Genocide Watch: Sri Lanka

Book-Still Counting the Dead in srilankaCeylon gained independence on February 4, 1948. When a new constitution was adopted in 1972, the country changed its name to the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. The majority of the Sri Lankan population belongs to the Sinhalese ethnicity, which is largely Buddhist, while Tamils, who are Hindus, represent the largest minority. In the 1980s ethnic tensions between Sinhalese and Tamils arose, because of Sinhalese discrimination against Tamils regarding jobs, education and politics. This discrimination resulted in disparities in income and development. Before independence, Tamils had received preferential treatment fro colonial jobs, resulting in resentment by Sinhalese..

In 1983 the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE, better known as Tamil Tigers) attacked government troops for the first time. It marked the beginning of an enduring violent insurgency. The goal of the Tamil Tigers was establishment of an independent Tamil state in the northern and eastern region of Sri Lanka (see map). The Sri Lankan armed forces were supported by an Indian peacekeeping operation. In 2002 both sides agreed to a cease-fire, but the peace did not last. Violence erupted again in 2005. The conflict eventually came to an end in May 2009 when the Sri Lankan armed forces defeated the Tamil Tigers. The political branch associated with the Tamil Tigers, Tamil National Alliance, have now denounced their secessionist claims in favor of a federalist state.

The period from 1983 to 2009 is commonly referred to as the Sri Lankan civil war, during which approximately 100,000 people died according to estimates of the United Nations, and hundreds of thousands of people were internally displaced or fled to neighboring countries. Both parties to the conflict committed atrocities. The Tamil Tigers organized bloody attacks on police, military and civilian targets. Their tactics included ambushes and suicide bombers, and they were notorious for their use of child soldiers.

Sri Lankan troops committed war crimes during the final phase of the Tamil rebellion from January – May 2009. The Tamil Tigers aggravated the atrocities by using civilians as human shields. A recent report of an investigative panel of the United Nations confirmed that the Sri Lankan troops deliberately targeted civilians, hospitals and aid workers, arbitrarily executed prisoners, and committed mass rape, all contrary to the Geneva Conventions which have been ratified by Sri Lanka (read more).

From January – May 2009 at least 7,934 persons died, of which 550 were children younger than 10, but real figures probably amount to tens of thousands victims –most sources speak of approximately 40,000 casualties. No one has been hold accountable. Instead, the Sri Lankan government has relied upon one of the typical forms of denial: substituting reconciliation efforts that do not address the crimes committed (read article on the denial of genocide by Gregory Stanton).

Persecution of Tamils by the Sinhalese government continues today. The Sri Lankan government continues to commit forced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and physical intimidation, including murder and torture, of Tamils and journalists. Because of these human rights abuses Human Rights Watch has called upon the British government not to deport Tamils to Sri Lanka (read more).

Sri Lanka has not signed the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. As long as there is no accountability for the massacres that occurred during the Sri Lankan civil war, there can be no sustainable peace among the ethnic communities, a failure confirmed by Desmond Tutu and Mary Robinson (read more). An international Commission of Inquiry should investigate the atrocities committed by both sides in the conflict, and the Sri Lankan government should arrest and try those who committed war crimes. However, it is unlikely that the current Sri Lankan government will make such a commitment.

Sri Lanka is at stage 5 of the 8 stages of genocide, developed by Genocide Watch: Polarization. Genocide Watch fully supports the resolution of the U.N. Human Rights Council and urges the Sri Lankan government to investigate the final months of the Sri Lankan civil war. Furthermore, Sri Lanka should immediately end any persecution of Tamils.

Relevant information should be sent to

Genocide Watch recommends watching an internet video on Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields by Channel 4, but beware of disturbing images (free registration is necessary) at:

By Genocide Watch
27 March 2012



18 September 2012 “Detention, Torture in Sri Lanka, Tamil returnees at risk, says TAG report” By TamilNet

12 July 2012 “Sri Lanka to regulate news websites amid crackdown” By Associated Free Press

4 July 2012 “Rights group urges Sri Lanka to stop harassing journalists, media outlets” By The Associated Press

3 July 2012 “Sri Lanka: Halt Harassment of Media: Websites Blocked, Journalists Face Charges” By Human Rights Watch

25 June 2012 “ Sri Lanka: Government rejects Universality of Human Rights” By Asian Human Rights Commission

24 June 2012 “Sri Lanka prepares for the UN review of its human rights record” By ColomboPage News Desk

18 June 2012 “Reconciliation in unitary Sri Lanka a cover for genocide, assimilation” By Tamilnet

13 June 2012 “Victims of rape continuously denied justice now live in fear” By Asian Human Rights Commission

6 June 2012 “US envoy for Sri Lanka to prioritize human rights” By Matthew Pennington, Associated Press

31 May 2012 “Stop Sri Lanka deportation flights, says Human Rights Watch” By Shiv Malik

26 April 2012 “Sri Lankan Muslim strike over Dambulla mosque,” by BBC News

30 March 2012 “William Hague faces legal action over Sri Lankan diplomat war crimes claim,” by Sam Jones, The Guardians

27 March 2012 “Country profile of Sri Lanka,” by Genocide Watch

27 March 2012 “Sri Lanka reacts to the UN: Nationalists do protest,” by The Economist

22 March 2012 “UN Rights Council: Sri Lanka vote a strong message for justice,” by Human Rights Watch

22 March 2012 “UN rights body approves resolution pressing Sri Lanka to conduct credible war crime probes,” by Associated Press, The Washington Post

22 March 2012 “UN adopts resolution on Sri Lanka war crimes probe,” by BBC News

19 March 2012 “Move at U.N. on carnage in Sri Lanka sets off fury,” by Nick Cumming-Bruce, The New York Times

14 March 2012 “Sri Lankan Buddhist monks protest against UN human rights resolution proposed by US,” by Associated Press, The Washington Post

13 March 2012 “US defends resolution on Sri Lanka, says without reconciliation the island risks conflict,” by Associated Press, The Washington Post

26 February 2012 “Our duty to Sri Lanka, and human rights,” by Desmond Tutu and Mary Robinson, The Guardian

25 February 2012 “L’assault final contre les Tigres tamouls a fait 8000 morts,” by Agence France-Presse, La Presse

25 February 2012 “Halt deportations of Tamils to Sri Lanka,” by Human Rights Watch

15 February 2012 “Sri Lankan army agrees to probe war crimes,” by The Telegraph

30 December 2011 “Sri Lanka’s ghosts of war,” by Namini Wijedasa, The New York Times

26 September 2011 “Sri Lanka war general ready to fight US court summons,” by Agence France-Presse

18 April 2011 “Report finds Sri Lanka attacked civilians,” by Lydia Polgreen, The New York Times

6 June 2010 “Sri Lankan government threatens to execute Sarath Fonseka,” by Stephen Sackur and Katy Stoddard, The Guardian

16 April 2010 “Peace Negotiations Watch Vol IX No 16,” by Public International Law & Policy Group

9 April 2010 “Peace Negotiations Watch Vol IX No 15,” by Public International Law & Policy Group

2 April 2010 “Peace Negotiations Watch Vol IX, No 14,” by Public International Law & Policy Group

19 March 2010 “Peace Negotiations Watch Vol IX, No. 12,” by Public International Law & Policy Group

12 March 2010 “Peace Negotiations Watch Vol IX, No.11,” by Public International Law & Policy Group

26 February 2010 “Peace Negotiations Watch, Vol. IX, No. 9,” by Public International Law & Policy Group

11 January 2010 “Sri Lanka: A Bitter Peace,” by International Crisis Group

15 December 2009 “Sri Lankan war crimes video is authentic, Times investigation finds,” by Rhys Blakely, The Times

7 December 2009 “U.S. Report on Sri Lanka Urges New Approach,” by Lydia Polgreen, The New York Times

4 December 2009 “Over 70 percent IDPs have left relief centers, Sri Lanka Minister says,” by Colombo Page News

3 December 2009 “Letter from Amnesty International Addressed to Robert Blake,” by Amnesty International

21 November 2009 “Sri Lanka to Free War-Displaced Tamils From Camps,” by The Associated Press

10 October 2009 “Sri Lanka: Tensions Mount as Camp Conditions Deteriorate,” by Human Rights Watch

6 September 2009 “Sri Lanka expels Unicef official,” by BBC News

3 September 2009 “Probe call over Sri Lanka killings,” by Al Jazeera

1 September 2009 “Sri Lankan editor lauded by Obama is sentenced to 20 years,” by Lydia Polgreen, The New York Times

9 August 2009 “Sri Lanka’s first post-war polls show mixed results,” by C. Bryson Hull, Reuters

7 August 2009 “Sri Lankans question new Tamil Tigers leader after arrest,” by The Guardian

5 August 2009 “Tamil refugees are allowed home,” by Charles Haviland, BBC News

30 June 2009 “Sri Lanka says will boost size of post-war Armed Forces” by Reuters

30 June 2009 “Sri Lanka’s Judiciary: Politicised Courts, Compromised Rights,” by International Crisis Group

26 June 2009 “Sri Lanka Camp Young ‘Malnourished’” by the BBC

31 May 2009 “Sri Lanka rejects rights probe after crushing Tigers” by Agence France-Presse

31 May 2009 “‘I’m only 16. They gave me a rifle. It was heavy. They said we had to go forward. If we came back, they would shoot us’” by Gethin Chamberlain, The Observer

30 May 2009 “Aid slowly reaching Sri Lanka’s war refugees” by Lydia Polgreen

27 May 2009 “Sri Lanka: un massacre sponsorise?,” by Alain Deletroz, Le Temps

27 May 2009 “Council Concludes Special Session after Adopting Resolution on Assistance to Sri Lanka in Promotion and Protection of Human Rights” by Human Rights Council

24 May 2009 “Sri Lanka: Child Victims of the Battle to End a Bloody Civil War” by Gethin Chamberlain, The Guardian

23 May 2009 “Sri Lanka Leader Rejects War Crimes Investigation” by Emily Wax, Washington Post Foreign Service

22 May 2009 “Sri Lanka: Government misrepresentations regarding the scale of the crisis,” by Amnesty International

22 May 2009 “As Sri Lanka Savors Victory, Challenges Loom” by Emily Wax, Washington Post Foreign Service

21 May 2009 “Red Cross Barred From Sri Lankan Refugee Camp” by Emily Wax, Washington Post Foreign Service

19 May 2009 “Tamil Tiger Leader Was Seen as Ruthless Innovator” by Mark Magnier, Los Angeles Times

19 May 2009 “Death of Rebel Leader Marks ‘End of an Era’ in Sri Lanka” by Emily Wax, Washington Post Foreign Service

18 May 2009 “Sri Lanka Says War Over, Rebel Leader Killed” by Ravi Nessman, The Associated Press

17 May 2009 “Sri Lankan Rebels Concede Defeat” by Emily Wax, Washington Post Foreign Service

17 May 2009 “Sri Lanka Celebrates Rebels’ Defeat” by The Associated Press

16 May 2009 “Sri Lankan Army Takes Control of Coastline” by Bharatha Mallawarachi, The Associated Press

15 May 2009 “Statement on Sri Lanka” by Francis Deng, Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide

14 May 2009 “UN Condemns Latest Sri Lanka Violence” by The Associated Press

30 April 2009 “Sri Lanka’s Dirty War” Editorial in the New York Times

27 April 2009 “ Sri Lanka army ‘to stop shelling’” by BBC News

22 April 2009 “War Wanes, But Civilians Face Crisis in Sri Lanka” by Somini Sengupta, The New York Times

15 April 2009 “Sri Lanka Army ‘Resumes Fighting’” by Anbarasan Ethirajan, BBC News

7 April 2009 “UN calls for pause in Sri Lanka’s civil war” by Scott McDonald

7 April 2009 “UN Expert Warns of Bloodbath in Sri Lanka’s War” by The Associate Press

6 April 2009 “Fighting Intensifies in Sri Lanka” by Mark McDonald, The New York Times

6 April 2009 “Sri Lanka says war’s end near, 453 rebels killed” by Scott McDonald

5 April 2009 “Violence Silences Voices of Sri Lankan Journalists” by Seth Mydans, The New York Times

5 April 2009 “Traumatised Tamils live in fear of new crackdown in Sri Lanka” by Annie Kelly, The Gaurdian

5 April 2009 “Sri Lanka safe zone now rebels’ last stronghold” by The Associated Press

30 March 2009 “Sri Lanka ‘Could Halt Fighting” by Anbarasan Ethirajan, BBC News

30 March 2009 “The Silent Horror of the War in Sri Lanka” by Arundhati Roy, The Times of India

30 March 2009 “Fierce Clashes in North Sri Lanka” by Anbarasan Ethirajan, BBC News

29 March 2009 “Sri Lanka Army ‘Kills 15 Rebels’ ” by Anbarasan Ethirajan, BBC News

27 March 2009 “UN in Call for Sri Lanka ‘Pause’ ” by BBC News

26 March 2009 “US Accuses Sri Lanka of Shelling Civilian Areas” by Louis Charbonneau, Reuters

14 March 2009 “U.N. Rights Official Fears War Crimes in Sri Lanka” by Seth Mydans, The New York Times

24 February 2009 “Tamil Rebels Offer Conditional Truce” by Mark McDonald, The New York Times

22 February 2009 “Sri Lanka’s War On Several Fronts” by Emily Wax, The Washington Post

22 February 2009 “Price of Sri Lanka’s army expansion is paid in grief” by Mark Magnier, Los Angeles Times

21 February 2009 “2 Rebel Planes Shot Down Over Capital of Sri Lanka” by Somini Sengupta and Mark McDonald, The New York Times

13 February 2009 “In Sri Lanka, Tales Of Jungle Terror,” by Emily Wax, The Washington Post

30 January 2009 “Sri Lanka leader vows safe passage,” by BBC

28 January 2009 “Massacre in the Sri Lanka ‘safe zone’ by Andrew Buncombe, Independent

17 January 2009 “Sri Lanka: Genocide against Tamils,” by Green Left

23 December 2008 “Besieged, Displaced, and Detained,” by Human Rights Watch

31 October 2008 “‘Drop’ in S Lanka press freedom,” by BBC News 

15 October 2008 “Indian lawmakers threaten to resign over Sri Lanka,” by S. Murari, Reuters

15 October 2008 “Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province: Land, Development, Conflict,” by International Crisis Group

26 September 2008 “Inside Sri Lanka: An end to violence in sight,” by Stewart Bell, National Post 

25 September 2008 “The last battle? Civilians in the crossfire,” by The Economist 

4 September 2008 “Closing in on the Tigers’ lair,” by The Economist

3 October 2008 “Army Bombs Headquarters of Rebels in Sri Lanka,” by Somini Sengupta, The New York Times

9 September 2008 “Blocking aid workers endangers trapped civilians,” by Amnesty International

14 August 2008 “A brutal military campaign threatens Sri Lanka’s exporters,” by The Economist

14 August 2008 “LTTE, government endangering lives of tens of thousands of newly displaced around Wanni,” by Amnesty International

3 July 2008 “Sri Lanka�s army chief says the government has won its 25-year war against the Tamil Tigers. This is not true,” by The Economist

2 July 2008 “End Internment of Displaced Persons,” by Human Rights Watch

21 June 2008 “Sri Lanka mounts air strikes against Tiger rebels,” by Agence France-Preese

6 June 2008 “Amnesty International calls for an immediate end to attacks on civilians,” by Amnesty International

29 May 2008 “Sri Lanka warns Western sanctions can stoke ethnic conflict,” by Agence France-Presse

22 May 2008 “Sri Lanka slams door on rights monitors after UN blow,” by Agence France-Presse

12 May 2008 “Sri Lanka opposition challenge govt poll win,” by Mel Gunasekera, Agence France-Presse

10 May 2008 “Tamil Tigers attack as Sri Lanka holds key local polls,” by Stefan Smith, Agence France-Presse

24 April 2008 “90 Killed in Fierce Fighting in Sri Lanka, Military Says,” by The Associated Press

23 April 2008 “Sri Lanka suffers bloodiest clashes since 2006,” by Hannah Strange, The Times

9 March 2008 “Take Aid From China and Take a Pass on Human Rights,” by Somini Sengupta, The New York Times

8 March 2008 “Ethnic Divide Worsens as Sri Lanka Conflict Escalates,” by Somini Sengupta, The New York Times

20 February 2008 “Sri Lanka’s Return to War: Limiting the Damage,” by International Crisis Group

19 February 2008 “Rice, in Nairobi, Offers Incentives to End Violence,” by Sheryl Gaystolberg and Jeffrey Gettleman, The New York Times 

15 February 2008 “Signs in Kenya of a Land Redrawn by Ethnicity,” by Jeffrey Gettleman, The New York Times 

15 February 2008 “As Kenyan Rivals Haggle, a Mother Mourns at 2 Graves,” by Jeffrey Gettleman, The New York Times

20 February 2008 “Sri Lanka’s Return to War: Limiting the Damage,” by International Crisis Group

5 February 2008 “Bombings Mar Sri Lanka’s 60th Anniversary of Statehood,” by AP, The New York Times

21 January 2008 “Sri Lanka Says 15 Tamil Rebels Killed,” by Bharatha Mallawarachi, The AP

16 January 2008 “20 Dead in Attack on Bus in Sri Lanka,” by Reuters

9 January 2008 “Sri Lankan Blast Kills an Official,” by The Associated Press

7 January 2008 “Sri Lankans Kill 36 Rebels as Monitors Begin Pullout,” by Agence France-Press

3 January 2008 “Sri Lanka War Seen Escalating as Truce Declared Dead,” by Ranga Sirilal, Reuters

9 February 2007 “Sri Lanka’s President Seems as Mindless as Any Bomber,” by Jonathan Steele, The Guardian.

4 January 2007 “Sri Lanka Says Bombs Rebel Naval Base in New Strike,” by Reuters

28 November 2006 “Ceasefire Over as Tamil Tigers� Leader Calls for Independence,” by Randeep Ramesh, The Guardian.

19 September 2006 “Sri Lanka: Government and Tamil Tigers Must Protect Civilians,” by Human Rights Watch.

19 September 2006 “U.N. Rights Chief Urges Monitors for Sri Lanka,” by Somini Sengupta, The New York Times.

18 September 2006 “Sri Lanka: Humanitarians Under Fire,” by Refugees International.

18 September 2006 “Resumption of Sri Lanka War Tests Civilians� Endurance” by Somini Sengupta, The New York Times.

11 September 2006 “Sri Lanka: Time to Act,” by Meenakshi Ganguly, Human Rights Watch.

4 September 2006 “Sri Lanka Says Rebel Town Seized,” by The Associated Press.

31 August 2006 “Monitors Say Troops Killed Aid Workers in Sri Lanka,” by Shimali Senanayake and Somini Sengupta, The New York Times.

21 August 2006 “Sri Lanka: Warring Sides Must Let Aid Reach Civilians,” by Human Rights Watch.

19 August 2006 “Sri Lanka: More than 80 Rebels Killed,” by The Associated Press.

11 August 2006 “Sri Lanka: Strong International Role Needed in Inquiry on Aid Worker Killings,” by Human Rights Watch.

11 August 2006 “Sri Lanka Accused of Killing Civilians and Aid Workers,” by Justin Huggler, Asia Correspondent for Independent News and Media, Ltd.

2 August 2006 “Muslims Flee Sri Lanka Fighting,” by BBC News.

24 August 2003 “Island’s Muslim minority looking toward militancy to counter Tamils’ growing power,” by Dilip Ganguly, The Associated Press.

23 August 2003 “Tamils call Sri Lankan peace offer “ambiguous”, discuss counter-proposal,” by Agence France Presse.

15 August 2003 “Thailand offers rehab help to war-ravaged Sri Lanka,” by Amal Jayasinghe, Agence France Presse.

14 August 2003 “Sri Lanka raises army pay by 55 percent to attract recruits,” by Agence France Presse.

14 August 2003 “Sri Lankan govt says peace bid with Tamil rebels moving forward,” by Xinhua.

12 August 2003 “Roundup: Norwegian peace envoy in Sri Lanka to revive stalled peace bid,” by Xinhua