War Crimes of Srilanka in 2009

War Crimes of Srilanka in 2009


The Civil War of Srilanka was an armed conflict that was fought on the island of Srilanka. This civil war started on 23rd July 1983. This was actually the war of the government of Srilanka against Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). This LTTEE organization was fighting to develop an independent Tamil state named as Tamil (Eelam Betts and Higgins 2017). After 26 years of conflict, the military of Srilanka defeated LTTEE in May 2009 that ended the civil war in the nation. Now, as per mentioned by Kettlewell et al. (2018) during this final war between the military of the government of Srilanka and LTTEE, the government of Srilanka seriously committed war crimes. As per mentioned by Regan (2015) the concept of war crime means an individual of a group can be held responsible for actions of a country or its soldiers. War Crime is actually defined as the Geneva Conventions and as per Geneva Conventions War Crimes is divided into three areas that are crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity (Ganguly 2018). In terms of crimes against peace, it means waging war or aggression by violating international treaties, agreements or assurances. In terms of war crimes, it means violating the laws or customers of war. In terms of crimes against humanity, it means offenses committed against civilians that include murder, extermination, deportation and other inhuman acts. Now, this particular piece of work

War Crime of Srilanka in 2009

During the final times when the war was ending between the military of Srilanka and LTTE, the government of Srilanka committed several war crimes. Several allegations were there against the military of Srilanka and most of those allegations were actually verified. Even the journalists and aid groups were not allowed in the region. Some war crimes that the government of Srilanka committed are hereby mentioned below.

Death of civilians: The military of Srilanka was accused of continuously shelling safe zones where civilians were living. The rebels means the LTTEE was holding civilians as hostages and human shields. In spite of knowing this the government of Srilanka and its military did not even try to take steps to protect those civilians (Guruge et al. 2017). As per reports by The Times newspaper, over 20,000 civilians were killed at the last stage of the conflict due to the shelling of the military of Srilanka. As per mentioned by the UN, over 7,000 people died during the end of April. However, as per the final reports, due to lack of commitment of the government of Srilanka, over 10,000 civilians died during the final stages of the conflict (Salter 2015).

Conduct of war: The government of Srilanka was also accused by the UN as it used heavy weapons including shelling at the safe zones. On the other hand, the government of Srilanka was also accused of shelling food distribution lines and ICRC ships that were coming to pick up injured civilians from the beaches (Dower et al. 2017). However, the government of Srilanka denied these claims and stated that it was the LTTEE that committed several suicide blasts in the area.

Shelling at hospitals: The government not only shelled safe zones where civilians were living but also shelled hospitals on the front line. The motto was to kill the rebel fighters who were injured during the war. In May 2009, several organizations and sources present in the rebel territory claimed that government forces shelled hospitals in those areas and killed hundreds of people (Orjuela 2017). One doctor who was working in one of those hospitals described the shelling to the BBC. However, the government of Srilanka denied such claims and stated that the shelling was done only to pierce the rebel defenses. On the other hand, once the war was over, some doctors who were working in the rebel areas were also arrested by the government of Srilanka on suspicion of collaborating with the rebels. d

Extra judicial killings: Once the war was over, the government of Srilanka faced more allegations. 4 news a famous news channel of Britain, found a video where it was seen that extra-judicial killing took place against the Tamil rebels. Some images were also found that displayed blindfolded bodies (Lecamwasam 2016). However, again the government of Srilanka rejected the claims and stated that these images and videos were false and was developed by rebel sympathizers. Experts of the UN later confirmed that those images and videos were authentic. Some senior commander of Srilanka military also confirmed that the order of killing the rebels by blindfolding them came from the top management however; once again the government of Srilanka rejected such claims (Ameen 2016).

Civilian ordeal: When the fighting was still on, the fleeing civilians were asked about their ordeal. Those fleeing civilians stated that they were living under continuous gun fire, intense shelling and shortage of water, food and medicine. However, it was not the government of Srilanka that committed war crimes as the rebels were also accused for recruiting children for fighting against the government of Srilanka (Goodhand and Walton 2017). On the other hand, a lot of Tamil people of Srilanka reported to the BBC by saying that a lot of their relatives were missing. However, surprisingly, the government of Srilanka stated that no civilian was harmed during the war. In this condition, the International Human Rights Groups stated that an independent and comprehensive inquiry is required (Seoighe 2016). Later Srilanka and its government implemented its own inquiry however; human rights groups refused to join that inquiry as they stated that the inquiry did not meet the international standards. Overall, it is estimated that over 100,000 people were killed during the 26 years of war.

Response of International Court of Justice

In this condition, the International Court of Justice stated that the government of Srilanka should make swift progress to meet the commitments to develop an authentic investigation into alleged war crimes during the civil war of the nation. The same was also stated by the U.N Human Rights Council (Orjuela 2017). The government of Srilanka received a two years of extension for successfully implementing the commitments that the government did during the resolutions of 2015. This resolution was done when a top United Nation official expressed concerns about the slow progress of reforms in Srilanka.

International Court of Justice along with several other organizations around the world accused the government of Srilanka for killing thousands of innocent people, mostly the Tamils. These organizations and International Court of Justice also pressed for justice for the families of those who disappeared during the civil war (Salter 2015) A probe was launched by the United Nations in the year of 2014 into war crimes that were committed by both the government forces and the forces of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTEE) rebels. However, the leader of Srilanka Mahinda Rajapaksa stated against that probe and denied the entry of the UN and International Court of Justice officials within the country (Regan 2015).

Most of the council members of the nation supported the steps taken by the government. However, most of such council members also asked the President to implement transparent and precise plans for reforms and justice commitments. However, even after 9 years of the final war between the government of Srilanka and LTTEE rebels, the government of Srilanka failed to impeach supposed war crimes that included torture, enforced disappearances and unlawful killings (Betts and Higgins 2017). In this condition, the officials of International Court of Justice showed their frustration and disappointed to the government of Srilanka. On the other hand, families whose loves ones were disappeared during the war have requested to the United Nations to pressure the government of Srilanka to fasten the probe of war crimes (Dower, P.C., Ginsburgh and Weber 2017).

During the 26 years of war, Srilanka experienced over 100,000 deaths and 65,000 disappearances. In this condition, the deputy foreign affair minister of Srilanka stated that the government is ready to develop the rule of law and is ready to help U.N, International Court of Justice and International Human Rights to take proper steps against the people who committed this crime (Guruge et al. 2017). On the other hand, Geneva Director of Human Rights along with officials of International Court of Justice stated that the President of the nation opposed to the method of involvement of foreign judges. In the year of 2015 it was decided that foreign judges will be involved in the process and the judges will be from International Court of Justice. This negative behavior from the government of Srilanka has raised the question over the commitment of the government to justice (Salter 2015). Besides, it is also highlighting that the government of Srilanka is absolutely not ready to serve justice the people who lost their families in the war.

In this condition, a strong statement was published by the International Court of Justice. As per mentioned by the International Court of Justice, the Government of Srilanka must immediately stop equivocating. It has also stated that the government of Srilanka must move forward with a clear plan and commitment along with a clear timetable (Ganguly 2018). International Court of Justice also stated that for the war crimes that were committed during the final days of the civil war in Srilanka, the government should help foreign companies to acquire justice.

Even after this statement released by the International Court of Justice, no positive response was found from the government of Srilanka as still the government of Srilanka is doing nothing to provide assistance to the United Nations and International Court of Justice.

How do these sources and commentaries help you make your case?

From the all the sources and commentaries that were found from the above analysis, it can be stated that the decision of Srilanka government to launch a deadly offensive against the LTTEE was absolutely a right decision. However, the thing that the government of Srilanka did was to cross their limits are harming the civilians to ensure victory against the LTTEE rebels. After 26 years of restless war, the government of Srilanka was so desperate that it forgot what a war is and what a war crime is. It not only violated international human rights rules and regulations by shelling on hospitals, but also violated other human rights rules by shelling on innocent civilians. On the other hand, the war also has its own rules where it is stated that POWs which means prisoners of wars have their own rights. However, the military of Srilanka simply blindfolded that prisoners and executed them. This crime committed by Srilanka is similar to the crime that Myanmar committed. To some extend these crimes committed by the government of Srilanka can also be called as genocide as a particular community or population were harmed during the military operations done by the Srilanka government and that population was the Tamils of the nation.


After concluding several facts and factors that were found about the War Crimes committed by Srilanka in 2009 during the final days of its civil war, it can be stated that all the responsible people behind thus must be punished in the International Court of Justice. It is true that not only the government of Srilanka committed such crimes as LTTEE rebels did the same. However, the crimes committed by government of Srilanka were more critical than the crimes committed by the rebels. The government of Srilanka knowingly shelled safe zones where Tamil civilians used to live. On the other hand, in order to cripple the man power of the rebels the government of Srilanka also bombed the hospitals of the rebels in order to kill the inured rebel fighters. On the other hand, the military forces of Srilanka also killed rebel prisoner or wars and violated the international human right rules and regulations. The condition got worse when the government crippled the food suppliers and supplies of medicines for the Tamil people and also disallowed the UK and other international human rights officials to provide help the affected people. The government of Srilanka claimed as these accusations are false however, there are enough evidence against it. Therefore, as soon as possible the responsible people must be brought to justice. 


Ameen, A., 2016. Sri Lanka president wants ‘internal’war crimes court. BBC News.

Betts, J. and Higgins, C., 2017. The Sri Lankan Civil War and Australia's Migration Policy Response: A Historical Case Study with Contemporary Implications. Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies4(2), pp.272-285.

Dower, P.C., Ginsburgh, V. and Weber, S., 2017. Colonial legacy, polarization and linguistic disenfranchisement: The case of the Sri Lankan War. Journal of Development Economics127, pp.440-448.

Ganguly, S., 2018. Ending the Sri Lankan Civil War. Dædalus147(1), pp.78-89.

Goodhand, J. and Walton, O., 2017. The Tangled Politics of Postwar Justice in Sri Lanka. Current History116(789), pp.130-135.

Guruge, S., Ford-Gilboe, M., Varcoe, C., Jayasuriya-Illesinghe, V., Ganesan, M., Sivayogan, S., Kanthasamy, P., Shanmugalingam, P. and Vithanarachchi, H., 2017. Intimate partner violence in the post-war context: Women’s experiences and community leaders’ perceptions in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka. PloS one12(3), p.e0174801.

Kettlewell, N., Rijsdijk, F., Sumathipala, A., Tymula, A., Zavos, H. and Glozier, N., 2018. Civil War, Natural Disaster and Risk Preferences: Evidence from Sri Lankan Twins.

Lecamwasam, N.O., 2016. Transitional Justice in Post-war Sri Lanka: Dilemmas and Prospects. Polity7(1), pp.14-7.

Orjuela, C., 2017. Divides and dialogue in the diaspora during Sri Lanka’s civil war. South Asian Diaspora9(1), pp.67-82.

Regan, P.M., 2015. Sixteen million one: understanding civil war. Routledge.

Salter, M., 2015. To end a civil war: Norway's peace engagement in Sri Lanka. Oxford University Press.

Seoighe, R., 2016. Discourses of Victimization in Sri Lanka’s Civil War: Collective Memory, Legitimacy and Agency. Social & Legal Studies25(3), pp.355-380.


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