Annual Report: Sri Lanka 2010

May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Sri Lanka 2010

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Abuses by armed groups


The LTTE recruited children as fighters and punished people who resisted forced recruitment. They imposed a strict pass system, hindering thousands of families from the Wanni region from moving to safer areas. As conflict intensified and territory controlled by the LTTE diminished, they actively prevented civilians from escaping, including shooting at those who tried to flee.

The LTTE also deliberately targeted civilians. They launched indiscriminate attacks outside the conflict zone, including suicide bombings and an aerial assault on Colombo.

  • On 10 March, a suicide bombing of a Muslim religious procession in southern Sri Lanka killed 14 civilians and injured 50.

Government-allied armed groups

Armed groups allied with the government were used for counter-insurgency, including the Eelam People's Democratic Party, the People's Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam, and the Tamil People's Liberation Front (TMVP). Members carried out enforced disappearances and hostage-taking for ransom, unlawful killings, and recruitment of child soldiers, including from camps housing internally displaced people. TMVP members and cadres loyal to the former TMVP leader, V. Muralitharan (known as Karuna), were accused by local parents of child recruitment in Batticaloa district. Internecine violence between supporters of the two factions resulted in civilian deaths.

Enforced disappearances

The government continued to carry out enforced disappearances as part of its counter-insurgency strategy. Enforced disappearances were reported in many parts of the country, particularly in northern and eastern Sri Lanka and in Colombo.

Arbitrary arrests and detentions

The security forces used emergency regulations to arrest and detain many thousands of Tamils suspected of LTTE links. People were arrested in various contexts, including in displacement camps, during search operations and at security checkpoints throughout the country.

  • On 26 March, more than 300 people, most of them Tamil, were arrested in a search operation conducted between 6pm and 6am in the town of Gampaha, about 24km north-west of Colombo. Hundreds of people remained detained without charge in police lock-ups and southern prisons under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and emergency regulations on suspicion of links to the LTTE; in November, 20 were released for lack of evidence.
  • On 18 September, some 36 Tamil prisoners on hunger strike protesting against their prolonged detention without trial at Welikada jail said they were beaten by prison guards. Beatings by prison guards in November injured 22 Tamil prisoners, seven of them seriously.

Extrajudicial executions

Police killings of criminal suspects escalated after President Mahinda Rajapaksa ordered a crackdown on underworld activity in July. At least five alleged gang leaders were abducted and killed in July alone.

  • In mid-August, thousands of Sri Lankans took to the streets to protest against the killing of two young men by police in Angulana, a suburb of Colombo, after a woman with police links accused them of harassment. Witnesses say the victims were beaten and otherwise tortured before being taken out of the station; their bodies were found the next day.


Investigations into human rights violations by the military and police stalled. Court cases did not proceed as witnesses refused to come forward for fear of reprisals. In June, a Presidential Commission of Inquiry, established to look into serious violations of human rights committed since 2006, was disbanded without completing its mandated tasks. Of the 16 cases referred, only seven were investigated, with reports on five finalized. No reports were made public and no inquiry resulted in prosecutions.