Crimes Against Humanity in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province

by Center for Justice and Accountability, San Francisco for Sri Lanka Campaign, London, March 4, 2015

This Report is the first of its kind to map the facts of well-documented, post-war human rights violations in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province to the legal elements of crimes against humanity. Amidst growing calls that the UNHRC mandate an international investigation at its March 2014 Session, the Sri Lankan government has resisted external pressure for accountability for crimes committed during the last stages of the civil war. Citing transitional justice as an obstacle to post-war stability, Sri Lanka has tried to redirect attention to post-war infrastructural development and purported progress on human security for Tamils in the Northern Province. However, Sri Lanka’s claims to post-war progress are undermined by allegations reported and analyzed in this Report.
This Report fundamentally challenges the government’s narrative on accountability. Its findings demonstrate that, contrary to government assertions, human rights violations credibly amounting to international crimes continue to be committed nearly five years after the end of a decades-long civil war in May 2009. For many Tamils in the North, the end of the internal armed conflict has not put an end to grave and recurring human rights violations, including rape, sexual violence, torture, enforced disappearance, imprisonment, murder, and deprivation of land rights.
 This report analyses these violations, using the framework set forth by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Under the Rome Statute, a charge of crimes against humanity involves the multiple commission of certain inhumane underlying acts within a particular context: a widespread or systematic attack directed against the civilian population, pursuant to a State or organizational policy.
 For purposes of this Report, the research team focused solely on allegations of post-war violations in the Northern Province reported by public sources, and that satisfied a three-part credibility test, as well as information gathered through interviews. Analyzing these credible allegations of recurring post-war crimes, this Report makes a conservative case that such violations, if proven, point to the commission of crimes against humanity against the Tamil civilian population in the Northern Province long after the war’s end in May 2009.
Credible Allegations pointing to the Commission of Crimes Against Humanity Against Tamils in the Northern Province from May 2009-December 2013  This Report finds credible allegations that, since May 2009, agents and individuals acting on behalf of the government of Sri Lanka committed multiple underlying acts of rape and sexual violence, torture, other inhuman acts, imprisonment, murder, enforced disappearance and persecution against Tamils from the Northern Province of Sri Lanka (See Part III). 
If proven, the multiple underlying acts identified in Part III would cumulatively constitute an attack directed against the Tamil civilian population of the Northern Province that was widespread and systematic.
The credible allegations set forth in this Report point to an attack perpetrated pursuant to a coordinated policy to centralize control over aspects of Tamil civil and political life in the Northern Province and repress the pursuit of Tamil political aspirations, including through resort to violence and deprivation of fundamental rights (See Part II). The allegations herein suggest that this policy is being pursued through at least four discrete but interlinked strategies pursued by the government of Sri Lanka, all involving a resort to violence or the deprivation of fundamental rights:
  Targeting members of the population having had connections with, or perceived as having had connections with, the LTTE; and those espousing or perceived as espousing Tamil nationalist claims;
  Targeting members of the population involved in or perceived as being involved in mobilizing international opinion on accountability issues and human rights issues concerning Tamils in Sri Lanka;
  Targeting members of the population defiant of, or perceived as being defiant of, the government and military, and those involved in protests against the government and military; and  Establishing a heavy and permanent military presence in the Northern Province, including through the mass appropriation of private lands.
  As a result, each of the credible allegations of underlying acts documented in the Report point to the commission of discrete crimes against humanity, each potentially giving rise to individual criminal liability.
Conclusions and Recommendations: the Need to Address Impunity to Halt the Ongoing Commission of International Crimes in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka
The end of Sri Lanka’s civil war in May 2009 should have heralded a bright and peaceful future for the country. However, entrenched impunity has paved the way for recurring crimes against Tamils in the Northern Province. To move forward toward lasting peace, justice, and reconciliation, there is an urgent need to break the cycle of impunity and pursue meaningful justice for international crimes committed both during and after the end of the war.
Given Sri Lanka’s unwillingness to prevent, contain, investigate or punish these alleged crimes, the onus is on the international community to devise and properly authorize mechanisms for their investigation with a view to determining the veracity of the allegations. Further, where sufficient evidence exists, the international community must take steps to prosecute these crimes in lawfully constituted tribunals, or in courts in countries that may exercise jurisdiction over the events and alleged perpetrators, in full conformity with international standards of due process.
For these reasons, the research team recommends:
To the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights:
  Publicly raise the issue of potential ongoing international crimes against the Tamil population of the Northern Province as part of the UN’s expression of concern over the situation in the Northern Province;
 Address the need for ongoing international monitoring of the human rights situation in the Northern Province, including of potential recurring crimes under international law;
To the member states of the UN Human Rights Council and other states:
  Make reference to the applicability of international criminal law, and in particular, crimes against humanity, in the text of a resolution on Sri Lanka at the 25th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in March 2014;
 Mandate an international commission of inquiry to investigate alleged international crimes committed by both sides during the last stages of the war and to further investigate the alleged commission of international crimes since May 2009;
  Request the High Commissioner for Human Rights to report to the Council on the implementation of the above mandate, including steps taken by Sri Lanka to cease the commission of acts giving rise to allegations of international crimes;
To INGOs, NGOs and other activists working on Sri Lanka based issues:
 Publicly call for the investigation of alleged ongoing international crimes against the Tamil population in the Northern Province, emphasizing that when impunity persists, violations continue.
  Monitor, document and report on ongoing human rights violations against the Tamil population in the Northern Province with a view to protecting and preserving potential evidence of alleged international crimes.

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