[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka [official website] Monday ordered the country's government to stop cordon-and-search security operations, in which security forces cut off access to a populated area before searching and arresting residents within. Human rights groups have criticized the practice [AI backgrounder], arguing that the arrests constitute collective punishment [CW backgrounder] infringing on civil liberties and are used to punish minority Tamils for attacks by the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) [CFR backgrounder; LTTE website], or "Tamil Tigers." Court officials cited by AFP said that Monday's ruling by Chief Justice Sarath Silva, which also ordered the release of 198 people detained in a sweep last Sunday, was the first time that the court has moved to limit cordon-and-search efforts.
In August, Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] accused the Sri Lankan government of being responsible for a dramatic increase in unlawful killings and other human rights violations [JURIST report]. In June, the government, which has been fighting the Tamil Tigers since 1972, began systematically detaining ethnic Tamils until the Supreme Court ordered an end to the practice [JURIST report]. Last week, the government announced that it will withdraw from a 2002 ceasefire [AP report] with the Tamil Tigers next week. AFP has more.