Sri Lanka has come under renewed international criticism over police failures to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of what it calls “emblematic cases,” including the assassination of Lasantha Wickrematunga.
The UN Human Rights Council received a report outlining systematic failure of Sri Lanka’s police to prosecute suspects in 11 high profile cases it considers emblematic of the culture of impunity even after the end of a decades-long war.
The report buttressed its demand for international judges to try war criminals in Sri Lanka by pointing to police failures to investigate even the high profile cases.
“A State’s capacity or willingness to address impunity for gross violations and abuses of international human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law can, in part, be assessed by its approach to complex, serious cases,” the 17-page report said.
Successful prosecutions, conducted in accordance with international standards, could serve to build public and international confidence in the government’s determination and capacity to pursue accountability, it added.
The January 2009 assassination of Sunday Leader Editor Wickrematunga was cited as another example of slow progress in investigations.
Official sources said the Criminal Investigations Department was on the verge of making high profile arrests last month, but there was pressure brought on them to go easy on the suspects.
At least two former Inspectors General of police, a former head of military intelligence were among those tipped to be arrested in connection with Wickrematunga’s killing and the subsequent cover up of the investigation.
Police had made a breakthrough last month in their investigations in to the abduction of news editor Keith Noyahr. That case was linked to a string of other attacks, disappearances and killings of journalists.
A total of five military personnel attached to a hit squad which operated from Kohuwela are in custody, but police have failed to arrest those responsible for giving them orders to carry out illegal activities.
Investigators are convinced that most of the abductions and attacks on journalists, including the disappearance of cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda, were carried out by members of the military intelligence.
The command responsibility has been established, but for inexplicable reasons the arrests have been delayed.
A key suspect who tried to kill the editor of the Rivira newspaper, Upali Tennakoon, has also been identified as a military intelligence operative and a court case is now pending.