While the armed conflict is over, the situation in the Tamil majority north and east of Sri Lanka remains grim. The presence many tens of thousands of Sri Lankan Army troops, coupled with roadblocks and frequent house to house searches, gives these areas a feeling akin to military occupation, and the climate of fear is palpable.
The infographic above was commissioned in 2012 but we have received no credible subsequent information to suggest that troop numbers have diminished.
Meanwhile, as a consequence of the culture of impunity human rights abuses and attacks on lawyers, journalists and aid workers continue and torture, sexual violence, and extra-judicial killings have been documented. More than 10,000 alleged insurgents, including former child soldiers were detained without charge or access to legal representatives. While it seems that many have been released, not all have and no public record of who is alive and detained exists. For this, and other reasons, Sri Lanka ranks second in the world when it comes to enforced disappearances, behind only Iraq.
The tyrannical regime of the Rajapaksa family surprisingly lost elections in early 2015 and fell out of power. This does give us hope that Sri Lanka may yet make a recovery. Thus far the new regime has made some improvements in some areas but has done little to address the problems of militarisation or impunity. Day to day life in Tamil majority areas of Sri Lanka is much the same as it was under the previous regime.
It is not at all clear that the policies of new government represents a sea change in attitudes to human rights and accountability, and even if they did, many aspects of the government's attitude to the Tamil population appear to originate not from the government but from a "deep state" within the military and security forces. Therefore it may be very difficult for Sri Lanka to truly reform its more structural and fundamental problems without support from the international community.
We have set out a list of measures by which to determine if and how Sri Lanka is improving, and will report back on them in the course of the year.