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Abuses in the Final Stages of Conflict

Ongoing abuses by the government, including civilian killings, enforced disappearances, and abuses of antiterrorism and emergency legislation, intensified in the final stages of the conflict, from January to May 2009, as did abuses by the LTTE. The government was responsible for shelling hospitals filled with civilian victims, increased disappearances, and extrajudicial executions of civilians and of combatants seeking to surrender, and for blocking humanitarian assistance to civilians in the war zone, as well as trapping civilians in detention camps in very poor conditions, as extensively documented by several respected international NGOs, the U.S. and UK governments, and eventually a UN panel.60 The UN expert report suggested that at as many as 40,000 civilians had been killed in the final stages of the conflict.61 The International Crisis Group, an international NGO which ordinarily focuses solely upon conflict and its resolution, issued its first-ever report detailing alleged war crimes in the country and suggesting that the government’s brutal approach to concluding the conflict was viewed as the ‘Sri Lankan solution’ by other governments engaged in protracted armed conflicts.62 This ‘solution’ involves the invocation of a terrorist threat as a justification for a brutal military crackdown and apparent indifference to the consequences for the civilian population, notwithstanding international criticism.

Jettisons Constitutional Council Altogether,’ Asian Tribune (17 June 2010), at http:// (accessed 16 June 2011).

  • 60 Human Rights Watch, ‘Uncovering Sri Lanka’s War Crimes,’ (21 January 2010), at (accessed 28 February 2011);International Crisis Group, ‘War Crimes in Sri Lanka,’ Asia Report No. 191, (17 May 2010), at http://www.crisisgroup. org (accessed 28 February 2011);United States Department of State, Report to Congress on Incidents During the Recent Conflict in Sri Lanka, (2009), at (accessed 28 February 2011);UK House of Commons Library, ‘War and Peace in Sri Lanka,’ Research Paper 09/51 (5 June 2009).
  • 61 Report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka (31 March 2011), p. 41.
  • 62 International Crisis Group, ‘War Crimes in Sri Lanka,’ Asia Report No. 191 (17 May 2010), at (accessed 15 January 2011).

These abuses earned criticism from UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Philip Alston, particularly in relation to a leaked video showing Sri Lankan soldiers executing unarmed civilians. He called for the opening of an investigation into war crimes, prompting accusations from the government that he was biased.63 Sri Lanka was penalized for abuses with the loss of its seat on the UN Human Rights Council in 2008.64 However, this condemnation softened only one year later. Notwithstanding evidence of widespread abuses in the final stages of the conflict, the UN Human Rights Council, rather than condemning these or even expressing concern, passed a resolution on 27 May 2009 commending the government and ignoring widespread international calls for investigation into abuses.65 President Rajapakse has alternately rejected allegations that there have been widespread disappearances or blamed the LTTE.66

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