Sri Lanka's brutal 26-year civil war between the government forces and separatists from the Tamil minority ended with a government victory in May 2009. During the war, both sides committed gross human rights abuses, including war crimes, for which no one has been held accountable. Enforced disappearances and torture have continued to be reported since the war's end. Hundreds remain detained without charge or trial. Independent journalists and human rights defenders have been harassed and attacked. Draconian security laws inconsistent with international standards remain in place.
During 1983 – 2009, Sri Lanka was wracked by a civil war between the security forces (who are mostly from the majority Sinhalese community) and the armed Tamil opposition group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who were seeking an independent state for the Tamil minority in the north and east of the island. While human rights abuses were committed by both sides during the long decades of conflict, the final years of the war saw a heightened intensity of fighting, accompanied by soaring human rights abuses: hundreds of enforced disappearances, unlawful killings of aid workers, arbitrary arrests, torture and the use of child soldiers. Some of these abuses may constitute war crimes. On March 27, 2014, the U.N. Human Rights Council finally authorized an independent international investigation into these reported abuses. Amnesty International welcomed this long-awaited step and called for the investigation to be robust and adequately resourced.
At the end of the war, about 11,000 displaced people suspected of links to the LTTE were arbitrarily arrested and detained without charge or trial. While many of these detainees have since been released, the government continues to use draconian security legislation enacted during the war to arbitrarily detain peaceful critics and hold them without charge or trial. These detainees should be charged with legitimate criminal offences, tried and prosecuted in accordance with international standards, or else released.
In recent years, cases of torture and enforced disappearances have continued to be reported, with no one being held responsible. Journalists, activists and human rights defenders have been attacked. At least 14 media workers have been the victims of unlawful killings since the beginning of 2006; one has allegedly disappeared in the custody of the security forces, while others have been tortured and arbitrarily detained.