The EU’s response to human rights violations at the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war seems to represent a case of Europe ‘acting
tough’ on human rights. Certainly, the EU has taken important steps to pressure the Sri Lankan government. As Sri Lanka’s biggest export market and fourth largest donor, it might expect to wield significant influence. However, it has had little impact for three key reasons. Firstly, the EU has been undercut by regional superpowers China and India. Secondly, it failed to respond in a timely fashion to political trends and opportunities within Sri Lanka. Thirdly, it did not effectively coordinate its response. The result is that despite the EU’s critical stance, in Sri Lanka human rights abuses continue unchecked, democracy is being undermined and the EU’s influence is weaker than ever.
SRI LANKA’S CRISIS The final months of Sri Lanka’s civil war saw war crimes committed by both sides, as the military finally defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Since the end of the war the Sri Lankan government has not offered a political solution to the ethnic grievances underlying the conflict and has rejected international calls for a full independent inquiry into the conduct of the war. Instead, President Rajapaksa is using his political capital from winning the war to strengthen presidential power and undermine democracy. The rival candidate from last January’s presidential elections is in prison; journalists and activists face intimidation; and in October 2010 the government amended the constitution to allow the president to stand for election an unlimited number of times and appoint all top judges.
Read more in PDF.