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HomeNewsAmnesty International criticizes Sri Lanka's approach to war victims' justice

Amnesty International criticizes Sri Lanka’s approach to war victims’ justice

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Amnesty International has criticised Sri Lanka for lacking the political will to address the needs of victims from its three-decade-long internal conflict. The organisation has urged international cooperation to support Sri Lankan authorities in creating a more just society. This call comes ahead of presidential elections expected between mid-September and mid-October, which will significantly impact the future of human rights in the country.

The global rights NGO issued this statement at the end of a five-day visit by Secretary General Agnes Callamard, highlighting that the upcoming election will have long-term implications for human rights in Sri Lanka. During her visit, Callamard commemorated the fallen victims from the Tamil side in the northeastern Mullaithvu district, marking the 15th anniversary of the conflict’s end.

Amnesty’s statement emphasised the need for international collaboration to secure justice and reconciliation for all war victims. It pointed out that the focus during the visit was on threats to civil society, freedom of expression, and the right to peaceful protest. The statement criticised the use of anti-terror laws like the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) to suppress dissent, along with harassment, intimidation, surveillance, and obstacles to press freedom.

The organisation also expressed concerns over new legislation such as the Online Security Act and the proposed NGO law, viewing them as threats to civil society in Sri Lanka. Despite the end of the armed conflict nearly 15 years ago and many decades since the earliest waves of enforced disappearances, Sri Lankan authorities have failed to ensure accountability for these violations.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) waged a military campaign for a separate Tamil homeland in northern and eastern Sri Lanka for almost 30 years before their defeat in 2009. On 18th May 2009, the Sri Lankan Army declared victory with the discovery of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabakaran’s body.

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A recent report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) urged Sri Lanka to take significant steps to address the fate of tens of thousands who disappeared and hold those responsible accountable. The report also called for international involvement in investigations and prosecutions.

Sri Lanka has maintained that OHCHR is not mandated to issue such reports.

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