Senior-Level U.S. Visits Underscore Push on Sri Lanka Human Rights

Senior-Level U.S. Visits Underscore Push on Sri Lanka Human Rights

In recent weeks, the State Department has begun a new push on Sri Lankan human rights issues in the aftermath of that country’s decades-long war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which came to an end in May 2009. This push will likely include a new resolution in the United Nations Human Rights Council, the third such resolution in recent years, intended to pressure the government of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The Sri Lankan government’s final push against LTTE-held territory, in the north of the country, resulted in the defeat of the group. But international observers criticized the government for the large numbers of civilian casualties that resulted, estimated in the tens of thousands, an issue that many say has not been adequately addressed. The Obama administration has encouraged Sri Lanka to deal more directly and transparently with the consequences of the conflict.

Rajapaksa’s reaction has been sharply negative. He sounded a defiant note during a speech Tuesday marking Sri Lanka’s independence day, though he did not specifically mention the United States. “Three decades of suffering ended on May 19, 2009,” he said. “Since then there has been no bomb explosion or shooting by terrorists.”

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