Rarely has a government soiled its reputation as dramatically as Sri Lanka’s. In recent months President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s regime has won a war and lost the love of many allies.
Its alleged wartime and other abuses make a grim catalogue: thousands of Tamil civilians allegedly killed by army shelling during the rebels’ last stand; scores of Tamils disappeared; nearly 300,000 Tamil war-displaced callously interned; murder and intimidation of journalists—including J.S. Tissainayagam, sentenced to 20 years hard labour on August 31st for criticising the army’s tactics.
There is not much high-minded western countries—to whom Sri Lanka once looked for aid money—can do about this. Mr Rajapaksa has found alternative friends, in China, Libya, Pakistan—and others, who recently scotched a European effort to launch a war-crimes investigation into Sri Lanka. But the Europeans do have one wrench on Mr Rajapaksa’s government: a trade concession known as “GSP Plus”. This boon, which has helped make exports to the EU the country’s biggest source of foreign exchange, worth $3.3 billion last year, is up for review. Judging by an EU-commissioned report on Sri Lanka’s compliance with its terms, which include stipulations on human rights, it can kiss the concession goodbye.