Human rights in Sri Lanka: Wikis


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Major human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch,[1] as well as the United States Department of State[1] and the European Union,[2] have expressed concern about the state of human rights in Sri Lanka. Both the government of Sri Lanka and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are accused of violating human rights. Amnesty International stated in 2003 that there was a considerable improvement in the human rights situation attributed to the peaceful context of a ceasefire and peace talks between the government and the LTTE. In its 2006 report, however, they stated that "escalating political killings, child recruitment, abductions and armed clashes created a climate of fear in the east, spreading to the north by the end of the year", whilst also outlining concerns with violence against women, the death penalty and "numerous reports of torture in police custody".[3] Although Sri Lanka has not officially practiced the death penalty since 1976[4], well-documented cases of state-sponsored 'disappearances' and murders[5] by non-partisan humanitarian organizations, notably Human Rights Watch, contradict official statements.



Sri Lanka has been embroiled in a civil war for more than two decades. More than 64,000 people have been killed and more than one million have been displaced since 1983. In July 1983, the most savage anti-minority pogrom in Sri Lanka's history, known as the Black July riots, erupted. Government appointed commission's estimates put the death toll at nearly 1,000 whereas other groups have put the death toll at 2,000 - 3,000,[6][7][8][9] mostly minority Sri Lankan Tamils. At least 150,000 Tamils fled the island. Another major event was the repression of Marxist revolutionaries known as the JVP in Southern Sri Lanka by government security forces. 10,000 - 60,000 Sinhalese, including many students,[10] died or 'disappeared' over the course of the three-year government crackdown.[11]

Abuses by the government

There have been numerous massacres of civilians and political prisoners since 1983.


The Eastern province of Sri Lanka was taken over by Sri Lankan Forces after heavy fighting in 1990. Even after government forces moved in early 1990 large number of disappearance and extrajudicial execution were continued. By October 1990, 3,000 people were estimated to have been killed or to have disappeared in Amparai district. Further Many of the disappeared people were believed to have been killed as a result of extrajudicial execution. Likewise in Batticaloa another 1,500 people were reported to have disappeared.[12] The LTTE terrorists continued to kill innocent people in the Eastern Province. They killed Muslims gathered in two mosques, for Friday prayers. Also more than 700 unarmed policemen were murdered, cold blood. A bus full of Buddhist monks were killed at Aranthalawa. However, the true perpetrators of the disappearances are yet to be determined, with the Sri Lankan government and the rebels both accusing each other.


Sri Lanka has the second highest number of disappearances in the world, ranking only behind Iraq, according to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances in 1999.[13] The report states that across the country since 1980, 12,000 people have gone missing after being detained by Sri Lankan security forces, only Iraq having more, with 16,384 missing people.[13] The United States government has also raised concerns over the level of disappeared people in Sri Lanka with concerns over an increase due to an escalation in fighting.[14] This is in addition to the US State Department's publication in 2001 on human rights practices, wherein disappearances are outlined as a problem.[15]

In the January 2002 Amnesty International Report stated, "frequently reported torture in police custody. Lack of accountability for the perpetrators of human rights violations, including “disappearances” and torture" were cited as "serious human rights concerns".[16]

Torture, including rape, in police custody continued to be reported frequently. Among the victims were women and children. In late October, the UN Committee against Torture submitted the findings of its visit to Sri Lanka in 2000 to the UN General Assembly. The Committee reported that it found a “disturbing number of cases of torture and ill-treatment”, the two cases presented to the U.N were that of Nandini Herat, a young woman, who was sexually assaulted by police at Wariyapola police station, Kurunegala district, in March and ten-year-old T.K. Hiran Rasika and 12-year-old E.A. who was tortured at Hiniduma police station in July while being questioned about a theft. Both required hospital treatment as a result.[16]

The European Union also condemned Sri Lankan security forces in the year 2000 concerning human rights, after fighting displaced 12,000 civilians.[17]

The US State Department has stated that "The civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces, although some members of the security forces committed serious human right abuses".[18]

Human Rights Watch has accused the Sri Lankan government of being "responsible for unlawful killings, enforced disappearances and other serious human rights violations since the resumption of major hostilities with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam", in a report released on August the 6th 2007 entitled "Killings, Abductions and Displacement Soar as Impunity Reigns".[19] Brad Adams, Asia Director, Human Rights Watch later added, "The Sri Lankan government has apparently given its security forces a green light to use ‘dirty war’ tactics".[19]

Human Rights Watch also released the 129 page dossier "Human Rights under Siege" in which it outlines through the "use (of) accounts by victims and eyewitnesses to document the shocking increase in violations by government forces." The report states "Ethnic Tamils have borne the brunt of these violations" but also mentions that "members of the Muslim and majority Sinhalese population are not immune to government abuse".[20]

Abuses by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have repeatedly been accused of attacks on civilians during their separatist guerrilla campaign. The US State Department reported several human rights abuses in 2005, but it specifically states that there were no confirmed reports of politically motivated killings by the government. The report states that, "they [LTTE] continued to control large sections of the north and east and engaged in politically motivated killings, disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, denial of fair public trial, arbitrary interference with privacy, denial of freedom of speech, press, of assembly and association, and the recruitment of child soldiers". The report further accused the LTTE of extra-judicial killings in the North and East.[21] Several members of the Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) and the Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP) were illegally detained by the LTTE.

The LTTE committed massacres in the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka. The number of civilians massacred were as high as 144 (Anuradhapura massacre). Some of the major attacks resulting in civilian deaths include the Kebithigollewa massacre, the Gonagala massacre (54 dead), the Dehiwala train bombing (56 dead),[22] the Palliyagodella massacre (109 dead) and the bombing of Sri Lanka's Central Bank (102 dead). Further a claymore antipersonnel mine attack by the LTTE on June 15, 2006 on a bus carrying 140 civilians killed 68 people including 15 children, and injured 60 others.[23]

Tamil Tigers were also credited by FBI for the invention of suicide bra and suicide belt. [24] Most of the targets of suicide attacks were made on civilians rather than the government forces.

Abuses by other groups

During the 1980s, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna was regularly accused of arbitrary attacks on civilians during its uprising of that period.

Further, the TamilEela Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP), an armed organization led by Colonel Karuna, has been accused by many human rights and non-governmental organizations of recruiting children, torture, assassinations and engaging in extortion in its war against the LTTE.[25][26][27] The TMVP was also involved in kidnappings for ransom of wealthy, predominantly Tamil, businessmen to raise money in Colombo and other towns. Some businessmen were killed because their family could not pay the ransom.[28] The TMVP is believed to be working with the Sri Lankan Army.[29][30][31]

See also

References and further reading

  1. ^ Sri Lanka
  2. ^ The EU's relations with Sri Lanka - Overview
  3. ^ 2006 Annual Report for Sri Lanka, Amnesty International USA,, retrieved 2009-02-12  
  4. ^ Ste's Site - Death penalty in Sri Lanka
  5. ^ Recurring Nightmare: State Responsibility for "Disappearances" and Abductions in Sri Lanka
  6. ^ Welcome to UTHR, Sri Lanka
  7. ^ Green Left - SRI LANKA: Remembering Black July
  8. ^ Gulfnews: The end game
  9. ^ President Kumaratunga's speech on the 21st Anniversary of 'Black July'
  10. ^ Amnesty International Canada || News Release
  11. ^ Asia Times: Sri Lanka: New rulers have bloody past
  12. ^ Sri Lanka: The Northeast: Human rights violations in a context of armed conflict
  13. ^ a b BBC News | South Asia | Sri Lanka's disappeared thousands
  14. ^ The Raw Story | US voices concern over 350 people 'disappeared' in Sri Lanka
  15. ^ Sri Lanka
  16. ^ a b Amnesty International
  17. ^ BBC News | SOUTH ASIA | Sri Lanka rapped over human rights
  18. ^ Line 5
  19. ^ a b Sri Lanka: Government Abuses Intensify (Human Rights Watch, 6-8-2007)
  20. ^ Return to War: Human Rights Under Siege
  21. ^ Sri Lanka
  22. ^ Timeline of the Tamil conflict, BBC News, September 4, 2000,  
  23. ^ United States Condemns Terrorist Attack on Sri Lankan Bus, US State Department,  
  24. ^
  25. ^ "Sri Lanka", Human Rights Watch, August 9, 2007,  
  26. ^ "Complicit in Crime: State Collusion in Abductions and Child Recruitment by the Karuna Group", Human Rights Watch 19, January 2007,  
  27. ^ "Sri Lanka: Armed groups infiltrating refugee camps", Amnesty International, August 9, 2007,  
  28. ^ "Impunity reigns", Human Rights Watch (1(C)), August 9, 2007,  
  29. ^ Government Complicit in Forced Recruitment of Young Tamils
  30. ^ Sri Lanka: Letter to Pope Benedict XVI on the Situation In Sri Lanka
  31. ^ Sri Lanka: Karuna Group and LTTE Continue Abducting and Recruiting Children




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