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National Action Plan

Tag Archives | National Action Plan

Human rights in Sri Lanka: Between the UN and the US

Supporters of Mahinda Rajapaksa rallying in Colombo

As the 21st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (HRC) ends on 28 September 2012, ongoing human rights developments in Sri Lanka will undoubtedly linger in the minds of many.

Supporters of Mahinda Rajapaksa rallying in Colombo

Observers will look forward to the country’s upcoming Universal Periodic Review, which will take place this November, and to the National Report the Sri Lankan government has submitted for consideration. Yet it is next year’s HRC session that is particularly intriguing. At the 22nd session of the HRC, scheduled for March 2013, three things are likely to happen. First, by that time the government of Sri Lanka will not have comprehensively implemented many of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’s (LLRC) positive recommendations. Second, the report about Sri Lanka delivered by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, will be at best lukewarm. And, lastly, the HRC is not likely to pass another resolution against Sri Lanka.

Passing such a resolution would fly in the face of the history of the HRC. The fact that there is a historical precedent for inaction calls for posing new questions about Sri Lanka: what will the international community lobby for in the meantime? Is there a common set of principles or an agenda that could be agreed upon? Do people think economic sanctions are a good idea? Which LLRC recommendations must be implemented in full before March? Targeted economic sanctions might be an option, though probably not an effective one. Importantly, as long as Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa is in power, an independent international mechanism to investigate wartime atrocities is not a viable option.

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The Continued Militarization of Sri Lanka

Mahinda Rajapaksa, the president of Sri Lanka.  Source: Sri Lankan Government

Led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, post-war Sri Lanka is a sad place. In May of 2009, the Sri Lankan government achieved a resounding military victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Mahinda Rajapaksa, the president of Sri Lanka. Source: Sri Lankan Government

Most of the LTTE’s leadership was killed. For the foreseeable future, it is hard to envision another Tamil nationalist movement taking up arms against the state. Yet, if living in Sri Lanka, one might think that the conflict is still going on. In post-war Sri Lanka, the militarization of the entire country has continued unabated. This development is less significant in the predominantly Sinhalese south, where military personnel are often viewed as heroes for defeating the LTTE.

But in the mostly Tamil north and east, they are viewed as oppressors. Indeed the military’s presence in the north and east (both former LTTE strongholds where much of the fighting took place) is disturbing. State security personnel wield enormous influence over all aspects of people’s lives. Precise statistics about military employment in Sri Lanka are not publicly available, but some of the most disturbing effects of this ubiquitous military presence are often left out of statistical analyses anyway. Members of the armed forces are literally everywhere. People are living in fear, especially single Tamil women who lost their husbands during the war.

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