The security situation in Sri Lanka has significantly improved since the 25-year civil war came to a bloody end in 2009. The last attack by the country’s largest rebel group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), was reported in May, 2009 and in August, 2011 the Sri Lankan government ended the state of emergency power which had been in place since 1983 (although additional 'anti-terror' legislation was passed). Travel restrictions to the northern districts of Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mannar, Mullaittivu and Vavuniya have also been removed. Unexploded landmines are still a concern and the military continues to maintain a strong presence in the north of the country; caution should be exercised in the areas north of Anuradhapura and the A12 highway. Future terrorist attacks by LTTE affiliated groups are also possible and visitors should maintain a high level of vigilance, particularly around military and government installations.
The Sri Lankan government has been accused of numerous human rights abuses, both during the conflict and since it has ended. This has coincided with a number of attacks on journalists in the country and attempts to impose restrictions on media freedom. In 2009 Lasantha Wickrematunge, the prominent newspaper editor, was shot dead in a targeted killing in Colombo. In February, 2013 Faraz Shauketaly, another newspaper journalist, was wounded when he was shot by unknown gunmen in his home in the city. There have been reports of foreign journalists being attacked and threatened, particularly those covering the military operations in the north. Members of the judiciary have also been attacked, such as the Secretary of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) Manjula Tilakaratne, who was assaulted in October, 2012 after criticizing the executive.
Protest and incidents of civil unrest are relatively common in Sri Lanka, and are often driven by political and ethnic grievances. Thousands of lawyers marched through Colombo in January, 2013 to protest against the government’s decision to impeach the chief justice in defiance of the country’s constitutional rules about judicial independence. Growing political tensions, coupled with continued human rights abuses, mean that protests are likely to increase both in frequency and violence. The security forces have used force to suppress unrest in the past and are likely to do so in the future. Visitors to the country are strongly advised to avoid all large scale public gatherings and to monitor local media sources for developments.
Levels of crime in Sri Lanka are rated at moderate, with opportunistic street crimes and credit card theft the most likely to affect foreign nationals. Pick-pockets operate in most major urban areas, such as market places in Colombo, and on public transport. Instances of credit card fraud have been increasing in the country and many visitors experience problems using their cards upon arrival due to their banks anti-fraud protection systems. There have also been increasing instances of sexual harassment and assaults against female travellers.