The day before the killings, the newspaper had published a cartoon of Douglas Devananda of the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP).
On 24 January 2006, Mr Subramaniyam Sugirdharajan, correspondent for the Tamil daily Sudar Oli in Trincomalee, was found dead a day after writing an article about alleged excesses committed by pro-government paramilitary forces in his region. He was reportedly shot early in the morning as he was waiting for public transport to go to work.
According to the information received most of the investigations into these killings have been inconclusive and the perpetrators have not been found.
While we do not wish to prejudge the accuracy of these allegations, we urge your Excellency’s Government to take effective measures against what appears to be a consistent pattern of failure to investigate effectively, to prosecute and to take measures designed to prevent further assassinations of journalists.
In this respect, we would like to recall that, as reiterated in Commission on Human Rights resolution 2004/37 on “Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions” (OP 4), all States have “the obligation … to conduct exhaustive and impartial investigation into all suspected cases of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, to identify and bring to justice those responsible, … and to adopt all necessary measures, including legal and judicial measures, in order to bring an end to impunity and to prevent the recurrence of such executions”. This obligation, affirmed also in the jurisprudence of the Human Rights Committee (see the Committee’s views in Arhuacos v. Colombia, Communication no. 612/1995, § 8.8), is indeed part and parcel of the obligation to respect and protect the right to life enshrined in Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Sri Lanka is a State Party.
We would also like to appeal to your Excellency’s Government to take all necessary steps to secure the right to freedom of opinion and expression in accordance with fundamental principles as set forth in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which provides that "Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice."
It is our responsibility under the mandate provided to us by the Commission on Human Rights and extended by the Human Rights Council, to seek to clarify all cases brought to our attention. Since we are expected to report on these cases, we would be grateful for your cooperation and your observations on the following matters:
1. Are the facts alleged in the summary of the cases accurate?
2. Please provide the details, and where available the results, of any investigation, medical examinations, or other inquiries which may have been carried out in relation to these cases. If no inquiries have taken place or if they have been inconclusive please explain why.
3. In the event that the alleged perpetrators are identified, please provide the full details of any prosecutions which have been undertaken; have penal, disciplinary or administrative sanctions been imposed on the alleged perpetrators?
4. Please indicate whether witnesses to these attacks have been afforded with adequate security and witness protection.
5. Please indicate whether compensation has been provided to the victims and the families of the victims.
Response from the Government of Sri Lanka dated 23 October 2007
1. Mr. Tbanikasalarn Sairooban
According to our appropriate authorities no murder of a person by the above name has been reported on or about August 2nd 2007 in Jaffna District.
The News Editor of "Daily Mirror" news paper Mr. Eeswaran confirmed that there was no journalist or a media worker by the name of Thanikasalam Sairooban.
2. Mr. Sabadevan Nilakshan
On 1st August 2007 one Rajaratnarn Sabadevan of No. 47, Railway Station Road, Kokuvil, Jaffna, had complained at Jaffna police station chat his son Sabadevan Nilakshan who was an undergraduate at the Jaffna University was shot dead by an unknown gunman at about 5.30 in the morning.
On receipt of this complaint officers of Jaffna Police visited the scene and conducted investigations having questioned the people in the vicinity but could not trace any person who had witnessed this murder. All required norms of investigations have been followed by the officers of Jaffna Police under the supervision of Senior Superintendent of Police Jaffna Division.
There was no report of death threats received by the deceased as mentioned in the report of the Special Rapporteur.
Facts of this case have been reported in the Magistrate Court of Jaffna under case no.B 272/07 and inquiries are being continued to trace the responsible suspects.

5. Mr. Sinnathamby Sivarnaharajah


On 21st August 2006 one Periyathambi Naguleshwari complained at Tellippalai Police Station that per brother Sinnathamby Sivarnaharajah had fallen in his locked room and he is motionless.
On receipt of this complaint officers of Tellippalai broke open the front and the bed room doors of the residence and found Mr.Sinnathamby Sivarnaharajah dead with injuries similar to gun shots.
Officers of Tellippalai Police conducted investigations under the directions of the Magistrate of Jaffna and Senior Superintendent of Jaffna Division.
The post mortem examination was held by the Jurisdiction Medical Officer of Jaffna and the cause of death was given as due to two gun shot injuries.
Mr. Sinnathamby Sivarnaharajah was former member of Parliament for Jaffna District from "Tamil Arasakattu" political party and was the former President of the Tellippalai Cooperative Society and the "Eelanadu" news paper.
Mr. Sivarnaharajah was a well known and respecred social worker amongst the inhabitants of the area including the Security Forces and Police personnel.
On a directive of lnspector General of Police, the Criminal Investigation Department took over the investigations from Tellippalai police and preliminary investigations have revealed that on 20th August 2006 at about 19.30hrs a lone gunman had shot at Mr. Sivamaharajah through a partly opened window of his room.
Mrs. Ranjani Devi, who resides close to the residence of the deceased, had stated that on 20th August 2006 at about 19.30 hrs she saw a reflection of a person running towards the residence of the deceased and due to darkness in the area she could not identify the person.
The Police Personnel manning the police post closest to the residence of the deceased stated that on this particular day around 19:30 hrs they heard two sounds similar to gun shots and asserted their senior officers anticipating an attack from the LTTE.

7. Mr. Mariadas Manoinnrai


On 27th July 2007 one Mariyanayagam Robinson complained at Atchchuveli police that he and Mr. Mariadas Mancjanraj were riding two motor cycles delivering newspapers and close to Rasa Veediya at around 03.40hrs, Mr.Mariadas who was in front got caught to a mine and died.
On receipt of this complaint officers of Atchchuveli Police visited the scene, conducted investigations under the directions of Senior Superintendent of Police Jaffna Division. Police recovered six ball bearings from the scene of the crime.
In conformity with forensic examinations the mine bas been filled with C4 explosives and ball bearings have been added to cause maximum possible damage. In the recent past LTTE have used identical mines to kill Security Forces and Police personnel in Jaffna Division.
It could be rationally inferred that the mine has been placed to target a Service or a Police vehicle by the LTTE and it may have gone off accidentally.
It is also pertinent to mention that since Security Forces and Police personnel are confined to their barracks in the night, LTTE cadres from demilitarized areas in Atchcuveli infiltrate the Govemment Control areas and place mines to target SF & Police personnel.
The mine bas been posiiively identified as a mine used by the LTTE.
8. S. Mr. Samrnath Lakmal De Silva
On 2nd July 2007 on receipt of information officers of Dehiwala Police recovered a body with gun shot injuries. Subsequent inquires led to the identification of the dead body as that of free lance joumalist Mr.Sampath Lakmal De Silva.
Offcers of Dehiwala Police recovered the below noted items from the scene of the crime:
1. Four empty casings of 9mrn munitions

2. 17 mobile telephone cards .

3. Identity card issued to Journalists

9 & 10 Mr. Suresh Kumar & Mr. Raniith Kumar


On 02/05/2006 at about 19.45 hrs an unidentified armed gang entered the premises of "Uthayan" newspaper office located at No. 349, Kasthriya Road, Jaffna and opened fire, killing two persons and seriously injuring two others. The gang also caused extensive damage to the property and got away on three motor cycles.
The two dead persons have been identified as W.J. Sagaudes a.k.a Suresh Kumar and R. Ranjith, a.k.a.Ranjith Kumar and A.R.Udayakumar and N. Dayakaran sustained serious injuries.
On the directive of the Inspector General of the Police the CID took over the investigations from Jaffna Police. The CID conducted investigations having questioned eye witnesses, "Uthayan" employees and the military personnel.
Inquiries revealed that at least seven men have been in the gang which entered the premises from the side entrante. Two were armed with T-56 rifles with folded butts, one armed with a pistol and another with a SMG. They have been wearing balaclava and dressed in black coloured trousers and wearing shoes.
The gang had come on three motor cycles and two of the riders had stood guard with their headlights on at a distance of about 40 meters from the press, ready to take off facing the direction of Jaffna Town. Witnesses have heard some of them speaking to each other in fluent Tamil in typical Jaffna Tamil accent and they have also spoken in broken Sinhala on their eve of departure.
The assailants had opened fire at the Military personnel manning the check point near Sivam Kovil on old KKS road when challenged to stop. The army returned fire but the assailants escaped leaving behind a T-56 rifle which had fallen down when they tumed the bikes to escape. The weapon was taken into custody by the Army and later handed over to the Police.
This goes to confirm that the assailants had used military type weapons in this operation and had planned it well to avoid any counter attack by the security forces and also to implicate the Army with a view to bring GOSL into disrepute in the eyes of the world community.

11. Mr. Subramaniam Suairdaraian


On 24th January 2006 at around 06.45 hrs Mr. Subramaniam Sugirdarajan was shot dead by a lone gunman as he was walking towards the bus stop.
Officers of Trincomalee Police visited the scene, immediately conducted investigations under the supervision of Senior Superintendent of Police Trincomalee Division.
The following items have been recovered from the scene of the crime: 1. Two spent munitions of 9 mm, 2. A pair of rubber slippers.
The post-mortem examination was held by the Judicial Medical Officer Trincomalee who reported that the death was due to gun shot injuries fired at close range.
Mrs. Suhair Rajan Maheswari, the wife of the deceased stated that her husband was a tele clerk attached to the Trincomalee Port Authority and on the day of the incident soon after her husband left home at around 06.40 hrs she heard the report of two gun fires and later came to know that her husband had been shot dead.
V. Ponnambalam Balasingham of No.14 Lower Road, Oars Flill, Trincomalee stated that on the day of the incident at around 06.50 hrs he heard the report of two gun shots and when he came out of the bouse he saw a person on the road with bleeding injuries.
Although several persons have been questioned in this regard no one was able to give the description of the assailant.
The facts of this case have been reported in the Magistrate Court of Trincomalee under case no.62/2006.
Further inquiries are being continued by Trincomalee Police.
Sri Lanka: Impunity for the Killing of Thirteen Civilians in 2006
Violation alleged: Impunity
Subject(s) of appeal: 13 persons
Character of reply: Receipt acknowledged
Observations of the Special Rapporteur
The Special Rapporteur looks forward to receiving a substantive response concerning the killing of 13 civilians on Kayts on 13 May 2006. The SR would note, however, that the Government has already taken longer than the customary 90 days to respond.
Allegation letter dated 12 September 2007
I would like to bring to your Government’s attention information I have received concerning the investigation into the killings of thirteen civilians who are reported to have died in three separate attacks in Kayts an islet off the Jaffna Peninsula on 13 May, 2006. It is my understanding that the investigations into the killings have not been completed and perpetrators have not been found.
According to information:
I have received, eyewitness court testimony at a May 2006 inquest hearing, was given that three men wearing green tee-shirts and shorts of the type worn by the Sri Lankan navy entered the home of Sellathurai Amalathas in the village of Allaipiddy at about 8pm on 13 May 2006 firing their weapons. The assailants shot and killed nine persons and injured two others. Four others were shot and killed later the same evening in the villages of Puliyankoodal and Vangalady in two separate incidents. At about 10.30 pm the same day it was reported that gunmen entered the home of Murugesu Shanmugalingam in Puliyankoodal and shot him and two other members of his family dead. In Vangalady gunmen reportedly entered the home of Ratnam Senthuran, a teashop owner, and shot him dead. In the latter incident it is reported that witnesses also described attackers wearing naval uniforms.
It is alleged that the cases have stalled in the Kayts District Court because hearings that were due to take place on 30th August, 2006 were adjourned to March 2007 and again to May 2007 due to a lack of instructions from the Attorney General’s Office. On 19 July 2006 the Kayts District Judge Jeyaraman Trotsky warned police officer Mahes Perera and his investigation team who were required to submit a report on the Allaipiddy killings and hold an identification parade that charges of contempt might have to be brought against them for failing to appear before the Court. Following the July 2006 hearing it had been reported that Judge Trotsky requested the Attorney General’s Department to advise on how to proceed in view of an absence of cooperation from the Sri Lanka Police. On 21 May 2006 the Inspector General of Police reportedly stated that: “no evidence has been received to the effect that security forces personnel were involved in the killings… Of course, there were speculations but no evidence has been found to support the claim”. Investigations into the case by the Jaffna Human Rights Commission Office led to death threats against the head of office and it was reported that witnesses remained in hiding out of fear of reprisals from armed groups.
Without wishing to prejudge the accuracy of these reports, I would recall that all States have “the obligation … to conduct exhaustive and impartial investigation into all suspected cases of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, to identify and bring to justice those responsible, … and to adopt all necessary measures, including legal and judicial measures, in order to bring an end to impunity and to prevent the recurrence of such executions” (Commission on Human Rights resolution 2004/37, para. 4). This obligation, affirmed also in the jurisprudence of the Human Rights Committee (see the Committee’s views in Arhuacos v. Colombia, Communication no. 612/1995, § 8.8), is part of the obligation to respect and protect the right to life enshrined in Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Sri Lanka is a State Party.
It is my responsibility under the mandate provided to me by the Commission on Human Rights and extended by the Human Rights Council, to seek to clarify all cases brought to my attention. Since I am expected to report on these cases, I would be grateful for your cooperation and your observations on the following matters:
1. Are the facts alleged in the summary accurate?
2. Please provide the details, and where available the results, of the police investigation into the killing of the above persons.
3. Please confirm whether witnesses to these attacks have been accorded security and witness protection.
4. Please indicate whether compensation has been provided to the victims and their families.
Response from the Government of Sri Lanka dated 27 September 2007
HE Mr. Dayan Jayatilleka will in due course forward your communications [dated 12 September, 19 September and 20 September 2007] to the competent authorities in Colombo seeking urgent responses to the several alleged events and issues raised by you in the aforementioned communications.
Sri Lanka: Civilians Killed following an Army Attack on a School in Kathiraveli, Batticaloa
Violation alleged: Violations of the right to life during armed conflict
Subject(s) of appeal: 62 persons
Character of reply: Receipt acknowledged
Observations of the Special Rapporteur
The Special Rapporteur looks forward to receiving a substantive response concerning the shelling by the Sri Lankan army in Kathiraveli which resulted in the deaths of 62 people. The SR would note, however, that the Government has already taken longer than the customary 90 days to respond.
Allegation letter dated 12 September 2007
I would like to bring to your Government’s attention information I have received concerning reports of a Sri Lankan army attack on a school in Kathiraveli, Batticaloa on 8 November 2006 resulting in the killing of civilians.
According to information I have received:
On 8 November 2006 the Sri Lankan army fired rockets and artillery shells which hit school grounds at Kathiraveli, 15km north of Vaharai in the District of Batticaloa where thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) were taking shelter, killing 62 persons and wounding 47. Government defence spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella is reported to have said the military had targeted two Tamil Tiger artillery positions in the course of heavy artillery and mortar bomb exchanges but admitted a civilian centre was also hit and accused the LTTE of using civilians as human shields. A Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission spokesperson Helen Olafsdottir reported that SLMM Monitors saw there were no military installations in the camp area stating that it “would like some answers from the military regarding the nature and reasons of this attack”.
The Sri Lankan armed forces allegedly failed to take feasible precautions to avoid or minimize civilian casualties, failed to verify that the target was a military objective, and failed to discriminate between military and civilian objectives. These allegations are supported by evidence that the Sri Lankan armed forces conducted area bombardments of civilian areas using multiple barrel rocket launchers.
While I do not wish to prejudge the accuracy of these reports, I would like to refer Your Excellency’s Government to the fundamental legal rules applicable to all armed conflicts under international humanitarian law and human rights law.
Specifically, your Government is under an obligation to distinguish between combatants and civilians and to direct attacks only against combatants (Rules 1, 6 and 7 of the Customary Rules of International Humanitarian Law identified in the study of the International Committee of the Red Cross (“Customary Rules”)). Indiscriminate attacks are prohibited (Rule 11 of the Customary Rules). Attacks by bombardment by any method or means which treats as a single military objective a number of clearly separated and distinct military objectives located in a city, town, or village are prohibited (Rule 13 of the Customary Rules). Further, launching an attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, or damage to civilian objects, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated, is prohibited (Rule 14 of the Customary Rules). All feasible precautions must be taken to avoid and minimize incidental loss of civilian life (Rule 15 of the Customary Rules). This explicitly requires that parties to a conflict must give effective advance warning of attacks which may affect the civilian population (Rule 20 of the Customary Rules).
It is my responsibility under the mandate provided to me by the Commission on Human Rights and extended by the Human Rights Council to seek to clarify all cases brought to my attention. Since I am expected to report on these alleged incidents, I would be grateful for your cooperation and observations on the following four matters:
1. Are the facts alleged in the above summary accurate? Please refer to the results of any police, medical, or military investigation, or judicial or other inquiries carried out in relation to the alleged incidents.
2. Please provide the details of any disciplinary measures imposed on or criminal prosecutions against members of the armed forces responsible for the alleged incident.
3. With respect to the allegations of the indiscriminate attack, what, if any, assessment was made to ensure that the attack complied with the rules of international humanitarian law and human rights law? Specifically, what safeguards, if any, were employed to verify that only legitimate military targets were attacked? What methods were adopted to distinguish between military and civilian objects? What precautions were taken in the launching of mortar, artillery, rocket or other attacks to minimize loss of civilian life? What means and methods of warfare were adopted to avoid incidental loss of civilian life, and to ensure that incidental loss of life was not excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage?
4. Please state whether any compensation was, or is intended to be, provided to the families of the victims.


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