Sri Lanka was locked in armed conflict for nearly three decades, a conflict that culminated in the government’s decisive victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or Tamil Tigers, in 2009. The war claimed thousands of lives, and left more than 3 lakh people displaced and confined to refugee camps. 12,000 Sri Lankans suspected of links to the Tamil Tigers were detained separately without access to legal counsel, communication with their families, or a trial. Hundreds are still detained in Sri Lanka for suspected links to the LTTE as of April 2012, in violation of international human rights law.
During the armed conflict, both the LTTE and government military forces are accused of committing gross human rights violations and crimes of war according to the United Nations. However, human rights abuses have continued although the fighting has ceased, and crimes committed during the war have not adequately been investigated and their perpetrators brought to justice. The Sri Lankan police and Sri Lankan government have continued their legacy of committing human rights violations in the pursuit of capturing and prosecuting those linked to the LTTE. In 2012, there have been a number of reports of enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and other mistreatment of those held in captivity, and a record of government pressure on political activists critical of the state, intimidation and smear campaigns that target human rights defenders and journalists in Sri Lanka.
The Sri Lankan authorities have routinely circumvented or blatantly ignored the lawful protections built into the criminal justice system in Sri Lanka. They often disregard the laws protecting civilians and suspects, and even more often, they invoke laws such as the Prevention of Terrorism Act, laws which violate international human rights standards, to arrest suspects without evidence or warrants and hold them without charge for long periods of time.
Sri Lanka came before the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2008, while the conflict at home was still raging. It made a voluntary commitment to strengthen national human rights mechanisms and procedures by launching a National Plan of Action on human rights with targets to be achieved between 2009 and 2014.
It is 2012 and Sri Lanka has made very little progress on any of the objectives it promised to achieve in 2008. In fact, Sri Lanka made specific commitments to prevent torture, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings, and to investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators of human rights violations. Within months, Sri Lanka had broken those promises.
In October 2012, Sri Lanka will appear before the UN Human Rights Council again to make a report on its progress on the human rights situation in the country. India is one of the three countries who will oversee Sri Lanka’s progress report. Amnesty International makes several recommendations on how Sri Lanka should improve human rights at a policy, institutional and ground level. Amnesty International in India also believes that India, as a country with close ties to Sri Lanka, pressure the Sri Lankan government to implement the recommendations made to them by the UN Human Rights Council and human rights organizations such as Amnesty International.
This summary was prepared from the Amnesty International Submission to the UN Universal Periodic and a public statement by Amnesty International made on 13 June 2012.