(New York) – Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena’s decision on October 26, 2018, to appoint former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as prime minister has raised fears about a return to past abusive practices in the country, Human Rights Watch said today. The sudden announcement to sack Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe, which he contends violates parliamentary processes and the constitution, was made without informing parliament or the cabinet.
“Rajapaksa’s return to high office without any justice for past crimes raises chilling concerns for human rights in Sri Lanka,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The current government’s failure to bring justice to victims of war crimes under the Rajapaksa government reopens the door for past abusers to return to their terrible practices.”
Rajapaksa’s administration was implicated in egregious violations during the final stages of Sri Lanka’s brutal civil war and in suppression of freedoms of the media, expression, and association. Military forces under Rajapaksa’s authority indiscriminately attacked civilians and summarily executed prisoners during the final months of fighting against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). People with suspected links to the LTTE were subject to arbitrary arrest, torture and sexual violence, extrajudicial killings, and enforced disappearances. Journalists and activists critical of the Rajapaksa government faced harassment, arrest, and even physical attack.