South Asia Theater

Sri Lanka: no cooperation with war crimes inquiry

Sri Lanka's foreign minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris announced on April 7 that Sri Lanka would not cooperate with a UN investigation into alleged war crimes committed during the country's civil war. The UN Human Rights Council last month  voted to launch an investigation into alleged violations committed by government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009 towards the end of the civil war. However, speaking at a Foreign Correspondents Association forum, Peiris signaled Sri Lanka's intent not to cooperate due to concerns over legality, fairness, and conflict of interest. Peiris also expressed criticism of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Navi Pillay, who has previously been accused of being partial given her Tamil background.

Sri Lanka authorities arrest human rights activists

Sri Lankan authorities on March 16 arrested human rights activists Ruki Fernando, advisor to the Human Rights Documentation Center, and Catholic priest Father Praveen of the Centre for Peace Building and Reconciliation for alleged violations of anti-terror laws. Reports indicate authorities arrested the activists for assisting the families of allegedly "disappeared" persons living in Northern Sri Lanka. In particular, the men reportedly sought to uncover information with respect to the March arrests of activist Balendran Jeyakumari and her 13-year-old daughter. Several human rights groups, including the Law and Society Trust, have declared the arrests a violation of international law. Sri Lankan authorities reportedly intend to detain the men pending further investigation.

Judge among 11 dead in attack on Pakistan court

A gun and suicide bomb attack March 3 on a court complex in Islamabad, Pakistan, left 11 people dead and 25 injured. Additional Sessions Judge Rafaqat Awan, senior advocate Rao Abdul Rashid, advocate Tanveer Ahmend Shah, and several other members of court staff were among those killed in the first suicide attack in Islamabad since June 2011 and the deadliest since September 2008 when 60 people were killed by a truck bomb at the Marriott Hotel. The incident began around 9:00 AM local time, a time when crowds gather in the area, when gunmen entered the court complex and opened fire before the detonation of two suicide blasts. The attack comes shortly after the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) promised a month-long ceasefire and the government pledged to suspend air strikes against militants. A TTP spokesperson has announced that TTP was not involved. Ahrar-ul-Hind, a small group that told AFP it had no links with TTP has claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that they operate independently from TTP and do not favor the ceasefire or peace talks. A spokesperson for the group stated that their main issue with the talks was the lack of mention of the implementation of Sharia law.

Pakistan: jihadis step up attacks on Sufis

Gunmen attacked a Sufi religious gathering in Pakistan's port city of Karachi Feb. 9, throwing grenades and then opening fire on the worshippers, leaving eight dead and that number again wounded. Followers of Mehrban Jalali Shah Baba, the spiritual leader who runs the gathering place, blamed the attack on the Deobandi militant group Ahl-e-Sunnat-Wal-Jamaat. (AP, ABNA, Feb. 9) On Jan. 21, three bullet-riddled bodies were found near the Sufi shrine of Shah Wilayat Shrine in Karachi. On Jan. 7, six bodies were found at the shrine of Ayub Shah in Karachi's Maymar suburb. In December, five bodies were found at a Sufi shrine on the shores of Kalri Lake in Thatta, just outside Karachi. The shrine was also defaced, and a note left, signed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, warning the public against visiting Sufi sites. (Central Asia Online, Jan. 24; PTI, Jan. 21)

Sri Lanka opposition demand war crimes probe

The main opposition party in Sri Lanka, the United National Party (UNP), released a statement Feb. 13 demanding the government conduct an investigation into alleged war crimes that occurred during the 26 year Sri Lankan Civil War that ended in 2009. The Sri Lankan government and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (or Tamil Tigers) have both been accused of war crimes and human rights violations, primarily in the final months of the conflict. According to the AP, the government has been accused of deliberately shelling civilians, blocking food and medicine for civilians trapped in the war zone and deliberately undercounting civilians caught up in fighting. The Tamil rebels have been accused of using civilians as human shields, killing those who tried to escape their hold and recruiting child soldiers. According to a November 2012 UN report (PDF) an estimated 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the final months of the conflict.

Bangladesh Islamist dies awaiting war crimes trial

Jamaat-e-Islami party (JI) leader AKM Yusuf, died at age 87 on Feb. 9 of cardiac arrest. Bangladeshi authorities arrested Yusuf in May on 13 charges of crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. Yusuf became ill while in jail, where we was detained while facing the war crimes charges, which included genocide, arson and rape. The International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh ( ICTB) had been scheduled to begin Yusuf's trial on February 12. His defense counsel had previously sought bail due to the man's old age, and now claim that the jail should have provided better treatment.

Bangladesh: another Islamist charged in war crimes

A leader in Bangladesh's main Islamist party was charged on Dec. 31 in connection with war crimes during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War with Pakistan. Abdus Subhan, who was arrested last September, was formally charged after Bangladesh's International Crimes Tribunal (ICTB) conducted an investigation. However, human rights groups say that the tribunal, which was set up in 2010 to investigate abuses committed in that war, does not meet international standards and supporters of the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) say the tribunal is used politically to eradicate its leaders. The Bangladesh war of independence caused an estimated 10 million civilians to flee to India, and an estimated 3 million deaths. Subhan has denied all charges.

Protests as Bangladesh executes Islamist leader

The Bangladesh government on Dec. 12 executed Abdul Quader Mollah, assistant secretary general of the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) party. Mollah was convicted by Bangladesh's International Crimes Tribunal (ICTB) for crimes committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War and sentenced to life in prison; however, the Supreme Court of Bangladesh in September sentenced Mollah to death without appeal. Mullah's execution has sparked widespread protests throughout the country, with opposition groups calling for a countrywide strike on Dec. 15.

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