Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (hereafter, Sri Lanka) concluded its 26 years-long internal war with Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May 2009. During the internal war, up to 40,000 civilians were reportedly killed in the war zones and 290,000 persons were internally displaced. Furthermore, both the State military and LTTE are accused for a series of serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. However, domestic accountability processes established under the former-President Mahinda Rajapaksa regime failed to lead to prosecutions for grave human rights violations, including the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).
In March 2014, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on “Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka (A/HRC/25/L.1/Rev.1)”, which requested the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to investigate into alleged serious violations of human rights and related crimes committed by the Government and LTTE during the period covered by LLRC. This was the first credible investigation into what happened in the final stage of the internal war. This OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL) report was released in September 2015 at the 30th session of the Human Rights Council.
Peacebuilding and Human Rights Advocacy
With its partners, the IMADR Asia Committee has facilitated awareness raising campaigns and advocacy to promote peace, human rights and non-discrimination. Victim-centered approaches are applied for those campaigns and advocacy. Since before the conclusion of the internal war, the Asia Committee has conducted fact-finding missions to document human rights violations, especially in the Eastern and Northern provinces. Through these activities, the Asia Committee helped to form women’s groups in local villages which have empowered girls and women to participate in decision-making processes and promote ethnic and religious harmony.
International Advocacy and the UN Human Rights Mechanisms
To bring voices of victims of human rights violations from Sri Lanka, IMADR has engaged with the UN human rights mechanisms, with a particular focus on the Human Rights Council. It has addressed a wide range of issues including accountability, enforced disappearances, torture, IDPs, rule of law, arbitrary detention, civil society space, women’s human rights, minority rights, freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression and assembly. IMADR has tirelessly advocated for the resolutions on Sri Lanka adopted by the Human Rights Council.
Human Rights Council resolutions on Sri Lanka
- 2012: Promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka (A/HRC/19/2)
- 2013: Promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka (A/HRC/22/1)
- 2014: Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka (A/HRC/25/1)
- 2015: Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka (A/HRC/30/1)
- 2017: Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka (A/HRC/34/1)
- 2019: Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka (A/HRC/40/1)
- 2021: Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka (A/HRC/46/1)
At times of review of Sri Lanka, IMADR has engaged with the UN treaty bodies such as the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the Human Rights Committee and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
Discrimination based on Work and Descent
With partnership of Human Development Organisation (HDO), the Asia Committee has cooperated for advocacy and research to improve the living conditions of tea plantation workers whose ancestors were mostly Dalits brought from South India during the British colonial time. Today, many plantation workers continue to work as day laborers in adverse conditions and suffer poverty.
IMADR Asia Committee was set up in Colombo, Sri Lanka in 1989. Since the establishment, the Committee and its partners have addressed multiple forms of discrimination in Sri Lanka through national and international advocacy, arising out of its engagement with communities to combat racism. Leadership of the Asia Committee has been involved in inter-ethnic and inter-religious activities for over 30 years at the community level, as well as in the promotion of reconciliation among all communities.
- ・Role of civil society in conflict prevention and minority rights protection (FMI14, 2021, OS)
- ・Accountability and enforced disappearances in Sri Lanka (HRC48, 2021, Joint-OS)
- ・High Commissioner’s oral updates on Afghanistan and Sri Lanka (HRC48, 2021, OS)
- ・Sri Lanka: Release Hejaaz Hizbullah and others denied due process under abusive law
- ・Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka (HRC46, 2021, OS)
- ・Open NGO letter for UN Human Rights Council’s actions on Sri Lanka
- ・Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA)
- ・Human Development Organization (HDO)
- ・IMADR Asia Committee
- ・Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
- ・OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka
- ・Rights Now Collective for Democracy