Sri Lanka’s Genocidal Human Rights Violations

October 26, 2018 Asia , HUMAN RIGHTS , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

AP photo



Thambu Kanagasabai



Sri Lanka’s dismal record of human rights violations, abuses, encouraged by an institutionalized culture of impunity commenced its journey in 1956 and is continuing undeterred and unpunished through local and/or international judicial mechanisms.


The targeted brunt of the crimes and abuses has been the minority communities, mostly Tamils. It is a sad chapter in the history of the United Nations, UNHRC and UN Security Council which, though fully aware of all the atrocities happenings in Sri Lanka, inflicted by the Sinhalese dominated security forces in 1958, 1971, 1971, 1977, 1983, 1987 and from 2006-2009, including about 196 massacres of civilians at various occasions from 1958 to 2009, yet failed to stop, or prevent them by having closed their doors for swift preventive and/or deterrent action.


The Sri Lankan Government, emboldened and encouraged by the deadly silence of the United Nations and International Community, have been implementing their agenda of militarization, Sinhalization and Buddhisisation aimed at making Sri Lanka a pure Buddhist-Sinhala State by reducing and finally eliminating the identities of minorities. All the Sinhala political parties including the Maha-Sanga and Buddhist Clergy are working unitedly to achieve this obvious goal while only showing their disunity in the competitive race to capture the ruling political power.


The war between Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and Sri Lankan Security Forces between 2006 and 2009 resulted in the decimation of the LTTE accompanied with all shades and forms of human rights violations in the form of genocidal killings, crimes against humanity, violations of humanitarian laws and structural genocide. The United Nations, UNHRC, UN Security Council and International Community watched the commission of these crimes with stony silence. United Nation’ s former Secretary General Ban ki-Moon visited Sri Lanka after the end of war in 2009 and said after recounting the massacres and genocide in Rwanda in 1994 and Srebrenica in 1995 that “we said repeatedly, never again, never again, we did again in Sri Lanka.” He thus conceded the commission of genocide by Sri Lanka’s Security Forces.


The United Nations, facing mounting international outcry and protests over its inaction on Sri Lanka, sent various UN Rapporteurs from 2011 onwards, so far twelve having visited Sri Lanka and submitted their reports to UNHRC and the UN.


In addition, State Officials from the United States, United Kingdom and other countries have also visited Sri Lanka and submitted their reports. Besides the UNHRC Resolution on 30-01-2015 co-sponsored by the United States, Sri Lanka, United Kingdom, Macedonia and Montenegro remains largely ignored and unfulfilled even after a lapse of more than three years except the passage of the Office of the Missing Persons Act which provides impunity to the Security Forces and encouragement to commit crimes against minorities with no fear of prosecuting and the Reparations Bill passed in Parliament, the scope and the mechanisms of its operations remaining vague and suspicious.


Sri Lanka’s failure in fulfilling its International Commitments including UN Human Rights Council’s Recommendations is crystal clear which has been highlighted in the various UN Special Rapporteurs’ Reports submitted to UNHRC since 2011. Sri Lanka is successfully pursuing its policy of delaying tactics with empty promises made on suitable occasions and locations including public statements solemnly declaring its firm determination and commitments. The stark reality and plain truth is that Sri Lanka will continue its persuasive and deceptive diplomacy to buy more time extensions to make its commitments become stale, unnecessary and irrelevant. With appeasing measures to pacify the United Nations, UNHRC and the International Community, Sri Lanka’s President and Prime Minister have openly declared their rejection of International Investigation and Independent International Judicial Mechanism to prosecute those involved in the war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocidal killings of civilians during the past decade, with justice and accountability being treated with scant respect and due consideration. As such it will be nothing but an exercise in futility for the Tamil victims to pin their hopes for justice on this or any other Sri Lankan Government.


It is high time for the UN Human Rights Council, European Union, Canada, and other countries to review their conciliatory and patting approach to Sri Lanka which only helps it to challenge and defy the UNHRC and United Nations with non-compliance.


In this respect, it is reassuring and refreshing to note a changing attitude recently by Western Countries, UN Human Rights Council, International community and European Union. Some of their recent statements are worthy of mentioning:



Alice Wells: A senior US State Department Official who travelled to Sri Lanka during the first week of October 2018 said that: “US will urge Sri Lanka to make progress on transitional justice and accountability as well as on human rights and constitutional reforms.” [Tamil Guardian]


In 2017 she reiterated the need for Sri Lanka to prosecute alleged war crime offenders, implement a credible mechanism to investigate alleged war crimes and fulfil the commitments made to UNHRC [Tamil Guardian Sept. 2017]


Mark Field: FCO Minister for Asia – UK wrote in Sri Lanka’s Daily Mirror on 08-10-2018 as follows:


“The pace of progress on number of key issues remains much slower than one had hoped for, as time alone does not heal all wounds. Lack of progress in delivering key steps can undermine communities’ confidence in reconciliation efforts.”


European Union in Sri Lanka: On 03-08 2018, in a statement “Called for further action towards truth, justice and reparations on the issue of disappearances in the island. [Tamil Guardian]


Meenakshi Gangulay: South Asia Director – Human Rights Watch – Asia Director stated on 20-09-2018 as follows: “United Nations, UNHRC should insist upon clear time bound bench marks and monitoring framework.” [Daily Finance Times]


Taylor Dibbert: Australia based Human Rights consultant commented on 08-10-2018 about “American obsequiousness and misguided approach towards Sri Lanka and US is getting Sri Lanka dangerously wrong while increasing military ties have to be re assessed.” He further stated that “Western appeasement and American bear hugs have not encouraged reform in Sri Lanka. Continuing with the current approach is bound to produce similar results. American Officials seem unable to accept reality or reconsider US-Sri Lanka ties anew.”


UNHRC High Commissioner: In 2016 called for an independent and impartial investigation into the use of Cluster munitions by Sri Lanka in 2009 and this request is still unimplemented allowing Sri Lanka to go scot free from this alleged war crime.


United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: At her opening statement on 18-09-2018 she stated that “When a State is unable or unwilling to deliver justice International Criminal Court is needed. Ending impunity is central to ending Genocide.” [At Geneva Convention on Counter-Terrorism – Vienna]


Ben Emmerson: United Nations Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism submitted his report on 24 July 2018. Some of his conclusions were that: “Sri Lanka’s progress towards reform has ground to a virtual halt with Tamils in the Island stigmatized and disenfranchised. Pervasive lack of Accountability for the war crimes, the climate for impunity that prevails within the Security Sector, overwhelming economic weight of Military, all of these attribute to this state of affairs.”


Members of the UK Government and Conservative Party UK at the annual reception of Tamil Conservatives in London on 29-09-2018 discussed the question of Genocide in Sri Lanka.


Lee Scott: Chief of Staff of Department for Housing stated “Whatever President of Sri Lanka may have whatever time people who committed atrocities; people who committed crimes must pay the price for their crimes.”


Robert Halfon, MP stated that: “It was vital to recognize what happened was Genocide, we must never let the dropping of charges of war crimes.”


Mario Arulthas: Director PEARL on 10-11-2018 [Diplomat] stated that “Sri Lanka is being rehabilitated at the expense of Tamils. Sri Lanka has repudiated UNHRC 30 times within the year 2017-2018.” Minister Mangala Samaraweera brags by saying “He has halted United Nations investigation and the Government has also saved Mahinda Rajapakshe family from ‘electric chairs’.” This confirms the adherence to the state policy of Sri Lanka’s culture of impunity.



To summarise, as the Tamil Guardian on 28-09-2018 stated, “In the three years since UNHRC Resolution 30-01-2015, Tamils remain unchanged in their demand around reconciliation, accountability, justice, demilitarization and land release and a meaningful political solution.”


Western countries, International Community, United Nations and Security Council are well aware of the Genocide and consequent state of affairs prevailing in Sri Lanka as far as human rights are concerned. They are fully cognizant of the sufferings of the traumatized and victimized Tamil community. They know pretty well the denial of accountability and justice by Sri Lanka. The world has also seen the explicit extrajudicial killings carried out by Sri Lankan Security Forces which were shown in the Channel 4 documentary ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’ by Callum Macrae in three parts in 2011, 2012, and 2013. They know the cajoling, hoodwinking and dilly-dallying tactics of Sri Lanka.


With all the damning United Nations Reports piled up against Sri Lanka, the United Nations and the Security Council should not function as a talking Assembly with no credibility, failing to stand for the objectives for which they were founded. A greater burden also rests on the International Communities to uphold justice and accountability for the Tamils, while translating the accusations against Sri Lanka into suitable punitive measures and/or sanctions in this respect.


The Tamil National Alliance [TNA] also bears a heavy responsibility and obligation to agitate for the causes of Tamils as they were elected sole representatives of the battered Tamils. The three year record of the Tamil National Alliance does not show any noteworthy achievement. On the contrary the ‘good governance’ has fully exploited their co-operation and support to silence the dissenting voices of the opposition while executing its agenda of militarization, Sinhalisisation and Buddhisisation in the North and East of Sri Lanka, Tamils’ historical and traditional homeland.


It is high time that the Tamil National Alliance leader Mr. Sampanthan works on his statement made in September 2009 – “It is the need of the hour to be undertaken by the United Nations and International Community. We do not want just statements of condemnation and pledges without any action.”


It is learnt also that moves are afoot to grant another extension to Sri Lanka to fully implement all the recommendations. To expect Sri Lanka to fully implement within the extended period is like chasing a mirage as water in the desert, when the three year period [2015-2018] already given to Sri Lanka ended with non-compliance and defiance of UNHRC Resolutions which confirm their official position of rejecting international involvement and adopting a ‘leave us alone’ policy and attitude.


Justice delayed is justice denied – only accountability and justice can heal the wounds of Tamils and not governments’ pittances and/or reparations which can only cover and hide the inner wounds without healing them.





Thambu Kanagasabai

Thambu Kanagasabai LL.M (London) – Former Lecturer in Law, University Of Colombo, Sri Lanka

Editor review


  1. S Siva November 02, at 18:54

    Excellent analysis and outstanding contribution in support of Democratic values including Human Rights, Accountability, Rule of Law and Justice. After WWII, Apartheid, Corrupt, Authoritarian, Criminal minded and Power Greedy leaders are elected to power by people who may not understand what Democracy, Politics, Freedom and Independence. World is reeling on moral, ethical, unbiased values due to these mockery politics that resulted in increase in violence, unrest, bloodshed, murder, torture, rape, abuse of women and children. Only God can help the innocent civilians, honest and sincere Journalists, freedom fighters and those who want to lead a peaceful life!

  2. Kumarathasan Rasingam October 30, at 06:05

    This is a timely article exposing the defiance of Sri Lankan government in implementing the UNHRC Resolution. The current political turmoil and tension in Sri Lanka shows the lack of confidence and trust of the government that came into power with the promise to justice and rule of law and to honor human rights. The tense situation in Sri Lanka is due to the defiance in the Government`s promise of `GOOD GOVERNANCE` . iT IS HIGH TIME FOR THE UN AND THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY TI TAKE BOLD AND STRONG STEPS TO FORCE THE SRI LANKAN GOVERNMENT TO HONOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND IMPLEMENT THE UNHRC RESOLUTION FULLY AND IMMEDIATELY. WITHOUT DIPLOMATIC AND ECONOMIC SANCTIONS SRI LANKA WILL NOT IMPLEMENT THE UNHRC RESOLUTIONS.


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