At the end of Sri Lanka’s war in May 2009, approximately 10,000 suspected Tamil Tiger combatants were detained by the Sri Lankan government in secret facilities, off limits to the ICRC and other forms of independent monitoring. Serious allegations of sexual abuse, enforced disappearance and torture were leaked out.
The ICJ describes it as ‘the largest mass administrative detention anywhere in the world’ – the equivalent of 20 Guantanamo Bays. Donor silence (even though most donors claim to be democratic, pro human rights governments) allows this detention, flouting international laws and conventions, to continue. Further details are provided in their report on the situation.
Nearly 2,000 prisoners have been released over the past 16 months, but 8,000 Tamils remain in dismal conditions without charge or trial. This mistreatment is incompatible with the political reconciliation needed for durable peace.
NB This mass, systematic detention without due process, along with the gross misconduct of the war has led to the phrase ‘the Sri Lanka option’ – used by other regimes fighting counter-insurgency.