Sri Lanka has failed to fulfil pledges to return properties to thousands of people forced from their homes during decades of war, many of whom now live in desperate poverty, researchers said on Tuesday.
Thousands of acres of land taken over during the war are still held by government forces who set up security posts and buffer zones, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.
State agencies such as the wildlife department hold properties as well, it said.
“All those displaced during Sri Lanka’s brutal civil war are entitled to return to their homes,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“Despite repeated pledges by the authorities, the military has been frustratingly slow to restore land to the rightful owners,” Ganguly said in a statement.
Countries dealing with conflict and its aftermath often face challenges returning property to those forced from their land, cause by a loss of records, overlapping claims, and a lack of necessary institutional and regulatory frameworks.
In Sri Lanka, most of those who fled their homes during the war were Tamils, an ethnic and religious Hindu minority in the largely-Buddhist country.
Hundreds of thousands of Tamils were displaced several times over during the conflict, Ganguly said.
More than 10,000 people remain in camps, and many others are still “effectively displaced”, living with other communities or close to areas where they fled from, she said.