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Since the end of Sri Lanka’s thirty year-long war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the island is often evoked internationally in relation to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva. The UNHRC remains the only supranational body where the case of Sri Lanka has been evoked on a regular basis since the 1980s. Right from the outset of Eelam War IV, Sri Lanka attracted much criticism from policy research lobbies and senior personalities such as the then UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and present ICG chief Dr Louise Arbour. The UNHRC’s scrutiny of Sri Lanka was intensified in the aftermath of the final military offensive of May 2009. This was a justifiable move, given the substantive civilian casualties and the humanitarian catastrophe resulting in the displacement of some 300,000 civilians. Colombo’s treatment of displaced Tamil civilians caused considerable international alarm, as civilians were held in temporary shelters (which the government emphatically termed ‘welfare centres’ and critics categorically described as ‘concentration camps’), with accusations and considerable evidence over acts of violence and human rights violations.
This peer-reviewed article was published in the Revue française d’études canadiennes/French Review of Canadian Studies, Vol. 75 (December 2013 – Special issue entitled “Canada and the Commonwealth”), pp 97-127. For the full-text, please click here: Article CW RFEC Dec 2013
Sri Lanka’s thirty-year war, which ended in May 2009, is fast being forgotten. In the post-2009 context, pressing fundamental rights issues in the island nation have been considerably sidelined. Key players in the international community do not perceive Sri Lanka as a strategic priority. In the most recent development, Colombo interprets its decision to hold a Northern Provincial Council Election on 21 September 2013, after a lapse of some twenty-fiveyears, as a means of demonstrating its apparent respect for democratic best practice. The campaign, however, has been fraught with violence, especially against candidates of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the main exponent of constitutional Tamil nationalism, polemical concerns over the TNA manifesto, and anti-TNA smear campaigns emanating from governmental sources.
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This article was originally published in Open Democracy, on 27 September 2013.