by US State Dept., Washington, DC, April 24, 2017
Sri Lanka is a constitutional, multiparty republic with a freely elected government. In January 2015 voters elected President Maithripala Sirisena to a five-year term. The parliament shares power with the president. August 2015 parliamentary elections resulted in a coalition government between the two major political parties. Both elections were free and fair.
Civilian authorities generally maintained control over the security forces.
The most significant human rights issues included unlawful killings; torture; sexual
abuse; arbitrary arrest; lengthy detention; lack of property restitution by the
military; and surveillance and harassment of civil society activists and journalists.
Government discrimination toward and security forces harassment of Tamils and
nondenominational Christian groups persisted. Same-sex sexual conduct was
prohibited by law, though rarely prosecuted.
The military and police harassed civilians with impunity, and impunity for crimes
committed during and since the armed conflict continued. The government,
however, took steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish some officials who
committed human rights abuses. The president signed a gazette legally
establishing the Office of Missing Persons. The government made limited
progress toward establishing additional transitional justice mechanisms…
Both local and Indian-origin Tamils maintained they suffered longstanding,
systematic discrimination in university education, government employment,
housing, health services, language laws, and procedures for naturalization of
noncitizens. Throughout the country, but especially in the north and east, Tamils
reported security forces regularly monitored and harassed members of their
community, especially activists and former or suspected former LTTE members.
The government had a variety of ministries and presidentially appointed bodies
designed to address the social and development needs of the Tamil minority. The
government has implemented a number of confidence-building measures to
address grievances of the Tamil community. It also replaced military governors of
the Northern and Eastern provinces with civilians. The Office of National Unity
and Reconciliation, established by the president in 2016, continued to coordinate
the government’s reconciliation efforts. The office focuses on promoting social
integration to build an inclusive society, securing language rights for all citizens,
supporting a healing process within war-affected communities via the
government’s proposed Commission for Truth, Justice, Reconciliation, and
nonrecurrence of the violence. On April 17, the Tamil National Alliance and
Defense Ministry initiated a formal dialogue on returning military-held lands in the
Northern and Eastern provinces. In August army Chief Major General Mahesh
Senanayake publicly committed the military to prosecuting personnel who
committed criminal acts during and after the conflict, many of which were
committed against the Tamil community.