March 1996

                           SRI LANKA 



Sri Lanka is a longstanding democratic republic with an active 

multiparty system.  Constitutional power is shared between the popularly 

elected President and the 225-member Parliament.  President Chandrika 

Kumaratunga leads the People's Alliance (PA), a coalition of parties, 

which holds a single seat majority in Parliament.  Both the Parliament 

and the President were elected in generally free and fair elections in 

1994.  The Government respects constitutional provisions for an 

independent judiciary in practice. 


The conflict between the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil 

Eelam (LTTE), an insurgent organization fighting for a separate state 

for the country's Tamil minority, continued beyond its 12th year.  The 

Government initiated peace discussions with the LTTE and reached a 

cessation of hostilities with the rebels on January 3, the first since 

1990.  The cessation of hostilities broke down in April when the LTTE 

attacked government security forces.  By the end of the year, government 

military offensives on the Jaffna peninsula had succeeded in capturing 

the unofficial rebel capital of Jaffna City, although at the expense of 

tens of thousands of displaced persons. 


The Government controls all security forces.  The 50,000-member police 

force is responsible for internal security in most areas of the country, 

and the 80,000 member army conducts the war against the LTTE insurgents.  

The Home Guards, a paramilitary force drawn from local communities, 

provides security for Muslim and Sinhalese communities in or near the 

war zone.  At mid-year, it was expanded from 1,000 to 5,000 members in 

response to the resumption of the war.  The Government also equips 

various Tamil militias opposed to the LTTE.  During the cessation of 

hostilities, the security forces committed very few human rights abuses.  

However, with the resumption of hostilities in April the number of 

abuses committed by members of the security forces increased.  The 

Government moved quickly to correct the worst relapses. 


The economy is based on the export of tea, textiles, and rubber.  

Despite a costly social welfare system and a large fiscal deficit, the 

economy grew by 5.6 percent in 1994, due in part to continued economic 

reform, the continued privatization of government corporations, and 

increased foreign trade. 


During the first 4 months of the year, the Government maintained the 

improvements it had achieved in human rights practices in 1994.  

However, with the resumption of hostilities with the LTTE in April--

initiated by unilateral and unprovoked attacks by the LTTE on government 

military installations--members of the security forces committed some 

human rights abuses.  These included extrajudicial killings of Tamils 

and 34 confirmed cases of disappearance.  Little progress was made in 

several longstanding cases of extrajudicial killing and disappearance.  

Torture remained a serious problem, although the frequency of such 

abuses appeared to decline by year's end.  Prison conditions remained 

poor.  There was an increase in detentions and short-term mass arrests.  

While the Government used excessive force on occasion in its fight 

against the LTTE, LTTE forces used excessive force routinely.  The 

Government censored all domestic news reports relating to military or 

police matters from September to December.  Discrimination and violence 

against women and child prostitution continued to be problems. 


Nonetheless, in positive developments, the Government took important 

steps to stem the abuses.  In August 18 security force personnel were 

arrested for the extrajudicial killing of 21 Tamils in Colombo.  

Disappearances and extrajudicial killings subsequently ceased.  The 

Government acted decisively to forestall ethnic rioting in the wake of 

LTTE terrorist attacks.  Emergency Regulation (ER) provisions governing 

the behavior of the security forces were strengthened and broadly 

applied; there were no attempts, as in the past, to use the ER 

provisions to cover up security force misdeeds.  In general, arrests and 

detentions took place in accordance with the ER.  Government security 

forces took measures to limit civilian casualties during the military 

offensives against the LTTE in Jaffna.  The Government also provided 

relief to those displaced by the conflict even though most were still 

under the control of the LTTE.  Three regional commissions established 

to investigate disappearances continued their investigations, and the 

legal mandate of the Human Rights Task Force (HRTF) to monitor arrests 

and detentions was extended.  The Government's promulgation of the 

"workers' charter" provided a basis for legislation to strengthen worker 



The LTTE regularly committed extrajudicial killings (including civilian 

massacres and assassinations) and was also responsible for 

disappearances, arbitrary arrests, detentions, and torture.  For the 

first time, LTTE members used rape as a weapon of terror.  Controlling 

large sections of the north and east of the country through 

authoritarian military rule, the LTTE denied the people under its 

authority the right to change their government, routinely violated their 

civil liberties, and severely discriminated against ethnic and religious 





Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom 



   a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing 


In the months following the April collapse of the cease-fire, 21 

corpses, all believed to be young Tamil males, were found floating in 

lakes in the vicinity of Colombo.  The victims had been starved and 

tortured.  In most cases mutilation and decomposition made 

identification impossible.  On August 17, police Special Task Force 

(STF) officers, one army captain and seven civilians were arrested and 

charged with the murders, which police said were committed at the STF 

headquarters in residential Colombo.  Further security force suspects 

were being questioned, and investigations were continuing at year's end. 


Police (mostly STF officers) and army personnel committed at least 17 

extrajudicial killings in Eastern Province after April.  In some cases 

these murders were reprisals against civilians for LTTE attacks in which 

members of the security forces were killed or injured.  Several occurred 

during cordon and search operations by the STF.  In many cases, the 

security forces claimed that the victims were members of the LTTE.  

However, human rights monitors determined that these victims were 

civilians.  In most cases, the perpetrators of these killings had not 

been arrested by the Government at year's end.  There were also a number 

of suspicious deaths, mostly involving detainees acting as informants 

for security forces who died during operational missions against the 



However, extrajudicial killings ceased following the arrests of members 

of the security forces in August.  In addition, the security forces 

generally exercised much greater restraint than they had following a 

similar renewal of conflict with the LTTE in 1990. 


Although the ER remained in force in areas of the north and east 

directly affected by the insurgency and in Colombo, there was no 

evidence that the Government was using them, as in previous years, to 

conceal extrajudicial killings or disappearances.  The Government 

amended the ER in September to require the armed forces to inform the 

nearest police station when it becomes necessary to detain a person for 

more than 24 hours, thereby bringing the ER into line with civil law.  

(Previously, under the ER a person could legally be held without notice 

being given for 7 days.)  Security force personnel can be fined or 

jailed for failure to comply with the ER.  None were known to have been 

punished during the year. 


At least 25 people were killed preceding the parliamentary elections in 

August 1994.  The violence was apparently caused by individuals and did 

not appear to be an organized attempt by political parties to intimidate 

voters.  The Government prosecuted alleged perpetrators.  At year's end, 

a Deputy Minister in the Government was being tried for murder in 

connection with one such death. 


There were no developments in the October 1994 suicide bombing that 

killed the United National Party's presidential candidate, Gamini 

Dissanayake, and 58 other people, although it is credibly believed to be 

the work of the LTTE. 


The PA Government came to power in 1994 promising to bring to justice 

the perpetrators of extrajudicial killing from previous years.  In 1994 

it began prosecutions of suspects in several extrajudicial killings and 

brought charges against members of the security forces and its own 

political supporters.  However, there were no developments in the 

government investigations into the mass graves at Sooriyakanda, which 

contain an estimated 300 bodies, or the grave at Ankumbura, which is 

thought to contain the bodies of 36 people killed by the police in 1989.  

In addition, the trial of 21 soldiers, accused of massacring 35 Tamil 

civilians in 1992 in the village of Mailanthani in Batticaloa district, 

was put off until 1996.  Nor were there any developments in the case of 

four police officers indicted in 1994 for the 1990 murders of 12 

civilians in Wavulkelle.  Since October 1994, the case has been 

postponed several times. 


The LTTE continued to commit extrajudicial killings.  In May, in 

conjunction with a declared "Black Week," 42 Sinhalese civilians were 

murdered by the LTTE in Kallarawa, an eastern fishing village.  In July 

an undetermined number of informants were killed; they were blamed for a 

major battlefield defeat at Weli Oya.  In addition, a prominent anti-

LTTE Buddhist monk was assassinated near Polonnaruwa.  In October over 

120 Sinhalese civilians were massacred by LTTE forces in an attempt to 

inflame communal violence.  Many of the victims were hacked to death 

with swords and axes.  A number of women were raped.  In the same month 

an unsuccessful assassination attempt against a prominent anti-LTTE 

leader in Colombo left four persons dead.  A number of local political 

opponents of the LTTE were assassinated in the east, including the 

deputy mayor of Batticaloa, who was assassinated on October 27.  During 

the year, 29 suspected government spies were also known to have been 

summarily executed.  LTTE suicide bombing attacks in November in Columbo 

killed 16 persons and wounded 60.  In the past, the LTTE has killed 

university professors, members of nonviolent Tamil opposition parties, 

and human rights monitors. 


During the year, it was revealed that the poet and women's rights 

advocate Thiagarajah Selvanithy, who was detained by the LTTE in Jaffna 

in 1991, had been killed by the LTTE a few months after her arrest.  

LTTE Supreme Leader Velupillai Prabhakaran confirmed this in interviews 

with international correspondents.  Human rights monitors also report 

that the LTTE notified Ms. Selvanithy's family of her death. 


   b.   Disappearance 


Prior to May, no disappearances occurred.  However, 34 cases of 

disappearance of Tamils were subsequently confirmed by human rights 

monitors.  These were about equally divided between Colombo and Eastern 

Province.  The disappearances may have included some of the 21 

unidentified Tamils allegedly killed by the security forces (see Section 

l.a.).  Following the arrest of security force officials in August no 

new disappearances were reported. 


There were 10 confirmed disappearances in 1994, 98 in 1993, 210 in 1992, 

and an average 15 a day in 1990.  Those who disappeared in 1995 and in 

previous years are presumed dead.  The disappearances involved persons 

last seen in police custody.  The Commander of the Army and the 

Inspector General of Police both issued directives condemning 

disappearances and stating that perpetrators would be called to account.  

However at year's end, the Government had not identified or charged 

those responsible for the disappearances other than those arrested in 

connection with the 21 bodies discovered in the lakes. (see Section 



The Government continued investigations into past disappearances.  The 

three regional commissions set up in November 1994 to inquire into 

disappearances occurring after January 1, 1988, worked throughout the 

year.  Through August the commissions received 61,300 complaints.  Of 

these they were able to review 7,600 individual cases.  The commissions 

were initially charged with producing final reports for the President by 

March, including recommendations for legal action.  However, the 

mandates of the commissions were extended into 1996. 


The term of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the involuntary 

removal of persons occurring after January 1991 expired.  Its work was 

superseded by the three regional disappearance commissions appointed in 

1994, and its term was not extended. 


There was no progress in the Embilipitiya incident in which 11 suspects, 

including an army brigadier general, were indicted for conspiracy and 

abduction with intent to commit murder in the disappearance of 32 boys 

from the southern town of Embilipitiya in 1989 and 1990.  The case was 

brought to court in September but adjourned until January 1996 because 

one of the accused, a soldier, was fighting the LTTE and could not be 



There were also no developments in the Vantharamulle case, in which army 

troops reportedly abducted 158 persons from a refugee camp in Batticaloa 

District in 1990.  Observers maintain that there is credible evidence 

identifying the alleged perpetrators. 


The Government continued to give the International Committee of the Red 

Cross (ICRC) unhindered access to detention centers, police stations, 

and army camps.  This played a role in reducing disappearances 

attributable to the security forces, as did the work of the Human Rights 

Task Force (HRTF), a quasi-independent government body set up to 

register detainees held under the ER and the Prevention of Terrorism Act 

(PTA) and monitor their welfare. 


The LTTE was responsible for an undetermined number of civilian 

disappearances in the northeastern part of the island.  In November LTTE 

members kidnaped the vicechancellor of Eastern University, allegedly for 

not cooperating with them.  Most of the 400 to 600 police officers 

captured by the LTTE in 1990 are believed to be dead, as are over 200 

security force personnel captured at a battle in Pooneryn in 1993. 


   c.   Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 



In 1994 the Government acceded to the U.N. Convention Against Torture 

and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.  

Parliament also enacted legislation making torture a punishable offense.  

However, the Government has not yet developed effective regulations 

under the new legislation to prosecute and punish military and police 

personnel responsible for torture, though it has ceased paying fines 

incurred by security force personnel guilty of the offense. 


Members of the security forces continued to torture and mistreat 

detainees and other prisoners, both male and female, particularly during 

interrogation.  Although the number of torture reports was somewhat 

lower than in previous years in the Colombo area, the situation in 

Eastern Province did not improve.  Most victims were Tamils suspected of 

being LTTE insurgents or supporters.  With the legalization of the 

Sinhalese Janatha Vimukhti Peramuna (JVP), a party which led an 

insurgency in the south suppressed by the Government in 1988-89, JVP 

members were no longer subject to arrest and torture as in the past. 


Methods of torture included electric shock, beatings (especially on the 

soles of the feet), suspension by the wrists or feet in contorted 

positions, burning, near drownings, placing of insecticide, chili 

powder, or gasoline-soaked bags over the head, and forced positions.  

Detainees have reported broken bones and other serious injuries as a 

result of their mistreatment.  There were no reports of rape in 



Under the fundamental rights provisions in the Constitution, torture 

victims may file a suit for compensation in the Supreme Court.  The 

Court granted awards ranging from $200 to $2,000.  Most cases, however, 

take a year or more to move through the courts.  Moreover, with the new 

legislation that imposed a minimum punishment of 7 years' imprisonment 

for those found guilty of torture, the number of convictions of security 

force personnel for torture in fundamental human rights cases 

dramatically fell. 


The LTTE reportedly uses torture on a routine basis.  However, because 

of the secretive nature of the LTTE, no first-hand information is 



Prison conditions are generally poor and do not meet minimum 

international standards because of overcrowding and lack of sanitary 

facilities.  An increase in the number of detentions associated with the 

resumption of the war with the LTTE has caused a significant 

deterioration in already poor standards in short-term detention centers.  

However, the Government permitted ICRC representatives to visit more 

than 400 places of detention. 


Conditions are also believed to be poor in prisons operated by the LTTE. 


   d.    Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile 


Under ordinary law, authorities must inform an arrested person of the 

reason for arrest and bring that person before a magistrate within 24 

hours.  In practice, persons detained under ordinary law generally 

appear before a magistrate within a few days of arrest.  The magistrate 

may authorize bail or order continued pretrial detention for up to 3 

months or longer.  Except in limited areas of the northeast and in 

Colombo, security forces may no longer use the ER to detain suspects for 

prolonged periods of time without court approval. 


In spite of government announcements that it would close all secret 

detention centers, the victims of extrajudicial killing by the security 

forces (see Section 1.a.) were held incommunicado at secret locations 

prior to their murders.  There were also continued reports that security 

forces held a small number of other people in such a manner.  However, 

human rights monitors believe that most such detentions occurred 

infrequently and for periods of only a few days before the detainees 

were put into the normal detention system. 


Detention of Tamils rose sharply following the resumption of hostilities 

in April, although arrests and detentions generally took place in 

accordance with the ER.  At year's end the Government held as many as 

940 detainees, up from 380 at the end of 1994.  Many of these detainees 

were arrested during military operations against the LTTE and were held 

in facilities operated by the army.  The Government continued to detain 

some individuals under the PTA, which permits detention without charge 

for up to 18 months. 


The ER, which remained in force in the northeastern part of the island 

and in Colombo, allows pretrial detention for a maximum of four 

consecutive 3-month periods.  A magistrate must order further detention.  

Detainees may challenge their detention and sue the Government for 

violating their civil rights in the Supreme Court. 


Security forces continued to conduct mass arrests of young Tamils, both 

male and female, especially following the resumption of hostilities with 

the LTTE in April.  There were also major sweeps subsequent to an LTTE 

bomb blast in Colombo in August, which killed 22 people, and an attack 

on Colombo oil storage facilities in October.  Although exact numbers of 

detainees were impossible to determine, they certainly numbered in the 

thousands.  Upwards of 1,000 Tamils at a time were picked up in actions 

by the police.  Most were released after identity checks lasting several 

hours to several days.  The Government justified the arrests on security 

grounds, but many Tamils claimed that the arrests were a form of 

harassment.  In addition, those arrested, most of whom were innocent of 

any wrongdoing, are detained in prisons together with hardened 



The HRTF continued to investigate the legality of detention in cases 

referred to it by the Supreme Court and private citizens.  In July 

President Kumaratunga issued an ER reconstituting the HRTF, which had 

lost its legal status with the lapse of the ER in September 1994.  The 

HRTF thereby regained its powers to exercise oversight over arrests and 

detentions by the security forces and to undertake visits to prisons.  

Included in the ER were directives to the heads of the armed forces and 

the police to assist the HRTF in carrying out its duties.  Nonetheless, 

members of the security forces occasionally breached the regulations and 

failed to cooperate with the HRTF. 


There were unconfirmed reports that the LTTE was detaining more than 

2,000 civilians in the northern part of the island.  The LTTE did not 

permit the ICRC or any other humanitarian organization to visit its 

detainees--aside from 22 security force personnel and 21 fishermen 

incarcerated in Jaffna.  During the cessation of hostilities early in 

the year, the LTTE released the few remaining police officers in their 

custody.  However, in August LTTE insurgents hijacked a civilian ferry, 

and continued to detain two passengers and the Sinhalese crew of eight 

at the end of the year. 


The Government does not practice exile.  There are no legal provisions 

allowing or prohibiting its use. 


   e.   Denial of Fair Public Trial 


The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the 

Government respects these provisions in practice. 


The President appoints judges to the Supreme Court, the courts of 

appeal, and the high courts.  A Judicial Service Commission, comprised 

of the Chief Justice and two Supreme Court judges, appoints, transfers, 

and dismisses lower court judges.  Judges serve until mandatory 

retirement age, which is 65 for the Supreme Court and 62 for other 



In criminal cases, defendants are tried in public by juries.  They are 

informed of the charges and evidence against them, may be represented by 

the counsel of their choice, and have the right to appeal.  The 

Government provides counsel for indigent persons tried on criminal 

charges in the high courts and the Court of Appeal, but not in other 

cases; private legal aid organizations assist some defendants. 


There are no jury trials in cases brought under the seldom-invoked PTA.  

Confessions, which are otherwise inadmissible, are allowed in PTA cases.  

Most convictions under the PTA rely heavily on them.  In such cases, 

defendants bear the burden of proof to demonstrate that their 

confessions were obtained by coercion.  Nevertheless, defendants in PTA 

cases have the right to appeal. 


The Government claims that all persons held under the ER and the PTA are 

suspected members of the LTTE and therefore legitimate security threats.  

There is insufficient information to determine whether these detainees, 

or members of the JVP similarly detained in past years, were political 

prisoners.  Between 200 and 300 of those previously detained--mostly JVP 

members--have been convicted under criminal law and remain incarcerated.  

In many cases, human rights monitors question the legitimacy of the 

criminal charges brought against these people. 


The LTTE has its own court system, composed of young judges with little 

or no legal training.  The courts reportedly impose severe punishments.  

However, the courts have no basis in law and essentially operate as 

extrajudicial agents of the LTTE, rather than as an independent 



The LTTE also holds a number of political prisoners. 


   f.   Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 



The Government generally respects the constitutional protections of 

individual privacy and the sanctity of the family and home.  The police 

obtain proper warrants for arrests and searches conducted under ordinary 

law.  However, the security forces are not required to obtain warrants 

for searches conducted under the PTA (see Section 1.e.).  The Secretary 

of Defense is responsible for providing oversight for such searches.  

There is no judicial review or other means of redress for alleged 

illegal searches under the PTA. 


The Government is believed to monitor telephone conversations and 

correspondence on a selective basis.  The security forces routinely open 

mail destined for the LTTE-controlled areas and seize contraband. 


The LTTE routinely invades the privacy of citizens.  It maintains an 

effective network of informants.  In 1990 the LTTE evicted thousands of 

Muslim residents from their homes in the north.  They currently live in 

refugee camps. 


   g.   Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in 

Internal Conflicts 


Hostilities between the Government and the LTTE resumed violently in 

April, following the collapse of a 3-month cease-fire. 


There were no reports of army massacres of Tamil civilians, such as the 

ones at Kokkadichcholai in 1991 and Mailanthani in 1992, although there 

were some extrajudicial killings (see Section 1.a.).  Early in the 

renewed conflict, there were isolated incidents in which security force 

personnel used civilians, some of whom suffered injury, as human shields 

to clear mine fields and to protect the perimeters of security force 

camps.  The Government quickly put an end to these practices.  However, 

in an incident in December, members of the STF in the east commandeered 

a civilian bus to move quickly to an STF camp at Pudukudiirippu in 

Batticaloa district which was under attack by the LTTE.  They forced the 

civilians to remain on board, resulting in several civilian deaths when 

the bus came under LTTE fire. 


During a military offensive in Jaffna in July, between 250 and 300 

civilians were killed, 125 in a single incident in which bombs were 

dropped adjacent to a crowded church compound at Navali.  Periodic 

shelling and bombing of the LTTE-controlled Jaffna Peninsula caused 

additional civilian casualties. 


In October the Government opened a second coordinated military attack on 

LTTE-held territory in the Jaffna Peninsula, resulting in the capture of 

Jaffna City in December.  Fierce fighting resulted in high casualties on 

both sides and upwards of 400,000 displaced persons.  The Government, 

however, took measures to limit the number of civilian casualties in the 

war.  During the July offensive, notices were dropped warning civilians 

to congregate in schools, churches, and temples to minimize risk.  In 

addition, shelling in advance of troops attacking through populated 

areas was kept to a minimum in order to spare civilians.  Civilian 

casualties were also reduced due to the relatively slow and methodical 

manner in which government security forces pushed forward, which enabled 

civilians to flee well in advance of troop movements.  In the second 

phase of the Jaffna offensive during October to December, during which 

Jaffna City was taken, about 100 civilians were killed.  The Government 

averted a major humanitarian crisis by allowing relief organizations to 

channel emergency food and medical supplies to the civilians displaced 

in the Jaffna fighting.  The security forces also continued to carry out 

human rights instruction as part of their training courses. 


The Government detains very few captured LTTE prisoners since many of 

them kill themselves with cyanide before capture.  The LTTE claims that 

it kills security force personnel rather than take them prisoner.  It 

admits to holding only 21 security force prisoners.  The LTTE is 

believed to have killed many of the 600 to 800 police officers and 

security force personnel it captured in recent years. 


The LTTE used excessive force in the renewed conflict, killing an 

undetermined number of civilians.  It was accused of using church and 

temple compounds (where civilians are instructed to congregate in the 

event of hostilities) as shields for the storage of munitions.  In July 

the LTTE forced civilians to return to places abandoned by government 

troops before the areas were adequately secured and cleared of land 

mines.  In August it seized a civilian ferry carrying over 140 

passengers, including children and pregnant women, using it as a decoy 

to lure navy patrol boats, two of which it subsequently sank.  During 

the October to December government offensive on the Jaffna peninsula, 

LTTE cadre forced some civilians to abandon their homes and retreat with 

them, allegedly as human sheilds, in the face of advancing government 

troops.  The LTTE was also reported to be recruiting children into its 

military forces.  Dead LTTE insurgents recovered by the Government 

following a major battle at Weli Oya in July were found to be as young 

as 14.  Reports that the LTTE was conscripting children were impossible 

to verify. 

Section 2   Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: 


   a.   Freedom of Speech and Press 


Although the Constitution provides for freedom of speech and expression, 

restrictions are permitted on national security grounds. 


The Government controls the country's largest newspaper chain, a major 

television station, and the Sri Lankan Broadcasting Corporation.  

However, there are also a variety of independent newspapers, journals, 

and radio and television stations. 


Independent journalists reported that from the death of UNP President 

Premadasa in 1993 until September, their freedom to report openly and 

critically about the Government had improved markedly.  They had been 

able to provide an unimpeded range of views and openly criticize the 

Government and political parties.  However, in September the Government 

abridged press freedom.  It issued an ER subjecting news relating to the 

armed forces and the police to government censorship.  The Government 

stated that censorship of military news was necessary because certain 

sections of the media had been reporting in an irresponsible manner, 

jeopardizing the war effort and inciting communal violence.  After 

government security forces captured Jaffna City in December, the 

Government stopped censoring the news.   


A number of other government actions during the year were also of 

concern to the media.  The Government failed to reform the press law and 

privatize government-owned media as promised during the election 

campaign.  The President filed a defamation of character suit against a 

leading editor which journalists claimed was frivolous and intended only 

to harass and intimidate the media.  In August and September, upon 

receiving complaints from cabinet ministers, the police Criminal 

Investigation Department (CID) raided the offices of several leading 

editors, questioning them about the accuracy of their stories and 

attempting to coerce journalists into revealing their sources.  In 

another incident in February, a leading editor, noted for holding 

antigovernment views, and his wife were assaulted by unknown persons. 


Journalists and civil libertarians also complain that the Parliamentary 

Powers and Privileges Act stipulates an unlimited fine or up to 2 years' 

imprisonment for anyone who criticizes a Member of Parliament (M.P.).  

Although the Government has not invoked the law since 1992, journalists 

and civil libertarians complain that the act is an unjustified 

infringement on freedom of the press. 


The Government generally respects academic freedom.  Legal restrictions 

on campus political activity were removed in most parts of the country 

in 1994 with the lifting of the ER.  During 1995 the ER were not used to 

control students. 


The LTTE does not tolerate freedom of expression.  It tightly restricts 

the print and broadcast media in areas under its control and has often 

killed those who oppose it.  The LTTE also does not respect academic 

freedom and has repressed and killed intellectuals who criticize it, 

such as Thiagarajah Selvanithy (see Section 1.a.).  In November it 

kidnaped a university vicechancellor (see Section 1.b.)  It has severely 

repressed the University Teachers for Human Rights, which was formerly 

based on the Jaffna Peninsula. 


   b.   Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association 


The law provides for these rights, and the Government respects them in 

practice.  Although the PTA may restrict such freedoms, the Government 

did not use the act for that purpose in 1995.  The Government routinely 

granted permits for demonstrations. 


   c.   Freedom of Religion 


The Constitution establishes Buddhism as the official national religion, 

but also provides for the right of members of other faiths to practice 

their religions freely.  The Government respects this right in practice.  

Foreign clergy may work in Sri Lanka, but for more than 30 years the 

Government has prohibited the entry of new foreign Jesuit clergy.  It 

permits those already in the country to remain. 


Evangelical Christians, who constitute less than 1 percent of the 

population, have expressed concern that their efforts at proselytization 

are often met with hostility and harassment by the local Buddhist clergy 

and others opposed to their work (see Section 5).  They sometimes 

complain that the Government tacitly condones such harassment.  However, 

there is no evidence to support this. 


   d.   Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 

Emigration, and Repatriation 


The Constitution grants every citizen "freedom of movement and of 

choosing his residence" and "freedom to return to Sri Lanka."  The 

Government generally respects the right to domestic and foreign travel.  

However, the resumption of the war with the LTTE prompted the Government 

to impose more stringent checks on travelers from the north and the 

east, and on those moving in Colombo, particularly after dark.  These 

security measures had the effect of restricting the movement of Tamils, 

especially young males. 


The LTTE restricts the movement of Tamils in areas under its control.  

It levies a large "exit tax" on persons wishing to travel to areas under 

government control, requiring the travelers to leave all their property 

in escrow.  In order to ensure that the travelers return, the LTTE often 

grants permission to only one family member to travel at a time.  The 

LTTE does not allow displaced persons living in areas under its control 

to return to their homes in government-controlled areas.   


Prior to the October to December government offensive on the Jaffna 

peninsula, an estimated 600,000 citizens had been displaced by the 

insurgency.  Most live in camps financed by the Government and 

nongovernmental organizations (NGO's).  The offensive displaced an 

additional 300,000 to 400,000 people on the peninsula, who live with 

friends or relatives, or in makeshift "welfare centers" in schools, 

religious institutions, and other public buildings.  These people 

remained under the control of the LTTE insurgents who forbade them to 

leave LTTE-controlled territory.  Nonetheless, the Government continued 

to supply them with food, medicine, and other essential supplies.  An 

estimated 69,000 Tamil refugees live in camps in southern India.  

Another 100,000 refugees are believed to have been integrated into the 

Tamil society of southern India.  The Government allows the U.N. High 

Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to operate freely.  Prior to the 

resumption of hostilities, the UNHCR assisted in the repatriation of 

over 10,000 refugees from India during the year. 


The Government does not permit the entry of refugees into the country, 

nor does it aid those who manage to enter to seek permanent residence 

elsewhere.  There were no instances of forcible repatriation. 


Section 3   Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 

Change Their Government 


Citizens have the constitutional right to change their government 

through periodic multiparty elections based on universal adult suffrage.  

This right was last exercised during parliamentary elections in August 

1994, when the People's Alliance Party ended the 17-year rule of the 

United National Party (UNP), and during the presidential election in 

November 1994, when PA presidential candidate Chandrika Kumaratunga won 

62 percent of the vote.  International election monitors judged the 

elections to be free and fair.  No elections were scheduled in 1995. 


During the parliamentary election in August 1994, 9 of the 10 Jaffna 

seats were won by candidates from a Tamil group which supported the then 

ruling UNP.  The group's armed militias intimidated voters.  Although 

the overall election was marred by 25 murders, the harassment of voters 

appeared equally divided among the parties and did not appear to be an 

official government or party policy. 


The Commissioner of Elections recognizes 26 parties; 9 hold seats in the 

225-member Parliament.  The two most influential parties, the PA and the 

UNP, generally draw their support from the majority Sinhalese community.  

Historically, these two parties have alternated in power.  There are 27 

Tamil and 21 Muslim M.P.'s. 


Although there are no legal impediments to the participation of women in 

politics or government, the social mores in some communities limit 

women's activities outside the home.  In August 1994, voters elected a 

female prime minister for the second time in Sri Lanka's history.  In 

November for the first time, a woman was elected president.  Eleven 

women hold seats in the Parliament.  In addition to the Prime Minister 

and the Minister of Transport, Environment, and Women's Affairs, four 

deputy ministers are women. 


The LTTE refuses to allow elections in areas under its control. 


Section 4   Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 

Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights 


There are several local human rights groups, including the Movement for 

Interracial Justice and Equality (MIRJE), the University Teachers for 

Human Rights, the Civil Rights Movement (CRM), and the Law and Society 

Trust (LST), which monitor civil and political liberties.  There are no 

adverse government regulations governing the activities of local and 

foreign NGOs.  However, following the resumption of hostilities in 

April, death threats were received by a few human rights monitors. 


The Government continued to allow the ICRC unrestricted access to 

detention facilities.  At the Government's request, the ICRC supervised 

the delivery of food and medical supplies in the northern war zone and 

provided human rights training materials to the security forces. 


Several international groups, including the ICRC, provided humanitarian 

relief to those affected by the conflict in the north and east.  At the 

Government's request, the ICRC protected convoys of mainly governmental 

food and medical supplies from Colombo into the northern war zone and 

provided human rights training material for the security forces.  In the 

first half of the year, the Government did not hinder their activities.  

However, following the resumption of the war with the LTTE in April, the 

Government seriously restricted the movement of supplies of these NGO's 

and international organizations to LTTE-controlled areas.  In addition, 

both the Government and the press were publicly critical of the 

operations of these groups in the north, calling into question their 

loyalty to the State.  However, in December NGO-Government relations 



Section 5   Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 

Language, or Social Status 


The Constitution guarantees equal rights under the law for all people in 

Sri Lanka.  The Government generally respects these rights.   




Sexual assault, rape, and spousal abuse (often associated with alcohol) 

represent serious and pervasive forms of societal violence against 

women.  However, new amendments to the Penal Code were introduced which 

specifically address sexual abuse and exploitation.  Rape laws were 

modified to create a more equitable burden of proof and to make 

punishments more stringent.  Marital rape is now considered an offense 

in cases of spouses living under judicial separation, and new laws 

govern sexual harassment in the workplace and sexual molestation.  While 

the new Penal Code may ease some of the problems faced by victims of 

sexual assault, many women's organizations believe that greater 

sensitization of police and judicial officials will also be required.  

Laws against procuring and trafficking were strengthened, facilitating 

the prosecution of brothel owners. 


The Constitution provides for equal employment opportunities in public 

sector, but women have no legal protection against discrimination in the 

private sector, where they are sometimes paid less than men for equal 

work and often face difficulty in rising to supervisory positions.  

Women constitute approximately one-half of the formal work force. 


Women have equal rights under national civil and criminal law.  However, 

issues related to family law, including divorce, child custody, and 

inheritance, are adjudicated by the customary law of each ethnic or 

religious group.  In 1995 the Government raised the minimum age of 

marriage for women from 12 to 18, except in the case of Muslims, who 

continue to follow their customary marriage practices.  The application 

of different legal practices based on membership in a religious or 

ethnic group often results in discrimination against women. 


The Ministry of Women's Affairs coordinates government efforts to 

address women's issues.  Several NGO's are also actively involved in 

promoting women's rights. 


During the massacres of civilians in the east in October (see Section 

1.a.), the LTTE raped a number of the victims.  This marked the first 

time in the ethnic conflict that the LTTE deliberately used rape as a 

weapon of terror. 




The Government is committed to protecting the welfare and rights of 

children, but is constrained by lack of resources. 


The Government demonstrates a strong commitment to children's rights and 

welfare through its widespread systems of public education and medical 

care.  Education is compulsory to the age of 12 and free through 

university.  Health care, including immunization programs, is also free.   


There is a significant problem of child prostitution in certain coastal 

resort areas.  The Government estimates that there are 2,000 active 

child prostitutes in the country, but private groups claim the number is 

much higher.  Many of these prostitutes are boys who sell themselves to 

foreign tourists.  The Penal Code was amended to strengthen punishments 

for trafficking of persons.  In 1995 the Ministry of Media, Tourism, and 

Aviation created a task force specifically to study the problem of sex 

tourism and related offenses, but no new legislation resulted. 


In the first quarter of 1995, the Government reported that 1,576 cases 

of crimes against children had been recorded, an increase from previous 

years.  NGO's attribute the problem of exploitation of children to the 

lack of law enforcement rather than inadequate legislation. 


There have been reports that rural children working as domestic servants 

in urban households have been abused by their employers.  Some of these 

children have reportedly been starved, beaten, sexually abused, and 

forced into prostitution.  The Government does not have sufficient 

resources to protect these children from such exploitation  (see Section 



   People with Disabilities 


The law does not mandate accessibility to buildings or government 

services for people with disabilities.  The World Health Organization 

estimates that 7 percent of the population is disabled.  Most disabled 

people who are unable to work are cared for by their families.  The 

Department of Social Services runs eight vocational training schools for 

the physically and mentally disabled and sponsors a program of job 

training and job placement for graduates.  The Government provides some 

financial support to NGO's assisting the disabled, subsidizes prosthetic 

devices and other medical aids for the disabled, makes some purchases 

from disabled suppliers, and has registered 74 schools and training 

institutions for the disabled run by NGO's. 


   Indigenous Peoples 


The indigenous people of Sri Lanka, known as Veddas, number less than a 

thousand.  They prefer to maintain their isolated traditional way of 

life, but are protected by the Constitution.  There are no legal 

restrictions on their participation in the political or economic life of 

the nation. 


   Religious Minorities 


Discrimination based on religious differences is much less common than 

discrimination based on ethnic group or caste.  In general, the members 

of the various faiths tend to be tolerant of each other's religious 

beliefs.  However, evangelical Christians have, on occasion, been 

harassed by Buddhist monks for their attempts to convert Buddhists to 

Christianity (see Section 2.c.). 


In the northern part of the island, LTTE insurgents expelled some 46,000 

Muslim inhabitants from their homes in 1990--virtually the entire Muslim 

population.  The LTTE has expropriated Muslim homes, lands, and 

businesses and threatened Muslim families with death if they attempt to 



   National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities 


There are approximately 1 million Tamils of comparatively recent Indian 

origin living in Sri Lanka.  About 85,000 of these people do not qualify 

for either Indian or Sri Lankan citizenship and face discrimination, 

especially in the allocation of government funds for education.  

However, the Government has stated that none of these people will be 

forced to depart the country. 


Tamils maintain that they have long been the victims of systematic 

discrimination in university education, government employment, and in 

other matters controlled by the Government.  However, in recent years 

there has been little evidence of overt discrimination in university 

enrollment or government employment. 


In August the Government released a "devolution" package designed to 

devolve wide-ranging powers to local governments, thereby providing 

ethnic minorities greater autonomy in governing their local affairs.  

The proposal was still being debated at year's end. 



Section 6   Worker Rights 


   a.   The Right of Association 


The Government respects the constitutional right of workers to establish 

labor unions.  Any seven workers may form a union, adopt a charter, 

elect leaders, and publicize their views.  About 75 percent of the 

plantation workforce is unionized.  Approximately 50 to 60 percent of 

the nonagricultural work force, which is about 25 to 30 percent of the 

total work force, is also unionized.  Most workers in large private 

firms are represented by unions, but those in small-scale agriculture 

and small businesses usually do not belong to unions. 


Most large unions are affiliated with political parties and together 

play a prominent role in the political process.  More than 30 labor 

unions have political affiliations, but there are also a small number of 

unaffiliated unions. 


The Department of Labor registered 233 new unions and cancelled the 

registration of 93 others.  The Department of Labor is authorized by law 

to cancel the registration of any union that does not submit an annual 

report.  That requirement is the only legal grounds for cancellation of 



All workers, other than civil servants and workers in "essential" 

services, have the right to strike.  By law, workers may also lodge 

complaints with the Commissioner of Labor, a labor tribunal, or the 

Supreme Court to protect their rights.  Before September 1994, the 

Government controlled strikes by declaring some industries to be 

"essential" under the ER.  This practice ceased when the Government 

terminated the ER.  However, the President retains the power to 

designate any industry as an essential service.  The International Labor 

Organization (ILO) has pointed out to the Government that essential 

services should be limited to services where an interruption would 

endanger the life, personal safety, or health of the population. 


Civil servants may collectively submit labor grievances to the Public 

Service Commission but have no legal grounds to strike.  Nonetheless, 

government workers in the transportation, telecommunication and ports 

sectors have staged brief strikes and other work actions.  There were 

183 strikes in 1995, 94 in the agricultural sector and 89 in the 

industrial and other sectors. 


The law prohibits retribution against strikers in nonessential sectors.  

Employers may dismiss workers only for indiscipline.  Incompetence or 

low productivity are not grounds for dismissal.  Unions are free to 

affiliate with international bodies, and many of them have done so. 


In September the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training released a 

"workers' charter" designed to provide a basis for legislation to 

strengthen worker rights.  The proposed charter consolidates existing 

labor legislation and reaffirms the rights of workers to organize and 

bargain collectively.  It also proposes new amendments to the Labor Law 

which would guarantee the right of workers to join unions, ensure that 

employers recognize and bargain with unions, establish a National Wages 

Commission to review minimum wages in all industries, ensure that all 

workers are covered under relevant labor laws, and establish a social 

security scheme.  It is opposed by business leaders largely because of 

the provisions that compel management to recognize all unions, collect 

union dues, and pay above-market wages.  The charter had not yet become 

law by year's end. 


   b.   The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively 


The law provides for the right to collective bargaining, and it is 

widely practiced.  Large firms may have employees in as many as 60 

different unions.  In enterprises that do not have unions, work 

councils--composed of employees, employers, and often a public sector 

representative--are often the forums for collective bargaining, although 

the councils are not mandatory outside the export processing zones 

(EPZ's) and do not have the power to negotiate binding contracts. 


The law currently does not require management to recognize or bargain 

with unions, and in some cases employers have declined to recognize the 

unions in their factories.  However, the law prohibits antiunion 

discrimination.  Employers found guilty of such discrimination are 

required to reinstate workers fired for union activities but have the 

right to transfer them to different locations. 


Workers in the EPZ's have the same rights to join unions as other 

workers.  However, employers in the EPZ's offer higher wages and better 

working conditions, thus discouraging union activity.  In the place of 

unions, workers in the EPZ's are represented by organizations known as 

Joint Consultative Councils (JCCs), which are chaired by the 

Government's Board of Investments (BOI) and consist of equal delegations 

from labor and management.  The number of strikes after mid-year 

declined from the unsettled period of late 1994 and early 1995. 


In most instances, wage boards establish minimum wages and conditions of 

employment, except in the EPZ's, where wages and work conditions are set 

by the BOI. 


   c.   Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor 


Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited by law.  According to some 

reports, rural children are sometimes employed in debt bondage as 

domestic servants in urban households.  The Government does not have 

sufficient resources to protect these children from such exploitation 

(see Section 5). 


The LTTE continues to conscript high-school age children for work as 

cooks, messengers, and clerks, and in some cases, building 



   d.   Minimum Age for Employment of Children 


The minimum age for employment is 15.  However, the law permits the 

employment of younger children by their parents or guardians in limited 

agricultural work.  It also permits employment in any school or 

institution for training purposes. 


Persons under age 16 may not be employed in any public enterprise in 

which life or limb is endangered.  Children are not employed in the 

EPZ's, the plantations, the garment industry, or any other export 

industry.  About 85 percent of children below the age of 16 attend 

school.  The law provides that the employment of such persons is 

permitted for not more than 1 hour on any day before school. 


Despite legislation, some child labor still exists.  Some children work 

in the informal sectors, including the manufacture of coconut fiber 

products, fishing, wrapping tobacco, street trading, domestic service, 

and farming.  Government inspections have been unable to eliminate these 

forms of child labor. 


   e.   Acceptable Conditions of Work 


The Department of Labor effectively enforces the minimum wage law.  

While there is no universal national minimum wage, some 38 wage boards 

set minimum wages and working conditions by sector and industry.  

According to the Statistics Department of the Labor Ministry, current 

minimum wage rates average $40 (2,000 rupees) a month in industry, 

commerce, and the service sector and $1.50 (75 rupees) a day in 

agriculture.  The minimum wage in the garment industry is $40 (2,000 

rupees) a month.  These minimum wages are insufficient to support a 

worker and the standard family of 5, but the vast majority of families 

have more than one breadwinner. 


Most permanent full-time workers are covered by laws that prohibit them 

from working regularly more than 45 hours per week (a 5 1/2 day work 

week).  Such workers also receive 14 days of annual leave, 14 to 21 days 

of medical leave, and some 20 local holidays each year.  Maternity leave 

is available for permanent and casual female workers.  Employers must 

contribute 12 to 15 percent of a worker's wage to an employee's 

provident fund and 3 percent to an employee's trust fund.  Employers who 

fail to comply may be fined. 


Several laws protect the safety and health of industrial workers.  

However, the Department of Labor's small staff of inspectors is 

inadequate to enforce compliance with the laws.  Workers have the 

statutory right to remove themselves from situations that endanger their 

health, but many workers are unaware of, or indifferent to, health risks 

and fear that they will lose their jobs if they remove themselves.