Sexual Violence in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka – Armed conflict – Sexual and gender-based violence

At the 48th session of UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee), ECCHR presented a report on the foreseeability of sexual violence in conflict in the context of Sri Lanka.

The report calls for new legal means to hold perpetrators accountable and calls on the UN, as it works to uphold human and women’s rights, to take into account the frequent occurrence of sexual violence during conflict situations. In June 2012, ECCHR called on three UN Special Rapporteurs and a UN Working Group to carry out further investigations into the situation of women and girls in northern and eastern Sri Lanka.


Since the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka in mid-May 2009, there has been an increased military presence in northern and eastern regions of the country. The number of assaults in women and girls in these regions has simultaneously risen with and is attributable to the increased number of military and police members.

In its complaint, ECCHR points out the extent to which these violent acts and ongoing impunity are closely linked to the antiterrorism law called the Prevention of Terrorism Act. This law from the 1970s, modified in 2011, makes it easier for police and military members to carry out body inspections and “searches” without having to justify doing so. These searches are often carried out alongside sexual harassment and violence that is specifically of a sexual nature.


Pressure must be exerted on Sri Lanka to comply with its international obligations and in particular to bring its Prevention of Terrorism Act in line with the UN CEDAW Convention. ECCHR reported on the situation of women in northern Sri Lanka at an event parallel to the 19th and 22nd sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council as well as to the CEDAW Committee in Geneva and the European Parliament in Brussels.

In addition, public events on this issue were held in Berlin. ECCHR also contributed two witness statements to the UN study on accountability in Sri Lanka.


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A dossier is a collection of documents that can be submitted to a court or other authority.

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War crimes

Attacks directed against civilians; torture of detainees; sexual slavery – when committed within the context of armed conflict, these and other grave crimes amount to war crimes as defined by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. While the system of international criminal justice makes it possible to prosecute war crimes, in many cases those responsible are not held to account.

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