[lg policy] Report Holds Sri Lanka to Account for Deaths

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Sun May 16 20:24:14 UTC 2010

Report Holds Sri Lanka to Account for Deaths
Published: May 16, 2010

NEW DELHI — Tens of thousands of Tamil civilians died in the last,
bloody months of Sri Lanka’s civil war, the International Crisis Group
said in an investigative report to be released Monday, most of them as
a result of government shelling on areas that were supposed to be safe

The report, which cites witness testimony, satellite images, documents
and other evidence, calls for a wide-reaching international
investigation into what it calls atrocities committed in the last
months of the Sri Lankan government’s war against the Tamil Tiger

The war ended a year ago, when the Tigers’ top leadership was killed
on a narrow strand of beach in northeastern Sri Lanka, capping a
two-decade armed struggle by a group that pioneered some of the
ugliest insurgent tactics in the world, including female suicide
bombers and child soldiers.

Because the government barred independent journalists and most
humanitarian workers from the war zone, the death toll of the final
months of fighting, when at least 300,000 Tamil civilians were pinned
down on a beach, caught between the rebels and government forces, is
not known.

United Nations workers counted about 7,000 dead in the last weeks of
April, during the penultimate phase of the fighting, but diplomats,
aid workers and human rights activists have long argued that those
figures far underestimated the dead and did not include the last and
presumably deadly weeks of battle. Government officials, meanwhile,
have repeatedly denied targeting civilians and have said that the
total number of people killed is much lower.

Sri Lankan government officials declined to comment on the report,
saying they had not yet seen it.

The report by the Crisis Group, an advocacy organization based in
Brussels and Washington that seeks to resolve and prevent armed
conflicts, said that despite its promises to protect civilians and aid
workers as it made its final assault on the Tigers, the Sri Lankan
government bombed relentlessly in areas where it knew unarmed people
were present.

“Evidence gathered by Crisis Group provides reasonable grounds to
believe that during these months the security forces intentionally and
repeatedly shelled civilians, hospitals and humanitarian operations,”
the report said. “It also provides reason to believe that senior
government and military officials were aware of the massive civilian
casualties due to the security forces’ attacks but failed to protect
the civilian population as they were obliged to under the laws of

The report said that the insurgents, known as the Liberation Tigers of
Tamil Eelam, also committed atrocities, particularly in choosing to
corral as many people as possible around its fighters, hoping to
maximize civilian casualties and force international intervention.

“Their calculation, ultimately an incorrect one, was that escalating
civilian casualties would eventually get the attention of the
international community to broker a ceasefire so the LTTE could
regroup or perhaps enter negotiations,” the report said.

Instead, the Sri Lankan government pressed the rebels to the bitter
end. Tamils who tried to escape were killed, children were forced to
fight, and the sick and wounded were left to die rather than be
evacuated to safety, the report said.

But it was the Sri Lankan government, the report concluded, that
carried the greatest responsibility for the killing.

“All but a small portion of these deaths were due to government
shelling,” the report said.

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