Abuses throughout the Conflict

The conflict in Sri Lanka took a heavy toll on civilians, through everyday restrictions on liberties, particularly those of the Tamil population, and through violence and abuses. The repeated invocation of states of emergency by various presidents limited freedom of association and movement, and Tamils in particular were subjected to detention and harassment at government checkpoints.

Abuses were committed by the government and the LTTE, as well as splinter groups of the LTTE, throughout the conflict. The LTTE engaged in extensive recruitment of child soldiers, as did the government and the splinter wing of the LTTE, led by Colonel Karuna and collaborating with the government. The LTTE also engaged in extensive use of suicide bombers. The government and the LTTE engaged in forced disappearances, torture, and extrajudicial executions. Throughout the conflict, internal displacement was rife, with more than half a million persons displaced in all, some 75,000 to 90,000 by the LTTE in 1990 alone.[1]

Since the end of the conflict, the lives of civilians in the north and east have remained grim. Rather than withdrawing, the military has increased its presence and control over the north and east of the country. It retains control over many administrative decisions, is the body which approves or rejects plans for religious ceremonies and private gatherings, and often attends private functions for intelligence-gathering. The military has prevented public grieving over losses at the end of the conflict and similarly prevented local dialogue. Further, at least 3,000 Tamils continued to be detained in 2012, some 3 years after the end of the conflict as suspected LTTE, and the authorities first restricted and then eliminated ICRC access to these prisoners. Some 2,000 individuals detained and awaiting trial under the Prevention of Terrorism Act are being held for extended periods in ‘rehabilitation’ centres, and many Tamils are regularly detained and harassed, released, and re-arrested without charge.[2] Attacks on Tamils, including sexual assaults on Tamil women by members of the military, have been frequent. Although the majority of civilians displaced at the end of the conflict have returned home, they often lack the most basic services.[3] Outside the north and east, opposition politicians, critical media outlets, and local and international NGOs are subject to harassment and attack.[4]

  • [1] Sri Lanka Democracy Forum, ‘Submission to the Universal Periodic Review ofSri Lanka.’
  • [2] International Crisis Group, ‘Reconciliation in Sri Lanka: Harder than Ever,’ AsiaReport No. 209 (18 July 2011), pp. 17-18, at http://www.wsws.org/articles/2004/aug2004/sril-a06.shtml.
  • [3] Charu Lata Hogg, ‘Sri Lanka: Prospects for Reform and Reconciliation,’ ChathamHouse Asia Programme Paper ASP PP 2011/06 (October 2011);International CrisisGroup, ‘Reconciliation in Sri Lanka.’
  • [4] International Crisis Group, ‘Reconciliation in Sri Lanka,’ p. 19.
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