GIJTR: Sri Lanka Case Study

Global Reparations Summitby Global Initiative for Justice, Truth & Reparations, Global Reparations Summit, Belgrade,  March 25-26, 2018

Case Study by International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, updated May 2018

Case_Study_-_Sri_Lanka

Archives of the conference — https://www.globalreparations.com/live-stream/

Bhavani Fonseka on Day One, first segment at 2:15:45.
Yasmin Sooka on Day One, second segment

Summary of Reparations Efforts and Programs
Sri Lanka needs to redress the gross and serious violations that occurred during the internal
armed conflict between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
(1983–2009). In a United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council Resolution in 2015, the
government committed to create transitional justice mechanisms, including a truth and
reconciliation commission, an office on missing persons, and an office for reparations. Due to a
lack of political will, the government has only made progress on the office on missing persons.

Context
Since its independence in 1948, Sri Lanka saw a rise in Sinhalese ethnic nationalism and
discrimination against the Tamil minority through repressive legislation and a series of violent
anti-Tamil riots. The Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) (1978) has allowed security forces to
perpetrate human rights violations against Tamils, including arbitrary and administrative
detentions, abductions, enforced disappearances, torture, and sexual violence, many of which
continue to date. After decades of discrimination and impunity for violence against Tamils, an
internal armed conflict broke out between the government and the LTTE, which aimed to
establish a separate state and greater self-determination for the Tamil people. The armed conflict
began in July 1983 and ended in May 2009, when then-President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s
government defeated the LTTE in a take-no-prisoners military offensive. The UN estimated that
the final five months of hostilities and alleged atrocity crimes killed 70,000 Tamil civilians,
while Local Government Offices in the predominantly Tamil North-East determined that
146,679 Tamils in the Vanni were unaccounted for after the end of the war.1 Another 300,000
Tamils were internally displaced.

Months later, after his reelection and his party’s landslide victory in the 2010 parliamentary
elections, Rajapaksa centralized power and began instituting increasingly repressive legislation
and employing the PTA to further limit civil and political rights, particularly of Tamils. In order
to alleviate mounting international pressure for an independent inquiry, the Rajapaksa
government appointed the domestic Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) one
year after the end of the war. However, a UN Panel of Experts, members of the international
community, and local civil society organizations heavily criticized the LLRC for its limited
mandate; lack of independence, impartiality, and witness protection; and failure to deliver
meaningful justice to victims.2 Accountability seemed unlikely, if not impossible, for many
conflict-affected victims.

The situation appeared to change in January 2015, when the presidential victory of Maithripala
Sirisena over Rajapaksa opened the door for greater international cooperation and brought
cautious hope to conflict-affected communities and victims. In October 2015, Sri Lanka
cosponsored UN Human Rights Council Resolution 30/1 on “Promoting Reconciliation,
Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka,” pledging to pursue transitional justice.
Resolution 30/1 set the groundwork for Sri Lanka’s domestic actions toward truth, justice, and
reconciliation.

Overall, Sri Lanka’s reparations and other transitional justice efforts have entailed numerous
commissions, inquiries, and reports that produced viable recommendations on justice and
reconciliation, which successive governments have repeatedly sidelined or ignored. In fact,
governments have consistently failed to apply domestic recommendations, such as those by
Presidential Commissions or a government-appointed consultation process, let alone
international ones, such as those by UN inquiries and the government’s cosponsored
commitments in Resolution 30/1. Unfortunately, the lack of political will to execute a
comprehensive transitional justice policy has fostered an environment in which state actors have
continued to abduct, arbitrarily detain, rape, and torture Tamils as well as militarize and grab
land in the North-East.3

Sources of Reparations
Sri Lanka has created various mechanisms that could deliver reparations, but the government’s
absence of political will and follow through on findings and recommendations has hindered
implementation. While President Sirisena’s government agreed in Resolution 30/1 to actualize
four transitional justice mechanisms—all of which would contribute to reparations—it has made
little meaningful progress.

Rehabilitation of Persons, Properties and Industries Authority (REPPIA): Sri Lanka established
REPPIA in 1987, mandating the body to rehabilitate persons, properties, and industries through
compensation, loans, and grants. REPPIA has also resettled displaced persons.4

LLRC: Rajapaksa appointed the LLRC on May 15, 2010.5  The LLRC’s final report made some reasonable suggestions regarding land issues, good governance, and the need for a political solution with respect to Tamil grievances.6 However, its findings indicated bias in favor of the
government, which the LLRC largely cleared of responsibility for casualties by blaming the
LTTE. In addition to failing to adequately investigate heavy artillery and shelling, the LLRC
omitted extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, and torture.7 According to a UN Panel of Experts,
the LLRC did not meet international standards of independence and impartiality.8 Ultimately, the
report exacerbated victims’ lack of faith in the government’s ability and willingness to achieve
accountability.

Paranagama Commission: The Paranagama Commission, established by Rajapaksa in August
2013, has had two mandates. The first mandate was to handle cases of missing or disappeared
persons. The second mandate, given in August 2014, was to investigate allegations of atrocity
crimes, which the Paranagama Commission attributed to “bad apples.” The report of the Office
of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Investigation into Sri Lanka (OISL) criticized
the Paranagama Commission’s work on atrocity crimes, finding clear evidence of systemic
crimes—not simply “bad apples.” In the fall of 2015, the Paranagama Commission began
advocating against Sri Lanka’s transitional justice and reconciliation commitments stemming
from Resolution 30/1.9

UN Human Rights Council Resolution 30/1 (2015): The UN Human Rights Council unanimously
adopted Resolution 30/1 on October 1, 2015. Sri Lanka cosponsored the resolution, pledging to
pursue transitional justice by constituting four mechanisms: a truth commission, a special
judicial mechanism with international involvement, an office on missing persons, and an office
for reparations. In Resolution 30/1, Sri Lanka also agreed to demilitarize and return occupied
land; address ongoing torture and sexual violence; vet and reform the security sector; review and
repeal harmful legislation, such as the PTA; and take necessary constitutional measures to
devolve political authority and reach a political settlement.10

Office on Missing Persons (OMP): Of the four transitional justice mechanisms, the government
has only made progress on the OMP, which was created in May 2016 without promised
consultations with the families of the disappeared.11 Parliament passed the OMP bill in August
2016, which President Sirisena signed into law nearly one year later, in July 2017.
12 Due to international attention at the 37th UN Human Rights Council session, President Sirisena
appointed OMP commissioners on February 28, 2018.13 However, his appointment choices
ignored victims’ calls for the exclusion of military personnel and the inclusion of women and
victims’ representatives. The OMP began meeting with the families of the disappeared in
Mannar on May 12, 2018, but many remain wary of putting their faith in this office.14 The OMP
is forming 12 offices, of which 8 will be in the North-East and 4 will be in the rest of the
country, and is continuing its outreach meetings.15

Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms (CTF): The CTF held broad and
meaningful consultations with 7,306 individuals on the four transitional justice mechanisms in
Resolution 30/1, among other things.16 On January 3, 2017, the CTF released over 700 pages of
findings and recommendations on the design of the OMP; Office of Reparations; Truth, Justice,
Reconciliation and Non-Recurrence Commission (TJRNC); and special judicial mechanism; as
well as on issues related to demilitarization, police and judicial reform, land, women, children
and youth, civil society, and archiving.17 The CTF found that calls for reparations centered on the
need for justice via state accountability and acknowledgment of victims’ suffering.
18 Perhaps unsurprisingly, Tamil and Sinhalese communities had different visions of justice. The
overwhelming majority of Tamils in the North-East expressed their desire for a hybrid judicial
mechanism with Tamil and international involvement, while submissions rejecting that
construction came mostly from Sinhalese participants.19 Ultimately, the CTF favored
international involvement, proposing that the government empanel a hybrid court with both
domestic and foreign judges. With respect to reparations, it recommended that the government
develop a reparations policy that would deliver financial compensation and other forms of
material assistance, psychosocial rehabilitation, collective reparations, cultural reparations, and
symbolic measures.20 Notably, neither President Sirisena nor the Prime Minister attended the
launch of the final report; the Minister of Justice even said he had “no confidence” in the
report.21

National Policy on Durable Solutions for Conflict-Affected Displacement (2016): By the time
Sirisena took office in 2015, there were still 40,000 IDPs and more than 100,000 refugees in
India and elsewhere. To overcome the challenges of displacement, the Ministry of Prison
Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs, in collaboration with the UN
and national consultants, drew on the LLRC recommendations and international standards on
displacement, return, and resettlement in order to draft this policy.22 The policy aims to delineate and ensure the rights of current IDPs, returning IDPs and refugees, and future IDPs.23 It also
directs the state to design a reparations framework for conflict-affected persons, including
displaced persons, and calls for measures to address the specific needs of woman-headed and
child-headed households.24 The Cabinet approved this policy on August 16, 2016.25

Reparations Efforts and Programs
The Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of
Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International
Humanitarian Law, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2005, directs states to provide
victims with five forms of reparations: restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction, and
guarantees of non-repetition.26

1. Restitution
Restitution aims to restore the victim to their situation before they had been violated. For
example, enabling a victim’s return to their place of residence, returning property, and restoring
citizenship are acts of restitution.

Return to one’s place of residence
The conflict caused massive displacement and loss of land and homes. The final months of
fighting displaced at least 284,000 individuals from their homes in the Vanni.27 This number
adds onto existing “old IDPs,” or persons displaced before April 2008, many of whom were first
displaced in the 1980s. While most of the civilians displaced during the war were Tamil, the
LTTE displaced the significant Muslim population of approximately 75,000 from the north in
1990.28 As of October 31, 2017, the Ministry of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement
and Hindu Religious Affairs has resettled 891,125 IDPs in the North-East: 555,545 IDPs in the
Northern Province and 335,580 IDPs in the Eastern Province. Since Sirisena came to power, the
Ministry has resettled 90,996 IDPs in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.29
The National Policy on Durable Solutions for Conflict-Affected Displacement recognizes the
right of displaced persons to make informed and voluntary choices about return or relocation.
Notably, the policy specifically states that the preclusion of return by military occupation is
unacceptable and that the government must give individuals whose land is occupied either the
right to return or compensation.30 It cites militarization as a “major obstacle” to resolving the
situation of IDPs and directs the government to review military ownership of land, releasing all
land used by the military for non-security purposes, such as for agriculture, tourism, and
recreation.31 This has not occurred in practice.

Protests demanding the return of occupied land began in Pilakudiyiruppu on January 31, 2017,
when the military told villagers they would receive their land later that day, which did not
happen. Frustrated with the military’s broken promises, the villagers set up camp across from the
Air Force Base, vowing to protest until the military returns their land.32 On March 1, 2017, the
military released 42 of the 56 occupied acres, on which the villagers found their homes and wells
to be destroyed, preventing their immediate relocation.33 Shortly thereafter, 138 families of
Keppapilavu village began their continuous protest to demand the return of their land.34
Similarly, in Iranaitivu, an islet of Kilinochchi, 366 families began a continuous protest on May
1, 2017, condemning the navy’s occupation since the 1990s.35 Like the protests by the families of
the disappeared discussed below, these demonstrations have been met with hollow promises
from the government. Recently, on April 23, 2018, women led Iranaitivu villagers in sailing back
to the islet, refusing to leave until they are guaranteed land return.36 Although the occupying
navy has allowed the Tamil villagers to stay in their old homes, the navy’s presence as well as
the absence of government-provided basic necessities and facilities indicates Sri Lanka’s lack of
commitment to release the land.37

The National Policy on Durable Solutions for Conflict-Affected Displacement acknowledges that
persons who have endured protracted displacement may need new documentation to prove their
ownership and to reduce their chances of losing their land again.38 It directs the state to
“facilitate the provision or replacement of key documents, such as those pertaining to identity,
birth, marriage, death, land and property.”39

Return of property
The main LLRC recommendation on reparations concerned the return of land and resettlement of
displaced persons. 40 The LLRC proposed that the government give alternative land or pay
compensation to individuals who lost land and/or homes due to the creation of High Security
Zones (HSZs) or other security measures.41

The National Policy on Durable Solutions for Conflict-Affected Displacement allows the
government to acquire land taken for public purposes. In exchange, the government must give
the former occupants “acceptable alternative land, and/or appropriate compensation for their lost
land/property” as well as shelter, livelihood, and essential services for those who had to relocate
as a result of the acquisition.42

Regarding the release of occupied land, the CTF recommended that the government undertake a
“comprehensive mapping process with public involvement” and design a “detailed plan for
release of [public and private] land” held by the military.43 However, the government’s progress
in returning law has been slow. From October 2010 through June 2015, the government released
only 6,255 acres of the 11,629 acres in the north that the government confiscated and turned into
an HSZ from 1990 through 2009.44

2. Compensation
When damage is economically assessable, states should provide compensation.

General compensation
The LLRC explored monetary compensation as a remedy for victims, particularly with respect to
facilitating resettlement and reconciliation.45 Since the huge number of victims and the extreme
financial backlog of cases—as of May 2011, LKR 2.3 billion (approximately US$14.5 million as
of 2018) was needed to resolve it46—has precluded financial compensation by REPPIA on a
large scale, the LLRC proposed that the government pay compensation through “complementary
schemes to ensure rebuilding and resettlement.”47

The LLRC observed that compensation should be viewed in the context of the overall
resettlement and development strategy being operationalized in the Northern and Eastern
Provinces, which has offered basic national welfare services, such as health, education, food,
water, agriculture, infrastructure, and livelihood and village development programs.48 While the
LLRC focused on development-type reparations, the CTF stressed the need to recognize the right
to reparations as distinct from the right to development.49

Physical or mental harm
REPPIA has offered compensation for physical harms, including the deaths of loved ones. In
2016, REPPIA compensated 866 deaths (LKR 86,475,000, or approximately US$547,970 as of
2018), 270 injuries (LKR 8,102,500, or approximately US$51,343 as of 2018), and 164 missing
(LKR 16,400,000, or approximately US$103,922 as of 2018).50

The dependents of public servants and state employees killed by “terrorist/subversive activities,”
are eligible for LKR 200,000 (approximately US$1,265),51 but the dependents of others killed by
“terrorist violence, ethnic riots, civil unrest and related security operations” are entitled to
receive only half that amount (LKR 100,000).52 Under this scheme, members of the general
public injured by “terrorist violence, ethnic riots, civil unrest and related security operations”
may apply for LKR 50,000.53 However, injured public servants and state employees may obtain
up to twice that amount, based on their loss of earning potential.54 There is no clear explanation
for the discrepancies between compensation for state employees and for other victims.

Individuals seeking compensation for deaths or personal injury must produce a letter certifying
their non-involvement with the LTTE.55 Although the LLRC proposed that REPPIA should
compensate former LTTE and the next-of-kin of deceased LTTE based on their need, the
implementation of REPPIA continues to exclude them.56

The CTF recommended that the Office of Reparations, which has yet to be established, give onetime
payments to the families of deceased persons, noting that compensation for the deaths of
civilians should be commensurate to the compensation for the deaths of public servants or
members of the military.57 In addition, the CTF suggested financial reparations for physical
harms and psychosocial trauma.58

Lost opportunities, including employment, education, and social benefits
The CTF recommended the one-time distribution of scholarships for children and employment
opportunities for family members of the deceased and family members of the disappeared.59

Material damages and loss of earnings, including loss of earning potential
REPPIA has granted public servants and state employees injured by “terrorist/subversive
activities” up to LKR 100,000, which is based on their loss of earning potential.60

REPPIA is also empowered to compensate individuals for property damage. Public servants and
state employees whose property was damaged by “terrorist violence of July/August 1987 and thereafter” may receive up to LKR 150,000.61 Meanwhile, the property compensation available
to members of the general public whose property was damaged by “ethnic violence, terrorist
activities, civil war, communal violence and related activities” since July 1983 is capped at LKR
100,000.62 Again, there is no clear explanation for the discrepancies between compensation for
state employees and for other victims.

The CTF recommended financial reparations for loss of a family member, breadwinner,
property, and assets.63

3. Rehabilitation
Rehabilitation involves redressing victims through, for instance, the provision of medical,
psychosocial, and legal services.

General rehabilitation
As of 2013, the government “rehabilitated” and “reintegrated” approximately 11,406 adult LTTE
(9,374 men and 2,032 women) and 594 LTTE child soldiers (364 boys and 230 girls).64

However, in 2010, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) condemned the government’s
rehabilitation program as “what may be the largest mass administrative detention anywhere in
the world.” According to the ICJ, the program failed to conform to international law and
standards and even facilitated torture and enforced disappearances.65 Civil society organizations
have further criticized the military’s involvement in rehabilitation activities and the harassment
of former LTTE by intelligence agencies, which have been documented in the last year.66

4. Satisfaction
Satisfaction includes a wide range of measures, such as ceasefires, truth-seeking and
documentation,67 the search for missing or disappeared persons, and memorialization.

Verification of the facts and full and public disclosure of the truth
Ideally, the government-appointed LLRC would have performed independent truth-seeking and –
telling functions. Instead, the LLRC’s findings favored the government and even justified its
wrongdoing by blaming the LTTE.68 Both the Paranagama Commission and the CTF
recommended the creation of a truth commission, except the former believed a South Africamodel
with an accompanying amnesty process was a viable option.69 On the other hand, the CTF
proposed that the government should prohibit the TJRNRC, which is a non-judicial mechanism,
from granting amnesty.70 The government has not taken steps toward initiating this mechanism,
which was also promised in Resolution 30/1.

Search for the missing, disappeared, and killed
The government has established at least six different commissions on this issue since the 1990s,
but little progress has been made on addressing missing or disappeared persons. Instead,
successive governments have sidelined and even ignored commission findings and
recommendations. This has led to victims’ growing distrust in and frustration with the lack of
political will regarding missing or disappeared persons.

Parliament passed the OMP bill in August 2016, which President Sirisena signed into law in July
2017.71 He appointed OMP commissioners on February 28, 2018,72 but his choices ignored
victims’ demands. The OMP began its ongoing outreach with the families of the disappeared in
Mannar on May 12, 2018.73

There are conflicting numbers of the missing or disappeared. The OMP estimates that 16,000
individuals are still missing, 5,100 of whom are members of the security forces.74 In June 2016,
current Chairperson of the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation and former President
Chandrika Kumaratunga acknowledged receiving at least 65,000 complaints of disappearances.
According to Amnesty International, the figure could be as high as 100,000 given underreporting
because of distrust and lack of confidence in state machinery.75 To date, the OMP has not set
timelines, stating in April 2018 that it is too early to do so.76 However, the OMP has started
meeting with the families of the disappeared since May 12, 2018, is forming its 12 offices, and is
continuing its outreach.77

The most recent Presidential Commission regarding this matter was the Paranagama
Commission. The Paranagama Commission received 24,000 complaints of disappearances, but it
did not possess the resources to hear, let alone examine, them in a timely manner. Furthermore,
witness intimidation, evidence tampering, mistranslations, and procedural partiality tainted its
work, ultimately destroying victims’ trust in the commission.78 Unsurprisingly, most families felt
that the Paranagama Commission did not adequately address their complaints.

The CTF recommended that the government provide a list of all detainees and detention centers
as well as immediately release persons being held without charge under the PTA.79 Beginning in
2017, women led protests spread across the North-East, seeking answers regarding the
whereabouts and fates of their loved ones.80 Due to domestic pressure and a presumable desire to
end the protests, on June 12, 2017, President Sirisena met with representatives of the families of
the disappeared from all eight districts in the North-East. They demanded the names of
surrendees and detainees taken by the military; a list of all secret detention centers, their status,
and the names of detainees held there; and the names of all detainees held under the PTA in
legal, non-secret detention centers.81 Although President Sirisena denied the existence of secret detention centers, he promised the families that he would issue directives to release the names of
surrendees and detainees the following day.82 Nearly one year later, the National Security
Council has yet to release the list.

Judicial and administrative sanctions against persons liable for the violations
The Paranagama Commission’s report of September 2015 rejected international involvement in
prosecutions, maintaining that the domestic system was both able and willing to investigate and
prosecute allegations of atrocity crimes.83 The Paranagama Commission rejected the possibility
of a genocide based on the “low figure of casualties,” even though the legal definition of
genocide centers on intent—not scale.84 Meanwhile, in a September 2015 interview, the UN
High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein stated that genocide cannot be
discounted at that time since a subsequent criminal investigation may determine that Sri Lanka
committed genocide.85

In Resolution 30/1, the government agreed to establish a hybrid judicial mechanism. The CTF
reaffirmed the need for international involvement in prosecutions, proposing a majority of
domestic judges and at least one foreign judge per bench.86 Once faith and trust in the
mechanism are won, the CTF recommended phasing out the international actors.87 Since the
release of the CTF’s report, government officials—especially President Sirisena—have made
statements backtracking on their commitments under Resolution 30/1 to prosecute allegations of
atrocity crimes and to involve foreign judges.88 As of May 2018, the government has made no
progress on the hybrid court. Instead, in April 2018, the military inaugurated a new Directorate
of Overseas Operations in Colombo to defend the military against allegations of atrocity
crimes.89

Commemorations and tributes to the victims
In 2010, the Rajapaksa government began observing “Victory Day” on May 18 to celebrate Sri
Lanka’s “triumph and victory” over the LTTE. Under Rajapaksa, repression was overt and
Tamils in the militarized North-East were unable to openly honor their dead due to police and
military interference and threats.90 In 2015, President Sirisena renamed the day “Remembrance
Day” to remember all who died, regardless of ethnicity.91

Furthermore, three years after Sirisena’s election and nine years after the end of the war, the
government continues to prohibit commemorations of the LTTE, preventing the families of
deceased LTTE from freely remembering their loved ones.92 Accordingly, the government has
surveilled and blocked memorialization in the North-East on Mullivaikkal Remembrance Day
(as May 18 is known among Tamils) and Maaveerar Naal (November 27).93 In 2017, organizers of events for both Mullivaikkal Remembrance Day and Maaveerar Naal were watched and threatened; in at least one case, the police pursued unfounded legal action.94 These intimidation tactics have not stopped Tamils in the North-East from remembering their loved ones. For example, families of deceased LTTE organized Maaveerar Naal 2017 events on the largest scale since 2008.95

In addition to preventing commemorations, the Rajapaksa and Sirisena governments
systematically destroyed LTTE tributes and monuments, including cemeteries. By November
2016, all cemeteries had been destroyed.96 Meanwhile, the government built victory monuments
in the North-East, putting the most prominent memorials in the Vanni, which victims reported as
re-traumatizing. Such victory monuments are less common in the predominantly Sinhalese
South.97

The LLRC highlighted the need for a National Day for the different communities in Sri Lanka to
express solidarity and empathize with all victims of war. The LLRC believed that such an event
would provide the necessary impetus for a national reconciliation process.98 The government has
not yet implemented this recommendation.

Inclusion of an accurate account of the violations in training and educational materials
The CTF recommended the reform of educational curricula and spaces, specifically citing the
need for a revised history curriculum and for school history books to contain the TJRNRC’s
findings on historical incidents, such as the burning of the Jaffna Public Library by security
forces and state-sponsored Sinhalese mobs in 1981, the anti-Tamil pogrom of 1983, the LTTE’s
expulsion of Muslims from the Northern Province in 1990, the LTTE’s killing of over 600 police
officers in the Eastern Province in 1990, and various other massacres.99 Since the government
has not established the TJRNRC, it remains to be seen if its findings will be incorporated into
school curricula.

In March 2017, the Ministry of Education formed a new Peace Education and Reconciliation
Unit (PERU) to lead the Ministry’s efforts to promote reconciliation among students.100 The
unit’s goals include training teachers on reconciliation and contributing to educational reform,
student leadership programs, and cultural and religious diversity celebrations. Following antiMuslim
violence in March 2018, PERU has sought to increase peace education and worked to
integrate its core concepts into mandatory subjects.101 To date, the unit has not produced any
publications, new curricula, or updates on its progress.

5. Guarantees of non-repetition
Guarantees of non-repetition center on institutional reform, such as vetting and lustration
processes.

Effective civilian control of military and security forces
The government committed to end military involvement in civilian life in Resolution 30/1, which
was reaffirmed in the CTF’s recommendations on demilitarization.102 The military’s presence
and infiltration into civilian life in the North-East has remained pervasive, including in religious,
cultural, school, and tourism-related activities.103 In July 2017, civil society organization found
that one-fourth of the army was stationed in Mullaitivu District in the North-East, resulting in a
ratio of nearly one soldier for every two civilians there.104

Independence of the judiciary
The CTF made recommendations on judicial reform, including “systemic delays, lack of
independence and politicisation, conflict of interest, lack of capacity and competence and overall
lack of victim centeredness.”105 The government has yet to address these issues and during a
2016 country visit, the then-UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers
Mónica Pinto found that the judicial system was severely compromised, especially regarding its
treatment of Tamils. Judges lack independence; in fact, Sri Lanka does not even have a code of
conduct for judges.106

Mechanisms for preventing and monitoring social conflicts and their resolution
Sri Lanka has made some progress in filling gaps in the reconciliation process. In May 2017, the
government approved Sri Lanka’s first National Reconciliation Policy to guide national
reconciliation.107 Among other things, this policy seeks to create a National Program and Action
Plan for Reconciliation to be carried out by the Ministry of National Integration & Reconciliation
and the Ministry of National Co-existence, Dialogue and Official Languages.108

Review and reform of laws contributing to human rights violations
As agreed to in Resolution 30/1, Sri Lanka passed the Assistance to and Protection of Victims of
Crime and Witnesses Act in 2015. However, civil society organizations criticized this act for
only protecting victims and witness of human rights violations that are domestic crimes. This is
important because Sri Lanka has not defined international crimes like “war crimes” or “crimes
against humanity” under domestic law.109

In Resolution 30/1, the government committed to review and repeal the PTA, which enables
ongoing human rights violations against Tamils, including arbitrary detentions, administrative
detentions, abductions, enforced disappearances, torture, and sexual violence. The Cabinet
approved the Counter Terrorism Act (CTA) to replace the PTA in May 2017, but international,local, and diaspora civil society organizations have blasted the CTA for falling short of international standards.110 The government attempted, but failed, to pass the CTA in February 2018 before the 37th UN Human Rights Council session, at which Sri Lanka was on the agenda.111 As of writing, the PTA is still on the books.

Sri Lanka ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced
Disappearance in May 2016, and Parliament passed the International Convention for the
Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance Bill in March 2018, criminalizing
“enforced disappearances.”112 The bill is not retrospective, so only enforced disappearances
committed after March 2018 can be prosecuted.113

Finally, constitutional reform is necessary to address the post-independence discrimination
against the Tamil people that was a root cause of the conflict. While Sri Lanka is reforming its
constitution, the current draft retains the centralized, unitary nature of the government and the
prominent status of Buddhism, which Tamils and other minority communities typically do not
practice.

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