By Alok Bhatt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Human Rights Watch recently released a statement pleading for holding accountable many of the perpetrators of human rights violations in Sri Lanka. The prominent and influential organization pressed that the thousands of Sri Lankan nationals who have been denied human rights and legal recourse should finally attain their just deserts. The group further asserts that President Rajapaksa’s first term saw myriad violations of international humanitarian laws, and is pushing for more transparent policies and the proper imposition of accountability during Rajapaksa’s new term.The Sri Lankan government has been ravaged by guerilla warfare against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam for over a quarter-century. The United Nations itself has described Sri Lanka’s war, in which the government ultimately prevailed in the spring of 2009, as a “bloodbath”. The war caused over 7,000 civilian casualties and has been the cause of many more human rights violations.
Discrimination against some Tamil nationals has forced many to flee to Australia to seek asylum. However, many of those who tried to flee to Australia and Christmas Island were intercepted by Indonesian Border Control. The Australian government employed the assistance of Indonesia to mitigate the influx of Tamil refugees into Christmas Island, which has become a haven for refugees of war-torn nations, particularly those in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
The Sri Lankan government’s establishment of refugee camps for Internally Displaced Persons subsequent to its victory over the Tamil Tigers faced its own plethora of human rights violations claims. The derisory condition of the camps, along with the lack of adequate food, clothing, and shelter supplies drew the attention of many human rights groups and provoked pressure from the international community. The Sri Lankan government only recently allowed Sri Lankan nationals housed in refugee camps to return to their own homes. The Sri Lankan government claimed that prolonged holding was necessary to identify and remove Tamil Tigers among the civilian population.
The Sri Lankan government’s persistent refusal to cooperate with the UN and human rights groups further perpetuated suspicions and criticisms concerning Sri Lanka’s treatment of enemy combatants as well as its own citizens. Human Rights Watch hopes that accountability will be able to prevent new violations and offer justice to victims of Sri Lanka’s past impunity.
For more information, please see:
Al-Jazeera – Sri Lanka Refugees on Hunger Strike – 06 October 2009
BBC News – Sri Lanka Tamil refugee camps ‘to be opened next month’ – 21 November 2009
Human Rights Watch – Sri Lanka: President’s New Term Time for Accountability – 26 January 2010