Sri Lanka. The aftermath of the long civil war between the army and the Tamil guerrillas continues to poison relations between the Sri Lankan government and the outside world.
According to Countryaah official site, the commission appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon in 2010 to investigate possible human rights violations during the war’s final phase was completed with its report this spring. As the Commission has not been admitted into Sri Lanka, it could not present a full investigation but presented testimonies, which it deemed credible, on both sides. If the information was correct, the Commission said, the abuses could in some cases be described as war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Commission requested that a thorough investigation be carried out by independent experts.
The report concluded that tens of thousands of people died during the army’s final offensive against the LTTE guerrillas between January and May 2009. The army was accused of carrying out summary executions of arrested guerrillas, killing civilians and causing the deaths of many civilians by blocking supplies of food and medicines to residents of the barred battle zone.
Even before the report was published, the Sri Lankan government launched a tough campaign against it and tried to get the UN not to publish it. President Mahinda Rajapaksa called for mass protests and the government criticized the UN report as the main theme of its first speeches. According to the government, the report was extremely flawed and promptly contributed to increasing the contradictions in the country.
The criticism was directed at, among other things, a video that was said to show how Sri Lankan soldiers executed civilians. The government claimed that the film was forged, but UN investigators said that careful analysis showed that the images were genuine.
In the Sri Lankan government’s own investigation, which came a few months after the UN report, the authorities admitted for the first time that civilians had been killed during the war, but it was maintained that the line of the army was always that civilians would not be killed. Human rights organizations, e.g. Human Rights Watch, criticized the government report for slipping on the army’s methods on the whole and devoting all its power to describe in detail the guerrilla abuse.
A motion in Parliament on increased media freedom was voted down by the government party. There is no formal censorship in Sri Lanka, but journalists are often subjected to strong pressure and direct threats, and self-censorship is widespread. Many malicious websites are blocked.
In August, the exception laws that have been in effect for 28 years were repealed since the conflict began. It had no immediate effect, as the at least a thousand Tamil prisoners who had hoped to be released instead were detained by virtue of the country’s strict anti-terrorist law.
In local elections in October, the government coalition won in 21 of the 23 districts that were at stake. The most important district, the capital Colombo, went to the opposition. Colombo has a large proportion of Tamil and Muslim residents.