Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (hereafter, Sri Lanka) concluded its 26 years-long internal war with Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May 2009. During the internal war, up to 40,000 civilians were reportedly killed in the war zones and 290,000 persons were internally displaced. Furthermore, both the State military and LTTE are accused for a series of serious violations of the international humanitarian and human rights law. However, domestic accountability processes established under the former-President Mahinda Rajapaksa regime have failed to lead to prosecutions for grave human rights violations, including the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).
In March 2014, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on “Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka (A/HRC/25/L.1/Rev.1)”, which requested the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to investigate into alleged serious violations of human rights and related crimes committed by the Government and the LTTE during the period covered by the LLRC. This is the first credible investigation into what happened in the final stage of the internal war. This OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL) report was released in September 2015 at the 30th session of the Human Rights Council.
IMADR has continuously demanded a credible accountability mechanism set up by/ with the UN to address alleged violations of international law. At the same time, ongoing human rights issues remain our concern including human rights violations of women, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and tea plantation workers.
Peacebuilding and Human Rights Advocacy
With its partners, the IMADR Asia Committee has facilitated awareness raising campaigns and advocacy to promote peace, human rights and non-discrimination. Victim-centered approaches are applied for those campaigns and advocacy. Since before the conclusion of the internal war, the Committee has conducted fact-finding missions to document human rights violations, especially in the East and North provinces. Through these activities, the Committee helped to form women’s groups in local villages which have empowered girls and women to participate in decision-making processes and promote ethnic and religious harmony.
International Advocacy and the UN Human Rights Mechanisms
To bring voices of victims of human rights violations from Sri Lanka, IMADR has participated in the UN human rights mechanisms, with particular focus on the Human Rights Council . It has addressed a wide range of issues including accountability, disappearance, torture, IDPs, rule of law, arbitrary detention, civil society space, women’s human rights, minority rights, freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression and assembly. IMADR has tirelessly advocated for the resolutions on Sri Lanka adopted by the Human Rights Council.
- Human Rights Council resolutions on Sri Lanka
At times of review of Sri Lanka, IMADR has engaged with the UN treaty bodies such as the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), Human Rights Committee and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The Asia Committee produced the guidebook on ICERD/CERD in Shinhalese and Tamil and provided training for local civil society actors and human rights defenders.
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)
With a focus on girls and women, the Asia Committee has provided assistance to IDPs and people affected by the internal war. More than 5 years after the conclusion of the internal war, a great number of IDPs are still waiting to return home while many of them continue to suffer poverty. UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons conducted an official visit to Sri Lanka in 2013 and documented the situation of IDPs. The Asia Committee has carried out both advocacy and assistance work which include:
- Infrastructure reconstruction (nursery, toilet and buildings) in Polonnaruwa and Dambulla;
- Distribution of educational and livelihood materials in Vavuniya, Kilinochi and Mankulam; and
- Rehabilitation of former-LTTE female soldiers in Vavuniya with a partner organisation.
Discrimination based on Work and Descent
With partnership of Human Development Organisation (HDO) , the Asia Committee has cooperated for advocacy and research to improve the living conditions of tea plantation workers whose ancestors were mostly Dalits brought from South India during the British colonial time. Today, many plantation workers continue to work as day laborers in adverse conditions and suffer poverty.
IMADR Asia Committee was set up in Colombo, Sri Lanka in 1989. Since the establishment, the Committee and its partners have addressed multiple forms of discrimination in Sri Lanka through national and international advocacy, arising out of its engagement with communities to combat racism. Leadership of the Asia Committee has been involved in inter-ethnic and inter-religious activities for over 25 years at the community level, as well as in the promotion of reconciliation among all communities.