Since the Mu'l'livaaykkaal killings of 2009, the Tamil diaspora has mostly focused political efforts towards demanding justice for the inhuman crimes committed against Tamil civilians. While such efforts have elevated international awareness of the gross human rights violations committed by the Sri Lankan military during the war, the approach has not yielded results on prosecuting the perpetrators of the international crimes.
February 4 protest in Vavuniyaa. Tamils in the north and east of Sri Lanka held protests on February 4, the former British colony's independence day.
A six-year-old boy, Tharshan Kugathasan, was found dead near a navy base at Champoor on the east coast of Sri Lanka on January 26. The boy's body was found in a disused well. The body had been weighed down with a large stone tied to his body by military-style shoelaces. He had earlier been seen with Sri Lankan navy personnel who used to offer him food and chocolates, according to local residents quoted by the Tamilnet website. Evidence indicates that he was raped and murdered by navy personnel.
Tamils protest for the release of political prisoners. Colombo, October 2015. When Maithripala Sirisena was elected as president of Sri Lanka in January last year, he promised to end human rights violations by the security forces. Under Sirisena's predecessor, Mahinda Rajapaksa, it was common practice for the army and police to abduct people and torture them. Some were later released, while others were murdered.
The entire northern province of Sri Lanka, an area mainly inhabited by Tamils, was "brought to a standstill" on November 13, according to the Tamilnet website, in support of Tamil prisoners on hunger strike for their freedom. All private and public activities, except for medical services, came to a standstill. Students did not attend schools. Roads remained deserted except for the army and police.
About 300 Tamil political prisoners in 11 prisons began a hunger strike on October 12. Many of the prisoners have been detained without trial under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Some have been in jail for up to 20 years. They are accused of being members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which fought for an independent Tamil homeland in the north and east of the island of Sri Lanka, but was defeated in 2009.
The United Nations Human Rights Council has unanimously adopted a resolution called “Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka”. This resolution, of which the United States was the main sponsor, welcomed a proposal by the Sri Lankan government to establish a “judicial mechanism” to investigate “abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law”.
The United Nations' Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report of its investigation into human rights violations in Sri Lanka found “reasonable grounds to believe that gross violations of international human rights law … were committed.” The investigation deals with the period between February 2002 and November 2011. It thus includes the final years of the war between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The LTTE fought for an independent Tamil homeland in the north and east of the island of Sri Lanka and was defeated in May 2009.
The Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) has welcomed a September 16 report released by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which "identified patterns of grave violations in Sri Lanka between 2002 and 2011, strongly indicating that war crimes and crimes against humanity were most likely committed by both sides to the conflict".
Tamils protest in Geneva to demand a UN investigation into Sri Lankan war crimes. Photo via Tamilnet.