Sri Lanka Government and Tamil Tigers Responsible for Numerous Violations of War Laws

Both the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers have been responsible for numerous violations of the laws of war since major fighting resumed in April 2006, including indiscriminate attacks on civilians, summary executions, blockading of humanitarian relief, and targeting of aid workers. Impunity for crimes remains the norm. Both sides have also blurred the distinction between combatants and civilians.

Sri Lankan government forces have resorted to indiscriminate shelling and aerial bombing. They have blocked relief materials and supplies to internally displaced persons as a weapon of war. Access to food and medicine has been restricted in locations such as Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Batticaloa, and Ampara. The Tigers have targeted civilians with Claymore mines and suicide bombings, and carried out summary executions. The breakaway faction of the Tamil Tigers under Colonel Karuna, which is believed to be operating under government protection, has forcibly recruited more than 100 children since June 2006. In a briefing paper, Human Rights Watch urges the government and the Tamil Tigers to agree to the establishment of a UN human rights monitoring mission, and to take stronger measures to protect civilians, including the establishment of demilitarized zones as sanctuaries for displaced civilians.


An estimated 200,000 people, mostly Tamils, have been displaced internally in northeastern Sri Lanka. But because access by humanitarian agencies has been restricted, it is difficult to know how many people are truly affected. The World Food Programme put forward a number of 240,000 internally-displaced. In addition, more than 11,000 Tamils have fled to southern India since January 2006. In northern Jaffna peninsula alone, escalating violence has driven 60,000 people, out of their homes. The displaced, nearly half of them children, suffer from the scarcity of water and sanitation facilities, lack of adequate food and electricity. Amajority of the displaced are from the families of fishermen, farmers, and day laborers, all of whom have lost their livelihoods due to the conflict. Many were previously displaced by the December 2004 tsunami.