In United States District Court Central District of California Case No. CVI9·2577·R(RAOx) Ahimsa Wickrematunge Plaintiff and Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa Defendant; Expert Opinion by ARTICLE 19

Case No. CVI9·2577·R(RAOx)
Ahimsa Wickrematu nge
• and -
Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa
Introduct ion
1. This expert opin ion has been prepared by ARTICLE 19 : Global Campaign for Free Expression
(ARTICLE 19), an independent human rights organisation that works around the world to
protect and promote the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of informat ion. We have
been asked by the Center for Just ice & Accountabili ty (CJA), attorneys for Ahimsa
Wrickematunge (the Plaint iff) , to provide an expert opinion in the present case on i) the state
of gross human rights violat ions against journalists and the state of impunity for att acks in Sri
Lanka and ii) whether these crimes have been committed as part of a widespread or systemat ic
att ack against journalists critical of the Government of Sri Lanka. We understand that this
opinion will be relied upon by the Plaint iff in the case before the United States District Court
Central Distri ct of California.
...~ ~ -. .,'
2. In th is Expert Opinion, ARTICLE 19 submits that based on the available evidence, in the
period of 2005 to 20 15, journali sts and media workers critical of the Government of Sri Lanka
const ituted a specif ically targeted group, attacked due to th eir journalist ic act ivities. Those
journal ists who crit icised the Rajapaksa's family act ions, while they were in Office and while
they possessed absolute cont rol of security, mili tary and intelligence forces, were a part icular
target of these attacks. The Government of Sri Lanka was direct ly involved in and responsible
for these attac ks. Further, thi s Expert Opinion concludes that there has been a clear intention
to limit any att empt to bring the perpetrators and instigators of these attac ks to justice, hence
cont ributing to a climate of impunity for violence against journalists in Sri Lanka. Based on
th is evidence and based on our experience in the fie ld, ARTICLE 19 supports the Plaintiff' s
claims. We also support the claim that, given the widespread impunity, access to justice and
the ability of the Plaint iff to access remedy at the domest ic level has been and will most likely
cont inue to be il lusory.
Interest of ARTICLE 19: expertise on protect ion of journalists and fight against impunity
3. ARTICLE 19 is an international human rights organisation that advocates for the development
of progressive standards on freedom of expression and of informat ion at the internati onal and
regional levels, and the implementation of such standards in domestic legal systems. It has
contributed to the elaboration and advocacy of international law and standards, and have been
engaged in lit igation in nat ional and international fora involving states' obligat ions arising from
internat ional law on freedom of expression and other human rights. We are well known for
their authoritative work in elaborat ing the implications of the guarantee of freedom of
expression in different thematic areas.
4. Since 2000 , ARTICLE 19 has been active in specifying internation al standards on protection
of journalists and advocating for improved standards to tackle impunit y at the United Nations
and nationa l levels. For instance, we provide support to the international and regional human
rightsmandate holders in drafti ng their annual joint declaration addressing specific challenges
to the right to freedom of expression. This includes the 20 12 Joint Declaration on Crimes
Against Freedom of Expression which called on governments to create a new category of
'crimes against free expression' in order to recognise that such crimes are of serious nature,
and th at they undermine the right to know of all persons and affect society as a whole.' We
have cont inually pursued the promot ion of progressive standards on impunit y at the Human
Rights Council, lobbying for its inclusion in resoluti on 33/2 on the safety of journalists which
committed States to a range of act ions aimed at adopt ing strategies to combat impunity,
ensuring accountabi lity for all types of attac ks against journalists, and prosecut ing the
perpetrators of these crimes, among other act ions related to the prevention and protection of
journal ists.2
5. ARTICLE 19's legal expertise has also contributed to the development of progressive
jur isprudence of regional and national courts in the area of freedom of expression and
impunit y, in particular in cases at the European Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American
Court of Human Rights and the African Commission on Human and People's Rights. At the
domestic level, ARTICLE 19 also lit igates on behalf of journalists who are victims of serious
attac ks in regions where impunity is the rule and where prosecutorial inaction or political
int erference has resulted in a lack of investigat ion of attac ks.
6. This expert opinion draws on factua l information about the relevant circumstances under
which crit ical journali sts and media in Sri Lanka exercised their right to freedom of express ion
during the Administ rat ion of the Defendant and his family, as well as the connect ion between
the attacks and certain elements that support the claim s of the Plaint iff.
Summary of the submissions
, See Joint Declaration on Crimes Against Freedom at Expression, United Nat ions (UN) Special Rapporteur on Freedom
of Opi nion and Expression, Organization for Security and Co-operat ion in Europe (OSCE) Representat ive on Freedom of
the Media, Organization of American States (OAS) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and African Commission
on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) Special Rapporte ur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Informat ion, 20 12,
available at hitpsdlwww.osce,orglfomI9 1595?download- t rue.
a Human Rights Counci l, Resolut ion 33 12 on Safety of Journal ists, AlHRCIRESI3312, 6 Octo ber 20 16, available at
htt ps:llu .
7. In thi s Expert Opinion, ARTICLE 19 presents the followin g:
(i) Evidence of systemat ic and widespread atta cks against and other forms of harassment of
journalists in Sri Lanka, perpetrated in the period of 2005 to 20 15, during which the
Defendant and his family governed the country from the Executi ve Branch; and
(ii) Evidence of the lack of judic ial independence and of prevailing impunity regarding serious
crimes and gross human rights and humanitarian violations.
I. Systematic and widespread attacks against journalists in Sri Lanka
8 . ARTICLE 19 submits that in the period of 20 05 -20 15, journalists critical of the Government
in Sri Lanka have been victim s of numerous forms of atta cks, in part icular, violence and thr eats
of violence, smear campaigns, various other forms of restri ctions and misuse of domestic
legislation. These amount to serious violati ons of intern ational human rights and humanit arian
laws standards by the Government of Sri Lanka. ARTICLE 19 believes that these violat ions
provide an important context for considerat ion in the Plaintiff's case.
Violence against journalists
9. ARTICLE 19 observes th at a number of int ernational and nat ional human rights organisations
have documented attac ks against journali sts and the media crit ical of the Government. We
note th at the reported number of journali sts kill ed in the period of 2005 - 20 15 varies
according to the methodologies used by different organisations and th eir ability to document
the atrocit ies under the precarious and dangerous condit ions prevailin g during the relevant
period. However, the toll of violence is provably high. For example:
• In the period of 2006 - 2009, the Committee to Protect Journali sts (CPJ) and Reporters
Without Borders (RSF) documented the killing of 13 journali sts, seven of which were
connected to th eir journalistic act ivity and crit icism of the Government ." According to
these organisat ions, at least 23 journali sts went into exile from 2008 to 20 13 afte r
experiencing direct attacks , harassment , threats or imprisonment relating to their
crit ic ism of Government act ions and pol ic ies; those that did not fl ee from the country
were nonetheless prosecuted or intimidated for th eir coverage or positi on against the
Government. 4
• Similar conclusions were also reported in Freedom House's report on 'Freedom of the
Press' from 2006 to 20 14.5
• According to Journali sts for Democracy (JDS) in Sri Lanka, more than 40 journali sts and
media workers were kill ed or disappeared from 2005 to 20 10; while both Tamil Tigers
3 CPJ, 13 Journalists and Media Workers Killed in Sri Lanka between 2005 and 20 151 Motive Confir med, available at
http s:llb ; RSF, Violations of press freedom barometer. 20 05 - 20 15, available at htt ps:llbit .ly/2HAx663.
4 CPJ, Journalists in Exile, reports 2008 ·2012 , available at: htt, htt ps:llb it. ly/2HDFC4i,
htt ps:ll bit. ly/2Pwm8VN, and httDs:llbi t. ly/2HFgMdH.
s Freedom House, Freedom of the Press - Sri Lanka, 2006 - 20 14, available at httpsd/bit.l vi2zLdiJ7.
(LTTE- Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam) and government off icials were reportedly
involved in these attacks."
10. Similarly, international human rights organisat ions and the instit utions of other states came
to the same conclusions. In partic ular:
• The United States Department of State (US State Department) registered in detai l the
widespread killings of and attacks against Tamil newspapers, journalists and media
workers through their Country reports on human rights practices in Sri Lanka from 2007
to 2015, reporting that media freedom deteriorated throughout these years, as the
Government restri cted and attempted to avoid crit icism and progress in the investigations
of attacks against journal ists and media out lets in the count ry, as well as the role of
security off icers and specific senior government offi cials in harassing, threatening and
intimidating journalists and their lawyers - the Defendant included.'
• The 2011 report of the Panel of Experts, appointed by the UN Secretary-General to advise
him on the allegations of violat ions of international humanitarian and human rights law
during the final stages of the civi l war in Sri Lanka, documented high-profile assaults,
disappearances and ki llings of members of the media ." It found that inter alia, "the
Government sought to int imidate and silence the media and other crit ics through a variety
of threats, including the use of white bans to abduct and make people disappear."? In
addit ion, the Panel observed the role that public off icials played towards the media and
journalists crit ical of the Government, part icularly the Defendant and the Mini stry of
Defence he represented. They found that the media and journalists were labelled as
" t raitors," "Tiger sympath izers" and "terrorists;" such statements were public ly presented
on the Ministry of Defence website or stated in public by the Defendant, who was Defence
Secretary at the t ime.'? The report shows that the Defendant directly threatened
prominent journalists and issued increasingly restrict ive guidelines for journali sts
reporting on milita ry operations, includ ing making it an offence to depict operations in
negative terms.II
• The 20 15 report of the DHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL) found that "attacks
against journali sts in Sri Lanka were widespread, occurred over an extended period of
time , cont inued throughout and afte r the period covered by [the 2015 investigation
rnandatel, and appear systematic in their repeated targeting of specific media known for
being critic al of Government policies or figures." !2 The report confirmed that afte r the
formal end of the confl ict , from 2009 to 20 11, "It lhe space for freedom of expression
and critical debate closed furth er, with relentless harassment and intimidation of human
' JDS, Killed Media Workers, Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka, available at hltpsd/
1 US State Department, Country Reports on Human Rights Practi ces-Sri Lanka, 2005-20 15, available at
hltps:llbit. ly/3DRg4ZO.
8 The Report of the Secretary-General's Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, panel of expert appointed by
the UN Secretary General after his agreement with the Government of Sri Lanka in 2009, 3 1 March 20 11, available at
9 Ibid., para 176 (e).
10 Ibid., para 64.
11 Ibid.
12 Human Rights Council, Report of the OHCHR investigation on Sri Lanka (OISU, AlHRC/30/CRP.2, 16 September
20 15, para 260, avai lable at h1!Rs ,lIb
rights defenders, int erference with the independence of lawyers and judges, and attac ks
on journali sts and the independent media." !'
The OISL report explic it ly identifi ed journalists as a one of the groups targeted and
part icularly affected during t his period.I ' The report observed that the scale of such
kill ings varied over time "from 2004 and especially late 2005, unlawful killings , includ ing
targeted kil lings of [. .. ]journal ists, began to escalate. " 15 The report also found that attacks
against journalis ts in Sri Lanka cont inued throughout and afte r the period covered by
OISL's mandate, and appear systemati c in their repeated targeti ng of specific media
known for being critica l of Government policies or f igures. In several instances, media
workers were offered insuff icient protect ion measures despite recurrent attacks against
them and there has been little progress in the investigations of their kill ings.I '
• In 20 14, the Human Rights Committee published the li st of issues in relation to the fi fth
periodic report of Sri Lanka to review their compliance with the international human rights
obligations under the Internat ional Covenant on Civil and Polit ical Rights." A number of
human rights organisations submitted information documenti ng attac ks against
journali sts and a pattern of persecution against this group." As a result of this periodic
report, the Committee concluded that one of their main concerns was the widespread
reports of journali sts being i nti midated, harassed, attacked, detained, subject to enforced
disappearance and to polit ically motivated charges by State off icials; the Committee also
noted the failure of the Government to bring perpetrators of reprisals to [ustice."
Threats and other forms of restrictions against journalists
11. Although there have not been any more reports of killin gs of journalists after 2009, other forms
of attac k against journalists and others report ing on human rights abuses in Sri Lanka
conti nued, contribut ing to a general climate of fear and self-censorship. For example:
• From 20 11 to 20 14, the US State Department reported that alarming and explicit threats
were made in public by government rninisters.F? Journali sts and media workers were the
subject of threats as a result of their reporting or the unfavourable coverage of Government
issues. For instance, in April 20 14 , aides of the Minister of Industry and Commerce
threatened the editor of Mannar's Pufhiyavan newspaper in response to a series of reports
about corrupt ion and land disputes in the area." In 20 12, the Cabinet Minister of Sri
13 Ibid., para 101.
" Ibid. paras 213 and 217 .
15 tbid., para 2 17.
" Ibid., para 260.
17 Human Rights Committee, List of issues in relat ion to the 5'" periodic report of Sri Lanka, CCPR/C/LKAIQ/5, 24 April
20 14, available at https,lI
18 HRC, Summary prepared by the OHCHR in accordance with para 5 of the annex to Human Rights Council resolut ion
16/21-Sri Lanka, AlHRCIWG.6/14/LKAl3, 30 July 20 12, available at htlps,llb 2dq.
19 Human Rights Committee , Concluding Observations on the 5'" periodic report of Sri Lanka, CCPR/C/LKAlCO/5, 21
November 20 14, paras 15 and 2 1, available at httpsd/bil. ly/2kol bgY.
20 See US State Department , 20 11 and 20 12 Country Reports on Human Rights Pract ices - Sri Lanka, op. cil.
21 US State Department, 20 14 Country Reports on Human Rights Pract ices · Sri Lanka, op.cil.
Lanka admitted forcing a journalist to flee and threatened those journalists and human
rights act ivists opposing to the Government."
• Several human rights organisat ions have reported vast number of threats, harassment ,
intimidat ion and physical attacks against journal ists or the faci lit ies of media out lets ,
mainl y perpetrated under similar patterns such as by unidentified men or the direct
part ic ipation of the Government or security forces in charge of the Ministry of Defence.23
According to Amnesty International, on 5 July 20 13, the Secretary of Defence, Defendant
Gotobaya Rajapaksa, threatened Sunday Leader journalist Frederica Jansz with death
when she attempted to interview him about alleged abuse of power." Also, in September
2013, a journalist and photographers were surrounded and th reatened by army personnel
when they tried to report on the relocation of displaced people."
• According to numerous reports, labell ing journali sts was a common pract ice from 2007
to 2010. For instance, the Health Minister called media " rabid, "2. and the Defendant
called journalists that crit icised the Government policies "terrorists " and "Tiger
syrnpath lsers."? senior government off icials also accused crit ical journalists of treason."
The reports also show that in 2010 and 20 11, the Government pressured editors and
media to print stories that benef ited the government, somet imes threatening and
intimidati ng them, occurrences th at perpetuated the self-exile of some [oumalists." After
the Human Rights Counci l issued a resoluti on on Sri Lanka in 2012, cal ling on the
Government to initi ate credible act ions to ensure justi ce and accountability, State
television programs attac ked journalists and act ivists support ing the resol ution call ing
them " traitors." 30
12. The Government also adopted a series of measures to restrict media and journali stic activ it ies
in and about the country situat ion if they were considered as negative reporting. For instance:
• In 2007 and 2008, security forces and public off ic ials ordered internet access restrict ions
to pro Tamil 's media websites and pressured publishers to cover Governments' aff air in a
positive way."
• In 2009, the visas of foreign journali sts were revoked and they were asked to leave the
country when they reported sensit ive issues in a tone crit ical of the government." Visas
22BBG, Sri Lanka min ister Mervyn Si lva t hreaten s journ alists, 23 March 20 12 , available at 749 183 2
23 See, e.g. Human Rights Watch (HRWl, Sri Lanka, World Report 20 10, January 20 10. available at
https:llbiUy/32ngLmg. or Sri Lanka: Stop Harassing Vict ims, Activists, 3 September 20 13. available at
https:llbiU Y/2ZgYNt8 ; see also Amnesty International , Report 2014 - 20 15-Sri Lanka, 25 February 2015. available at
http s:llbit. ly/30RXaI0.
24 Amnesty International. Annual Report 20 13 - Sri Lanka, 23 May 20 13, available at: https:l/biUy/2ZgY6A9.
25 Ibid.
26 RSF, Statement of the International Press Freedom Mission, 24 June 2007, updated 20 January 20 16, available at
" The Report of Panel of Experts, op.cit.
26 US State Department, 20 10 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - Sri Lanka, op. cit.
29 Ibid.
30 See, e.g. Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 20 12 • Sri Lanka, 2 November 20 12, available at
https:llb it.l y/2knOcOv; or the US Department 2013 Report, op.cit.
31 US State Department, 2007 and 2008 Country Reports on Human Rights Pract ices - Sri Lanka, op.cit.
32 US State Department 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Pract ices - Sri Lanka, op.ctt.
for international media journalists were rejected over several years and government
authorit ies confiscated copies of The Economist newspaper in 20 10, preventing local
di stribut ion in Sri tanka."
• From 2010 to 20 15, the Government issued a series of administrat ive and inst itutional
bans to UN mandates and civil society, even in cases of only partial relevance to freedom
of expression and journalistic act ivit ies. For instance, it refused entry to the UN Special
Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and
expression" and the delegation of the International Bar Associat ion's Human Rights
Institute which included the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and
Legat actions against journalists
13 . ARTICLE 19 also observes that as part of the attacks, the Government of Sri Lanka adopted a
series of legal measures to target journalists. For instance:
• In 2005, the Emergency Regulat ions were reintroduced allowing the government to ban
the publicat ion, redi stribut ion, performance, or airing of any print or broadcast material
deemed likely to cause public disorder." In December 2006, the Emergency regulations
were used to arrest and detain journalists for months without charges; in some cases,
afte r being held without charge, several journalists were indicted under the Prevention of
Terrorist Act (PTA).37
• In 2009, the Government triggered the 1973 Press Counci l Act, which conferred the
power to "fine andlor impose punitive measures including lengthy prison terms," on
publishers of art icles that discuss government decisions andl or affairs relating to national
• From 2008 to 2010, the Sunday Leader - the newspaper founded by the Plaintiff's father
- faced several defamat ion lawsuits in which the then Ministry of Defence - the Defendant
- was seeking LKR 2 bi llion in damages (around 16 milli on USD in 20 10),39 a clearly
disproport ionate monetary award potent ially aimed to restrain the publicat ion of more
art icles potentially critical of the Government.
14. Based on the evidence outlined above, ARTICLE 19 believes that violence and attacks against
journalists were not incidental events during the armed conflict. Onthe contrary, the evidence
shows that journalists were a primary target , with their targeting directly connected to their
journalistic activity critical of the Government.
33 US State Department , 20 10 Country Reports - Sri Lanka, op.cit.
34 Sri Lanka Brief, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression Refused Entry, 17 March 20 13, available at
htt os:tlb
35 International Bar Association, Sri Lanka denies entry to IBAHRI delegation for the second time, ahead of major
Commonwealth summit, 13 November 20 13, available at https-llbit ly/2k4e93p.
36 Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2009 - Sri Lanka, 2009, op.cit.
37 Ibid.
38 US State Department. 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Pract ices - Sri Lanka, op.cit.
39 Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 20 12 - Sri Lanka, op.cit.
II. Lack of judicial independence and the state of impunity for violations in Sri Lanka
15. ARTICLE 19 also fin ds that there is evidence that there has been l ittl e progress on securing
accountabili ty for crimes under internat ional law and other human rights violations and abuses
against journalists in Sri Lanka, and that the f ail ure to prov ide effective remedies in individual
cases has hardened a climate of impunity.
16. Impunity in Sri Lanka is deep-rooted and can be partially att ributed to the lack of judicial
independence.'?The criminal just ice system operates in a highly poli t icised environment that
undermines the effect iveness, impartia lity and transparency of criminal investigations.
Notably, the Attorney General 's Office played a significant role in the failure to properly
investigate and prosecute state agents allegedly involved in human rights violations. According
to the Internat ional Commission of Jurists (ICJ), the Attorney General had the legal power to
override wide immunity clauses protectin g State off icials and possessed a range of
discretionary powers, including but not limited to transferring or withdrawing cases, stopping
criminal tri als, ordering the release of suspects and taking over prosecution s. 41
17. Informat ion ava ilable shows that the investigations of emblematic cases of kill ings,
disappearances and abductions of journalists th at exposed the Government 's corrupt ion and
wrongdoing from 2006 to 20 10 have failed to bring to ju stice both the perpetrators and
instigators of attacks. Military and security off icers have been identified for their part icipation
in the serious attacks against journalists and released on bail due to the lack of evidence." In
2017, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judgesand lawyers conf irmed that there
was virtual impunit y for any abuse committed by the police or the security forces during the
18. ARTICLE 19 concurs with the OISL's assessment that investigations of inter alia attacks
against journalists in the respect ive period in Sri Lanka should not be treated as ordinary
criminal off enses at the national level. On the contrary, theGovernment should recognise that
the parti cularities of these att acks requires differen t treatment and should instead be
addressed as international crimes. In thi s respect, we note that the Government created many
formal and informal obstacles to ensure accountabili ty for the violatio ns through special
investigatory bodies.
'0 C.f. Report of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers on her mission to Sri Lanka,
presented before the Human Rights Counci l, 23 March 20 17, International Commission of Jur ists, Authority without
Accountability: The Crisis of impunity in Sri Lanka, November 20 12, available at : httos:/, International
Commission of Jurists, Written statement submitted by Intern ational Commission of Jurists, a non-governmental
organization in special consultative status, Human Rights Council, N HRC/40/NGOIX, February 20 19, available at
http s:/Ib it.l y/2IKRREk
41 Internat ional Commission of Juri sts, 20 12, op. cit. pages 12 and 79 .
42 Tamil Guard ian, Familiesof murdered Tamil journalists still awaiting justice, 3 1 January 20 16, available at
httos:l/ 210 7 0yh, Human Rights Council, Report of the OHCHR invest igati on on Sri Lanka (OISU , op.cit .,
paras. 262, 263 and 267, BBC, Prageeth missing due to 'chemical weapon probe', 2B January 20 11, available at
https://bbc .in/2kH2 fwz; Sri Lanka Brief, Information Requested For Eknaligoda Case Extremely Sensit ive And Ultrasecret
- Army HQ, 17 September 20 16, available at https:llbi, Colambage, M., The Bulathwatte
bewilderment, The Sunday Observer, 4 August 20 19, available at htt ps:// 21 0 QB2T, Colombo Gazette, Probe
on Major Prabath Bulathwatte to continue, 16 May 20 19, available at
43 Report of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers on her mission to Sri Lanka, op. cit.,
para. 87 .
19 . In 20 13, a series of ad hoc commissions to investigate human rights abuses and politically
sensit ive crimes were set up, mainly in response to the recommendat ions of the Lessons
Learned and Reconcil iation Commission (LLRC). The fi rst one was the Commission of Inquiry
(CO l) to Investigate Complaints Regarding Missing Persons; however, t his was problemat ic
due to the lack of transparency over the criteria to select and prioritise the cases to be
invest igated by the COl and the politi cal influence that conditioned the development of
competent and independent insti tut ions aimed to guarantee accountabi lity for the gross
human rights violat ions committed during the armed conflict."
• Evidence shows that despite of some of its important findings, the CO l has failed to
conduct comprehensive, independent and transparent inquiries into the disappearances
of persons." The report also showed evidence of retaliat ions against some of those who
provided testimony to the COl.46 Importantly, the COl exonerated all government security
forces in cases they were appointed to investigate regardless of the evidence provided.
• An International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) was appointed to observe
the inquiries and the hearings held by the COl. IIGEPrepeatedly expressed concern about
the lack of impart iality in the COl proceedings and decided to abandon the process as
credible invest igations were compromised for numerous reasons, including the conf lict of
interest embodied in the Attorn ey General's role, and the lack of independence of the
20 . The evidence shows that various Governments of Sri Lanka have had no intention to establish
mechanisms for addressing impunity for human rights violations of human rights and attacks
against [ournatists." For instance:
• UN human rights reports have also established that criminal accountabil ity will remain
ill usory in circumstances where both the President and the Prime Minister deny the need
for judicial mechanisms and foreign assistance in the matt er, despite the fact that
exhaust ive evidence proves that the ordinary criminal justice system is unable to deal with
the nature of allegations and the complexity of crimes."?
• The Center for Policy Alternat ives (CPA) examined seven emblemat ic cases in Sri Lanka,
to evaluate the levels of accountabili ty in the prosecution cases of human rights with in
the criminal justice system and confirmed that over theyears state actors havecontributed
to the exist ing inst itut ional ized impunity in Sri Lanka.5o CPA reports described a culture
of impunity characterised by (i) the lack of or delays with prosecut ion caused by polit ical
influence and in the Att orney's General Department; (ii) lack of independent
" See Report at the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers on her mission to Sri Lanka to, the
Human Rights Council, 23 March 20 17, para 88, available at htl psd{bit.l y/2m36YsZ.
as Human Rights Council, Report of the OHCHR investigati on on Sri Lanka (OISl), op. cit., paras 518 and 523
46 Ibid.
" tbid., paras. 1211 -1216 .
48 C.t. OHCHR, Promoting reconciliat ion, accountabil ity and human rights in Sri Lanka, N HRCl40/23 , 8 February 20 19,
para 29, available at htl ps,// X.
49 Ibid., paras. 27-29 .
50 CPA, The Need for Accountability in Sri Lanka'sCriminal Justice System, Aglance at seven emblematic cases, March
20 19, p. 7, available at htl ps:llbit.l Y/2kh05Xr.
investigations in which the Sri Lankan Police, the TIC, and the CID have been forced to
overturn certain investigations; (iii ) deficien t victim and witness protection insofar as the
conti nued functioning of the Protect ion Division under the Inspector General of Police
raises questions of independence; (iv) evidence tampering, concealment and destruc tion
that has also resulted in prolonged investigations and inadmissibil ity of evidence." (v)
polit ical interference in investigation inst itutionsY
21. Final ly, the Government of Sri Lanka has not made public any information regarding the
actions taken to prevent the impuni ty of the perpetrators and the status of the judicial
enqui ries conducted in each of the killi ngs of journali sts." The Government has been ignoring
the urgent need for openness and transparency required to ensure the effect iveness of
investigations of crimes against freedom of expression and gross human rights violations.
III. Conclusions
22. In view of the foregoing, ARTICLE 19 fi nds that there has been a clear pattern in the attacks
against journalists critical of the Government in Sri Lanka from November 20 05 to January
20 15. This patte rn consists of specific and documented actions pract iced by the Government
of Sri Lanka in general, and the Defendant in part icular. Neither the perpetrators nor the
instigators have been brought to justice due to a systemat ic and historical int erference of the
Executi ve branch in the judicial and criminal justice system. The current state of the
investigat ions demonstrates that the Government of Sri Lanka is unable to prosecute and indict
those responsible for the killin g of Lasantha Wickrematunge and other journalists targeted for
their journalist ic act ivity during the Rajapaksa administrat ion.
23. In light of the above considerations, ARTICLE 19 submits that the targeted attac ks against
journali sts in Sri Lanka should be treated as international crimes insofar as impunity for these
widespread incidents has impeded access to just ice and redress for vict ims of serious
international crimes.
In London
13 Septembeyo19
Paulina 'G~:ez
ARTICLE 19 Legal\officer
" Ibid., p. 45 ·68.
52 Ibid., p. 7-9.
53 c.r. UNESCO, Response of Member State , UNESCO Condemns Killing of Journalist , available at htlps,// blt.l y/2k l CZki.