By Elizabeth Breslin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Returning home from a church service on Sunday, priest and human rights activist Reverend M.X. Karunaratnam was killed by a roadside bomb in a rebel-controlled territory of Sri Lanka. Rebels claim that a government bomb killed Karunaratnam, while the government denies any involvement.
Karunaratnam was the leader of North East Secretariat on Human Rights, a rights group focused on the rights of ethnic Tamils. For this reason, many ethnic Tamils believe that the government targeted him specifically. There are numerous reports which state that the bomb was in fact planted by Sri Lankan Army’s Deep Penetration Unit.
This incident preceded recent criticisms of the Sri Lankan government by international legal group International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP). IIGEP was formed in 2007 to oversee an inquiry into 16 human rights violation cases in Sri Lanka; it includes members from the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, and other countries. On Tuesday, the group announced that the Sri Lankan government had not been meeting the IIGEP’s requests and lacked the political will to investigate rights abuses. Instead of acting on their recommendations, the government had been disrespectful toward the IIGEP and was accusing it of purposely failing in its job by pushing an “international agenda” in an effort to force a United Nations rights monitoring mission on the country.
Reverend Karunaratnam perhaps understood the IIGEP’s frustration when issuing his last report on April 5th, stating: “The local [Sri Lankan] mechanism to ensure good governance with respect for human rights has miserably failed and there is widespread call for the establishment of a UN body to monitor human rights violations.”
For more information, please see:
AFP – Foreign experts step up human rights criticism of Sri Lanka – 22 April 2008
Tamil Sydney – Genocide: Sri Lanka Silences Yet Another Human Rights Activist– 23 April 2008
USA Today – Prominent priest killed in Sri Lanka blast – 21 April 2008
Xinhua News – Human rights panel denies int’l plot to discredit Sri Lanka – 23 April 2008