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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 105

Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Crisis Deepens the Conflict

Brussels, 15 June 2007 (Asian The international community must press the warring sides for urgent action to address wide-spread human rights abuses in Sri Lanka as a first step to restoring a climate in which the long conflict can ultimately be resolved.

Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Crisis,* the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines abuses committed by both the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) since they resumed their war in 2006. While the LTTE has continued its deliberately provocative attacks on the military and Sinhalese civilians as well as its violent repression of Tamil dissenters and forced recruitment of adults and children, the government is using extra-judicial killings and disappearances as part of a brutal and counter-productive counter-insurgency campaign.

“Human rights abuses are for the most part the result of deliberate policy decisions by the government and the LTTE”, says David Lewis, Crisis Group Regional Deputy Director. “The abuses on both sides will only fuel further violence, and the new generation of embittered youth being created will only prolong the war”.

The government faces a severe security threat, which it has a legitimate right to address. However, its policies are doing little to improve security and are fuelling antagonism among moderate Tamils and other minorities towards the state. Limitations on human rights are having a significant impact on Sri Lanka’s institutions, including parliament, the media, law enforcement agencies and the judiciary. As the state decays, corruption and criminal influence on the political system have increased. While attacking moderates who are critical of the government’s approach, the administration has given space to nationalist extremists, who provoke further inter-communal strife.

The international community should support a resolution in the UN Human Rights Council, reassess aid policies and support more international involvement in monitoring abuses. The government must pursue and support genuine investigations into abuses, repeal aspects of the Emergency Regulations inconsistent with international human rights norms and assert effective control over government-aligned Tamil paramilitary groups.

The political situation in the country is so polarised that it may be a considerable time before peace negotiations can realistically be resumed. However, officially approved impunity makes all communities insecure. Unless atrocities and political crimes begin to be investigated, and the perpetrators are successfully prosecuted, there is little chance of restoring a climate in which the crisis can eventually be resolved.

“Human rights protections need to be a key part of the government’s political strategy for ending the conflict”, says Robert Templer, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. “If the government fails to address the growing human rights crisis, it will inevitably face international pressure for the introduction of an external monitoring mission, cuts in donor funding and possibly more severe sanctions”.


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