Human Rights in Sri Lanka

The war between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tami Eelam (LTTE), often called the Tamil Tigers, has resulted in over 70,000 deaths. The end of the war, in May 2009, has left about 300,000 people, including nearly 400 orphans, displaced from formerly LTTE occupied areas in the Northern Province. This adds to over 70,000 people, forcibly expelled from the Northern Province by LTTE in 1990 and who are still living as refugees, as well as people awaiting resettlement in the Eastern Province from where LTTE were expelled in 2007. Large areas in the north have to be cleared of landmines, while houses and roads await reconstruction. The fighting has also laid waste to agricultural land, contributing to meagre harvests and malnutrition. One of the biggest tragedies has been the rebels’ use of children as soldiers; those who surrendered to the authorities are being sent to rehabilitation centres for re-training and support. Many ex-LTTE militants, who are currently being separated from civilian refugees with whom they mingled in fleeing from the fighting in the North during the final month of the war, are being held by the army or police pending a decision on their future management.

Both the military and the Tamil Tigers have been accused of gross violations of human rights by international rights groups, especially during the final stages of the war when a large number of civilians were trapped (or held forcibly by LTTE) in areas of active conflict, where they were subjected to shelling from both sides of the war. Further, civilians have been murdered, others have disappeared and still others made homeless, and many children were abducted by militants during the 25 years of civil war.

While Sri Lanka’s population enjoys what is arguably the highest per capita standard of living in South Asia, the conflict has hindered the country’s economy, increasing social inequalities and creating massive unemployment, aggravated by the economic recession of 2008-9. The conflict has also had a negative impact on reconstruction efforts and on the distribution of international aid in the Northern and Eastern Provinces after the December 2004 Asian tsunami.

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