The Elders release a statement outlining the still profound issues inside Sri Lanka:
The Sri Lankan government’s clampdown on domestic critics and its disdain for human rights deserves a far tougher response according to The Elders. While welcoming the end of the decades-long civil war, the Elders say that meaningful progress on reconciliation in Sri Lanka is still desperately needed. They describe the international response to Sri Lanka’s worrying approach to human rights, good governance and accountability as a ‘deafening global silence’ that may encourage other states to act in a similar way.
The Elders have been following events in Sri Lanka closely since the last months of the civil war between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009. They have contacted the government of Sri Lanka and officials around the world to express their concerns about alleged violations of international humanitarian law and the need for actions that promote sustainable peace and reconciliation in the country. The Elders have noted some positive change since the end of the war, including greater economic activity in the north, and the return of some 260,000 displaced people to their home districts.
However, these signs of progress are tainted by intolerance of debate or dissent and a culture of impunity that protects those close to the government. The Elders now believe that the Sri Lankan government’s domestic conduct, as well as its recent unacceptable treatment of the United Nations in Sri Lanka warrants a firm, public response from its most influential friends – particularly China, India, Japan and the United States as well as the non-aligned group of countries.
Only the European Union has taken any direct action by suspending Sri Lanka’s preferential trading access (GSP Plus scheme) for its failure to respect its international human rights obligations.
Among recent events that most concern the Elders are:
- The persecution, intimidation, assassination and disappearance of government critics, political opponents, journalists and human rights defenders.
- Ongoing detention of an estimated 8,000 suspected ex-combatants without charge or access to legal representation, their families or independent monitors.
- The government’s failure to withdraw wartime emergency laws more than a year after the end of the conflict with the LTTE.
- Lack of action by the government to address the political marginalisation of ethnic minorities that was at the root of Sri Lanka’s thirty years of war.
Unacceptable behaviour towards the United Nations — including a siege by demonstrators of UN offices in Colombo, led by a Cabinet Minister — following the UN Secretary-General’s appointment of a panel of experts to advise him on accountability issues relating to alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law committed by both sides during the final stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka.