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Resolution adopted unanimously by the IPU Governing Council at its 185th session
(Geneva, 21 October 2009)

The Governing Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union,

Referring to the case of Mr. Joseph Pararajasingham, assassinated on 24 December 2005, as outlined in the report of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians (CL/185/11(b)-R.1), and to the resolution adopted at its 184th session (April 2009),

Referring also to the report on the on-site mission to Sri Lanka which the Committee carried out in February 2008 (CL/183/12(b)-R.2),

Noting that the Committee met with Mr. Mahinda Samarasinghe, Minister for Disaster Management and Human Rights during the 121st IPU Assembly,

Recalling the following:

  • Mr. Pararajasingham was shot dead on 24 December 2005 during the Christmas Eve Mass at St. Mary's Church in Batticaloa by unidentified gunmen in the presence of some 300 persons; the investigation has remained at a virtual standstill despite the fact that St. Mary's Church was located in a high-security zone between two military checkpoints and that, at the time of the murder, additional security forces were on duty, so that the culprits could have escaped only with the complicity of the security forces; during the on-site mission, it transpired that there was no agreement on whether or not President Rajapakse had been given the name of a possible suspect; that, however, the delegation provided the name of the person in question to President Rajapakse and to the Minister for Disaster Management and Human Rights;

  • The police progress report of April 2009 merely repeated information provided earlier, adding that there was neither sufficient evidence nor enough public support to achieve better results and that, in addition, the witnesses were being intimidated by the killers;

  • In late 2006, President Rajapakse set up a “Presidential Commission of Inquiry to investigate and inquire into serious human rights violations”, including the murder of Mr. Pararajasingham,
Considering that, according to the information provided by Mr. Samarasinghe and contained in the police progress report forwarded by him, one of the main problems was the question of witnesses as the priest playing the organ had been unable to identify any suspects and that, in the absence of a witness protection law, witnesses were afraid of coming forward; that the police had been unable to establish the bona fide of the information suggesting that a certain “Ravi” was the killer as the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarians who had provided the name were unable to give an address; recalling in this connection that, according to the sources, Ravi was a member of the Karuna group and well known in the region; noting that, according to Mr. Samarasinghe, a witness protection bill, providing inter alia for video-conferencing of witnesses living abroad, has been prepared in a long consultative process and is pending before parliament and that, before its consideration in parliament, the party leaders would have to fix a date,

Noting that, according to the police progress report, the investigation has come to a standstill owing to lack of evidence and lack of public support because witnesses fear reprisals by the killers; however, the investigation was continuing and there was hope that the draft bill on witness protection and the improved situation in the east, where elections were held in May 2008, would increase public confidence and enable witnesses to come forward,

Considering lastly that the Commission of Inquiry has never investigated the case of Mr. Pararajasingham and has de facto ceased to function,

  1. Thanks the Minister for Disaster Management and Human Rights for the information provided and for his cooperation;

  2. Deeply regrets that no progress has been made in the investigation, which it continues to find highly disturbing given the special circumstances of Mr. Pararajasingham’s murder; regrets that the investigation regarding the possible involvement of a certain “Ravi”, apparently well known in the region as a member of the paramilitary Karuna group, has not been pursued because TNA parliamentarians were unable to provide an address for him;

  3. Urges the parliament to conduct a thoroughgoing debate on the witness protection bill as a matter of priority since a witness protection bill respecting fundamental principles of witness protection may indeed encourage witnesses to come forward;

  4. Reaffirms that Mr. Pararajasingham’s murderers could have escaped only with the complicity of the security and army personnel posted around the Cathedral and in the area, and agrees with the authorities that it should therefore be much easier for the investigating authorities to identify and apprehend them, now that Batticaloa province has returned to a democratic system, the war in the north has ended, and violence has receded;

  5. Can but reaffirm the conclusion of the mission report that there can be no better deterrent for violence targeting members of parliament, and indeed the public at large, than combating impunity and ensuring that those responsible for assassinations and other crimes are identified, apprehended and brought to justice, and urges the authorities to take firm action to this end;

  6. Requests the Secretary General to convey this resolution to the authorities, inviting them to keep the Committee informed of the investigation;

  7. Requests the Committee to continue examining this case and report to it at its next session, to be held on the occasion of the 122nd IPU Assembly (March-April 2010).
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