Democracy, Justice and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka

In summer 2009, the Sri Lankan government of President Rajapaksa concluded an intense campaign against the LTTE, or Tamil Tigers. This conflict was portrayed to the international community as a war against a brutal terrorist organisation, resulting in the ultimate defeat of that organisation. However, large numbers of Tamil civilians were killed in the fighting and many more were displaced.

Concerns have been widely raised that there has been little or no political reconciliation with the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka, and that war crimes were committed by Sri Lankan government forces against Tamil prisoners and civilians in the course of the fighting which have not been adequately addressed. These issues were at the heart of a deeply contested election in January 2010, with the incumbent President Rajapaksa declaring himself the victor.

Sri Lanka presents a particularly hard case for transitional justice. What role should justice play in political reconciliation in Sri Lanka? Can there ever be political stability without justice? What accountability can there be for alleged crimes committed by government forces, and how can this be assured? The OTJR Working Paper series will be examining these issues over the coming months.

Series Papers


1. Sri Lankan 2010 presidential elections: a door shut on reconciliation? 

Fri, 19 Feb 2010 by Melanie Gouby

Reconciliation, interethnic cohesion, and Sri Lankan democracy itself are all threatened by the re-election of President Rajapaksa.


2. The Silence of Sri Lanka's Tamil Leaders on Accountability for War Crimes: Self-Preservation or Indifference? 

Sun, 20 Jan 2013 by Niran Anketell

Although Tamils in Sri Lanka have seemed largely silent on the need for an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan Army and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, it now appears that this silence was due to fear of local reprisals. Pressure to investigate war crimes should therefore come from the international community.


3. Sri Lanka's Post-War Constitutional Reform Debate 

Mon, 08 Aug 2011 by Asanga Welikala

The Sri Lankan government has not used the political space emergent at end of the war to institutionalise a constitutional settlement addressing the roots of conflict. Together with the absence of accountability for war crimes, and the continuing militarisation of the North, this hampers reconciliation and might reproduce the causes of conflict.


4. Some Reflections on the Relationship between 'Peace' and 'Justice' in Post-War Sri Lanka 

Mon, 08 Aug 2011 by Kumaravadivel Guruparan

Some commentators argue that calls for an international inquiry into war crimes in Sri Lanka would obstruct the peace efforts underway in the country. Even though external intervention appears a limited mechanism to foster sustainable peace, it is the only mechanism that offers any hope for Tamils in Sri Lanka.


5. Some Constitutional Aspects of Sri Lanka's Post-War Reconciliation Debate: The LLRC Report and the TNA Response

Thu, 23 Feb 2012 by Asanga Welikala

The constitutional order proposed by Sri Lanka's Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) is theoretically inadequate, constitutionally unimaginative and analytically flawed. The Tamil National Alliance's (TNA) response demonstrates the party's own lack of a constitutional vision for the sub-state nation that it seeks to represent.


6. Sri Lanka and the Urgent Need for Accountability 

Fri, 29 Jun 2012 by Niran Anketell

This paper argues that the pursuit of accountability is morally and legally necessary, but also strategically the best available choice for those concerned with human rights and democratic reform in Sri Lanka.

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