Tamil Civilians Faced Disappearance, Torture, and Sexual Violence from Sri Lankan Security Forces

123 Tamil civilians have faced unlawful detention, which includes torture and sexual violence. These discriminatory and unlawful practices against the Tamils have been happening for decades, rooted in the civil war.

Tamil Civilians Faced Disappearance, Torture, and Sexual Violence from Sri Lankan Security Forces
Flag of Sri Lanka, by Mariana Proença


Dara Masita

Human Rights Researcher

Global Human Rights Defence


         Sri Lankan security forces still exhibit discriminatory practices toward minority groups, especially the Tamils. The report published by the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) showcased accounts from 123 Tamils the Sri Lankan security forces have unlawfully detained between 2015 and 2022.

         These discriminatory practices were rooted in the civil war that ravaged the country from 1983 to 2009, where the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militant organisation went against the government to advocate for the creation of an independent Tamil state. The civil war was the peak illustration of the tension between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority that has been going on for decades.

         Of the 123 detainees, 62 of them joined the LTTE before the end of the war. While many of them were “forcibly” recruited. There were 139 instances of detention, with some people detained more than once. In which 130 of the detention involves methods of torture. They were severely beaten, in some cases showed asphyxiation, burnt by cigarettes or other heated materials, forced drowning, and suspended by ropes. In 91 detentions, sexual torture was used.

         This behaviour from the Sri Lankan government is a flagrant violation of the Convention against Torture, which Sri Lanka has ratified since 1994. Additionally, the discrimination against the Tamils is systematic. It involves a degree of coordination approved by the highest level of government. The state is responsible for ensuring that human rights are protected; it is disheartening that the Tamils cannot rely on state agencies for protection. Various organisations, such as NGOs (e.g. Minority Rights Group) and the UN, have called out Sri Lanka for their treatment of the Tamil population. However, it seems Sri Lanka is disregarding their warnings.

         Overall, the ITJP report successfully conveyed the hardships Sri Lankan Tamils faced long after the civil war ended. The international community should continue to pressure Sri Lanka to cease its discriminatory system against the Tamils.



Sources and further reading:

‘DISAPPEARANCE, TORTURE AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE OF TAMILS 2015 - 2022’ (International Truth and Justice Project, 8 May 2024) <https://itjpsl.com/assets/ITJP_torture_report-FINAL-2024.pdf> accessed 10 May 2024.

Israt Chahal. ‘Sri Lanka security forces continue to abduct and torture Tamil civilians: human rights group report’ (Jurist News, 9 May 2024) <https://www.jurist.org/news/2024/05/sri-lanka-security-forces-continue-to-abduct-and-torture-tamil-civilians-human-rights-group-report/> accessed 10 May 2024.

‘Tamils in Sri Lanka’ (Minority Rights Group, March 2024) <https://minorityrights.org/communities/tamils/> accessed 10 May 2024.