The U.S. State Department's newly released annual report on worldwide human rights practices says the Sri Lankan government's respect for human rights continued to decline in 2007, due in part to the escalation of armed conflict with the insurgent Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. It says that while ethnic Tamils compose about sixteen percent of the overall population, the overwhelming majority of victims of human rights violations, such as killings and disappearances, were young male Tamils.
Credible reports cited unlawful killings by government agents, assassinations by unknown perpetrators, politically motivated killings and child soldier recruitment by paramilitary forces associated with the government, disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detention, poor prison conditions, denial of fair public trials, government corruption and lack of transparency. The report notes that while civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of security forces, the government also worked closely with Tamil paramilitary groups responsible for gross human rights violations.
The Tamil Tigers, which the U.S. considers to be a terrorist organization, also committed serious human rights abuses throughout 2007. According to the report, the Tamil Tigers maintained control of large areas of northern Sri Lanka where they continued to attack civilians and engage in torture and arbitrary arrest and detention. Tamil Tiger terrorists denied fair, public trials, arbitrarily interfered with privacy, denied freedoms of speech, press, and assembly and association; and forcibly recruited civilians, including children. In addition to attacking government forces, the Tamil Tigers bombed civilian shoppers in a suburb of Sri Lanka's capital, Colombo, and civilian buses in the south. Jonathan Farrar, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Labor, says the State Department reports have to meet high standards of objectivity and accuracy:
The reports are based on information we receive from governments and multilateral institutions, from national and international non-governmental groups, and from academics, jurists, religious groups and the media, and have gone through a lengthy process of checking and cross-checking.
Mr. Farrar says U.S. efforts "to promote human rights and democratic freedoms around the world reflect the core values of the American people and also advance our core interests."