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War Crime Claims Re-emerge in Sri Lanka

War Crime Claims Re-emerge in Sri Lanka

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Published by Thavam

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Published by: Thavam on Feb 08, 2014
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When troops crushed the Tamil Tigers, allegations of mass killings arose, but officials reject calls for an inquiry.
Last updated: 07 Feb 2014
In arch !""#, in a small to$n in the north of the island, hundreds of Sri Lankan Tamils had formed a queue to collect kanji, a boiled rice-porridge dish, $hich $as being distributed by a charity later found to ha%e ties $ith armed groups.Then the e&plosions began.
'I remember that one shell fell adjacent to the food distribution line, and $hen it e&ploded the shrapnel hit many ci%ilians $ho $ere standing in line,' said one eye$itness.'I remember seeing many dead bodies... ( number of these dead bodies $ere elderly people and children.' (t the time, the north $as the scene of the concluding stages of a
fought bet$een the Liberation Tigers of Tamil )elam *LTT)+, an armed separatist organisation kno$n as the Tamil Tigers, and go%ernment troops - a fight $hich the  says may ha%e claimed as many as ",""" ci%ilian li%es in its final months.Speaking to researchers from the /ublic Interest (d%ocacy 0entre, an (ustralian la$ policy group, the unnamed $itness said that the artillery shells that hit the food distribution centre had come from the $est side of the coastal strip - $here the Sri Lankan security forces $ere based.This is one of numerous $itness accounts documented by a team of international la$yers, $hich reported military attacks on hospitals and humanitarian sites.The centre1s International 0rimes )%idence /roject *I0)/+ this $eek published its findings in a
titled2 Island of Impunity3 It detailed e%idence that the go%ernment
may ha%e co%ered up human rights %iolations, and systematically cleared mass gra%es - destroying e%idence of killings on a huge scale from do4ens of sites $ithin the 'safe 4one' bet$een 5anuary and ay !""#.6oth sides are responsible for atrocities committed during the $ar, the report notes, but it blames go%ernment troops for carrying out indiscriminate assaults on kno$n ci%ilian areas, or 'o 7ire 8ones', bet$een September !""9 and ay !""#.'The attacks analysed in this report re%eal an intensified practice of indiscriminate artillery area bombardment,' read the report. 'These attacks killed and $ounded scores of ci%ilians $ho $ere attempting to take shelter from the sustained shelling, or trying to perform basic acti%ities like collecting food or accessing medical treatment.'War crimesThe report documents recurring instances of the
committing $ar crimes, including forcibly pre%enting ci%ilians from escaping the conflict 4one, and also alleged post-$ar killings $here Sri Lankan Special 7orces $ere reported to ha%e unla$fully killed both prisoners and ci%ilians in capti%ity,
6alachandra /rabhakaran, the :!-year-old son of LTT) leader ;ellupillai /rabhakaran.  (lthough international rights organisations and media $ere not allo$ed into the country during the last months of the $ar, a
named Sri Lanka1s <illing 7ields - aired by 6ritain1s 0hannel  in !":: - compiled a series of amateur %ideos, $hich appear to support some of these allegations.;ellupillai1s
on ay :#, !""#, brought an immediate end to the $ar.International inquiry/aikiasothy Sara%anamuttu, the e&ecuti%e director of 0olombo-based ad%ocacy group 0entre of /olicy (lternati%es, told (l 5a4eera that the strength of the report lies in its prosecutorial focus. It $ill be used to garner support for international in%estigations ahead of the !=th  >uman ?ights 0ouncil sessions in @ene%a ne&t month - at $hich the nited States delegation $ill head a third resolution pressing the island nation to in%estigate the conduct of its troops.'In the absence of substanti%e progress on the accountability question, the report reinforces the call for an international in%estigation. It remains to be seen as to $hether the current council $ill ha%e the stomach for this. It should be noted too that any >?0 resolution is not mandatory,' said Sara%anamuttu.'It is clear that the issue $ill not go a$ay, and as long as it stays on the international agenda there is e%ery likelihood of more information coming to light - further underscoring the case for an in%estigation,' he added.The Sri Lankan go%ernment, ho$e%er, %ehemently denies the allegations brought against them. / ?aji%a Wijesinha, a presidential ad%iser on national reconciliation, told (l 5a4eera that his go%ernment '$ill not ha%e international interference'.The go%ernment, he said, $ould look into conducting its o$n in%estigation into the allegations through its Lessons Learnt and ?econciliation 0ommission *LL?0+, and emphasised that reconciliation 'is not about %indicti%eness', but '$orking to$ard a common future'. ass gra%es
@ordon Weiss, $ho Wijesinha called 'a liar', is one of the authors of the I0)/ report, and also authored a contro%ersial
titled The 0age2 The fight for Sri Lanka and the last days of the Tamil Tigers.'The alleged destruction of the mass gra%es by the go%ernment of Sri Lanka is really quite disturbing because it flies in the face of go%ernment claims that it intends to bring about reconciliation bet$een the t$o groups,' said Weiss, $ho said that the destruction of these gra%es and e%idence $as a 'heinous crime'.'There is %ery strong e%idence that there $as, at $orst, purely intentionalA and reckless shelling of these areas $ith really no heed gi%en to the preser%ation of ci%ilian life,' Weiss, a former  spokesperson for Sri Lanka, told (l 5a4eera.@ra%es are still being unco%ered in the north of the country, most recently on Becember !", !":C. 0onstruction $orkers $ere laying $ater pipes in the northeastern district of annar $hen they disco%ered a "" square metre mass gra%e, re%ealing at least =C unidentified skeletal bodies.The I0)/ report1s authors also include 5ohn ?alston, $ho led  inquiries into Dugosla%ia and Barfur, and Besmond Tra%ers, co-author of the
on @a4a.?ejection and denialsa%i /illay, the  >igh 0ommissioner for >uman ?ights, %isited Sri Lanka in (ugust !":C - and said that the country $as de%eloping authoritarian tendencies.The  rights chief had called for a $ar crimes in%estigation into 'credible allegations' that up to ",""" ci%ilians $ere killed during the final stages of the ci%il $ar. (gain, 0olombo lashed out at the comments, rejecting an international inquiry.'The >igh 0ommissioner1s obser%ation... is a political statement on her part, $hich clearly transgresses her mandate and the basic norms $hich should be obser%ed by a discerning international ci%il ser%ant,' the go%ernment1s Information Bepartment said in a statement last September.'The judgement on the leadership of the country is better left for the people of Sri Lanka to decide than being caricatured by e&ternal entities influenced by %ested interests.'In o%ember, in comments
by Washington, 6ritish /rime inister Ba%id 0ameron set a deadline of arch !": for /resident ahinda ?ajapaksa1s administration to in%estigate allegations of $ar crimes, or face an internationally backed  probe.6ut the Sri Lankan president
retorted that the go%ernment $ould 'take its o$n time'.With the international spotlight again turning to$ards Sri Lanka, /alitha <ohona, Sri Lanka1s ambassador to the , said this $eek that the most recent report did not substantiate any charges made against his country1s go%ernment.'Ene can go on making these allegations endlessly. (nd the ans$er to that is not an international in%estigation, but gi%ing time and space to the Sri Lankan go%ernment to deal $ith these issues on its o$n,' <ohona told (l 5a4eera.

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