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Sri Lanka: UN must investigate human rights violations

Amnesty launches fresh call a year on from end of conflict

Amnesty expert available for interview
Amnesty International today called on the United Nations to set up an immediate and independent investigation into the massive human rights violations committed by both government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam forces, commonly known as the Tamil Tigers, during the country’s recent civil war.

The call came a day before the first anniversary of the end of the conflict (18 May).

The failure to act so far has left victims of human rights violations with no access to justice, truth or reparations. Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans displaced at the end of decades-long conflict languish in camps or struggle to rebuild their shattered communities.

Madhu Malhotra, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Asia-Pacific, said:

“The UN never revealed what it knew about the final days of the conflict, acknowledged the scale of the abuse that took place, or pushed for accountability.

“At the end of the war, atrocities against civilians and enemy combatants appeared to be fueled by a sense that there would be no real international consequences for violating the law.”

Instead of investigating and prosecuting those suspected of violations during the war and providing reparations to victims, in the past 12 months the Sri Lankan government has jailed critics and clamped down on dissent.  

“Many thousands of civilians died. However, attempts by the government to cover up the full extent of the violations by prohibiting independent monitoring means that the numbers of deaths may even be in the tens of thousands,” said Madhu Malhotra.

One year on, the situation for civilian communities caught up in the conflict shows no sign of improving:
·    80,000 people remain in camps with little access to water, decent sanitation and medical supplies;
·    300,000 displaced civilians who have tried to resettle remain vulnerable and struggle to survive in communities where homes and infrastructure were destroyed;
·    Thousands of people detained for suspected links to the Tamil Tigers remain in detention without access to the courts;
·    The government continues to extend the state of emergency, restricting many basic human rights and freedom of speech;
·    And no meaningful action has been taken to investigate reports of war crimes.

On this first anniversary of the end of the conflict, Amnesty International is focusing worldwide attention on the continuing impunity in Sri Lanka and demanding justice for victims and the families of those killed, with members around the world holding events today and in the coming weeks.

Notes to editors:
Yolanda Foster, Amnesty International’s Sri Lanka researcher, is available for interview via the Amnesty press office.

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