Human rights on decline in Sri Lanka: US

WASHINGTON, February 25, 2009 (AFP) – Human rights are on the decline in Sri Lanka with the government and Tamil Tiger rebels both committing violations as the three-decade war intensifies, the US State Department said Wednesday.

In an annual global report, the State Department also said that media freedom was deteriorating on the island with journalists facing violence and other harassment and often obliged to practice self-censorship.

The report, which covered 2008, comes as the government says it is advancing on the Tiger rebels, who have been fighting since 1972 to create a separate homeland for the ethnic Tamil community.

“The government’s respect for human rights declined as armed conflict escalated,” the State Department said.

It said that young Tamil men made up the “overwhelming majority” of victims of human rights violations, even though Tamils make up only 16 percent of the population in the Sinhalese-majority nation.

The State Department said that paramilitaries and others believed to be “working with awareness of the government” carried out unlawful killings, torture and kidnappings of civilians with impunity.

The report also harshly criticized the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which