Ever since the final stages of the Sri Lankan civil war in 2009, issues of the criminal accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity and the ongoing sexualized violence against women have been part of ECCHR's legal case work. According to a United Nations report, more than 70,000 civilians lost their lives during the Sri Lankan army's final offensive against the rebel Tamil Tigers (LTTE) lasting from the end of 2008 until May 2009. Women and girls were repeatedly subjected to sexualized violence in the course and aftermath of the war.
To date no one has been held accountable for the civilian deaths and the suspected crimes against international law in Sri Lanka. On taking office in January 2015, President Sirisena announced plans to address the grave war crimes, stating that with the help of the international community he wished to establish an independent national judicial mechanism. Just three months later, in April 2015, he reneged on his promise. He made it clear that the mechanism would not have any power to prosecute but instead be of truth-seeking nature only. For this, he said, Sri Lanka would not need any international help.
A number of high-ranking members of the Sri Lankan army suspected of involvement in war crimes took up diplomatic posts in European and other countries after the conflict came to an end. As a result they could only face prosecution if their diplomatic immunity was revoked. ECCHR calls for greater care to be taken in future with the accreditation of Sri Lankan diplomats. When visas are being issued to diplomatic embassy staff serious efforts must be made to investigate claims that the individual may be linked to war crimes. If necessary, these efforts must include independent preliminary investigations by the relevant prosecution authorities.
Sri Lanka must comply with its international obligations in the fight against gender-based discrimination. The country should bring its law in line with the UN Convention on Women.
Ever since the final stages of the Sri Lankan civil war in 2009, issues of the criminal accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity and the ongoing sexualized violence against women have been part of ECCHR's work.