Why we formed
In the five month period between January and May 2009, it is credibly estimated that between 40,000-70,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the north of Sri Lanka as the government embarked on a final offensive to eliminate the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE or ‘Tamil Tigers’) and bring 26-years of brutal civil war to a close.
Most of these deaths were caused by the government’s repeated shelling of ‘No Fire Zones’ where it had encouraged civilians to gather. Sites targeted included hospitals, food distribution centres, and UN facilities. Civilians trapped behind the front lines were prevented from fleeing by the LTTE, with many forcibly conscripted into combat or used as ‘human shields’ by the retreating rebel forces.
To this day, almost no one has been held accountable for the array of mass atrocity crimes committed during this period, or the many other grave human rights violations committed both before and after. This is despite the findings of multiple UN investigations, which have highlighted serious violations of international law by both government forces and the LTTE. Allegations of mass disappearances, arbitrary detention, extra-judicial killings, and systematic torture and sexual violence remain unaddressed.
To learn more about the crimes committed in the final stages of Sri Lanka’s civil war and the struggle of survivors for justice, please read our report A Decade of Impunity. Further information about the civil war can be found in the FAQ and Reports section of our website.
Our analysis is that impunity for human rights abuses is the root cause of multiple cycles of mass violence on the island. We believe that to prevent future violence and achieve lasting peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka, individuals must be held accountable for the crimes they have committed.
Although the tyrannical regime of President Mahinda Rajapaksa was defeated in 2015, the national unity government which followed failed to live up to its promise to deal with the legacy of the war by establishing a credible truth and justice process. In November 2019, war-time Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected as President and appointed his brother and former President, Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister. Both men are credibly accused of grave human rights violations when they were in power between 2005 and 2015.
Following the return of the Rajapaksa’s to power in November 2019, the government of Sri Lanka pulled out of commitments to deal with the legacy of the war and pledged to shield perpetrators from accountability. Today, many of those accused of serious human rights violations occupy some of the highest offices in the country. Meanwhile, the government’s ongoing repressive treatment of victims and minorities is continuing to fuel the grievances that lie at the root of Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict. Unless the government changes course – and without truth and accountability for past crimes – then real reconciliation and sustainable peace will remain elusive.
Check out our updates page for the latest news about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka.
We are a global non-partisan movement that aims to:
- Achieve genuine reconciliation based on accountability for violations of international law
- Build respect for human rights and the rule of law
- Support efforts within Sri Lankan civil society to promote a just and lasting peace
We are not affiliated with any political or ethnic group inside or outside of Sri Lanka. We exist to fight for the rights of every person living in Sri Lanka, as well as all of those now living beyond its borders due to war, violence, and persecution.
You can see how we are funded by reading our latest accounts, here.
You can read our latest strategy here.
We are a small organisation, up against some sizeable and deep-rooted challenges. Nonetheless, working alongside many brave and tireless activists in Sri Lanka and around the world, we have had considerable success.
You can read about some of our previous campaigns and achievements here.
“Your work gives us hope.” – anonymous Sri Lankan war survivor
“In its six-year existence, the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice has brought to light many issues important to Tamils and Muslims who continue to bear the brunt of Sinhala hegemony in post-war Sri Lanka.” – JS Tissanayagam, exiled Sri Lankan Journalist
“I really wish that I were able to make a substantive contribution to the extremely important work being undertaken by the Sri Lanka Campaign.” – Noam Chomsky
“I see the work of the Sri Lanka Campaign and I am very impressed with it.” – Juan Mendez, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture
“When we hear about the things Sri Lanka Campaign are doing we know we have not been forgotten.” – anonymous Sri Lankan war crime survivor
“We will never forget what you all did for Sri Lanka.” – Brito Fernando, Sri Lankan Human Rights Defender
“Thank you again for all your hard work on this very important issue.” – Desmond Tutu