Rajiv Gandhi’s #IPKF #WarCrimes “The Satanic Force” #RajivGandhi @RahulGandhi #india

The Satanic Force - Story about the heinous crimes of indian peace keeping Force in Sri Lanka - IPKF

India & the Struggle for Tamil Eelam

நெற்றிக்கண் திறப்பினும் குற்றம் குற்றமே…உண்மைகள் ஒருபோதும் உறங்குவதில்லை, உறங்கவும் கூடா… Truth never sleeps – and it should not…

The Indian Army Launches Attack

This account was written by a Tamil resident in London, who visited his homeland for the first time after five years and details the happenings in Jaffna during the period 12 September 1987 to 14 November 1987

Trip by train from Colombo to Jaffna

This article is written on the basis of what I saw and heard during my visit to Sri Lanka from 12 September to 14 November 1987. My visit, along with my family, was hurriedly planned to take advantage of the ‘peace’ in Sri Lanka, immediately following the signing of the Agreement between Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and President J.R. Jayawardene on the 29th of July 1987. My family and I wished to see our parents and our friends back at home.

I landed in Colombo on the 12th of September 1987, clutching in my hands the popular Sri Lankan dailies, ‘The Sun’, ‘The Island’ and the ‘Daily News’. They were full of news about the Indo – Sri Lanka Accord. They were fulsome in their commendations to Rajiv Gandhi and J.R. Jayawardene. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam were also give prominent treatment

From Colombo, we travelled by train to Jaffna. We were told that the direct trip to Jaffna by train was only made possible after the Accord and that even now, the full journey to Kankesanturai (the usual last stop of the Jaffna train) was not possible because of damage to the railway lines between Jaffna and KKS The train was packed and I found a good number of public servants returning to Jaffna for the week end to visit their families.

Everything looked new and different to me after five long years since my last visit. However, I managed to locate a few persons from my village, whom I knew and through them I was introduced to others in the carriage. Some of them said that we were the lucky ones, because we could afford a home abroad away from all the miseries in the Island. When questioned about the situation in Jaffna, they came out with their experiences of unspeakable horror and their feelings of sudden relief immediately after the signing of the Accord. They spoke about ‘Operation Liberation’ of the 26th of May, and ‘Operation Poomalai’ of the 4th of June and the courageous and dedicated stand taken by the LTTE to preserve their heritage. But when asked whether the Accord would work, some sighed and gave a smile; some said, ‘well’; a few said ‘no comments’; one or two said, ‘they will make it work whether we like it or not’; and others said ‘enough is enough, let us not talk of the past’. None of them were sure of the future.

Jaffna was peaceful when I arrived. As usual, the station was noisy but with one difference – and that was my first sight of the Indian Army (the Indian Peace Keeping Force – IPKF) carrying SLRs and AK47 machine guns. As we moved away from the Jaffna railway station towards Vaddukoddai we saw more and more Indian troops carrying weapons at main cross roads, inside the Bank of Ceylon premises opposite the Jaffna Provincial Hospital, opposite Sivan Kovil near Vannarponnai and so on. But I noticed that there were practically no troops outside the Jaffna Municipality limits.ipkf7

Indian troops carrying TV and Video sets

After arriving at home, I used to visit Jaffna town daily to meet my friends and relations. The town was crowded with shoppers, pedestrians and cyclists. If one had to move about, the cheapest mode of transport was the minibus or else, cycling which had no cost associated with it. There was also a noticeable number of brand new Japanese cars on the roads. These cars, I was told, emerged only after the Accord. The shops were crowded. Here and there, I saw Indian soldiers carrying TV and Video sets on their shoulders to their parked trucks and jeeps. I was told that those who sell electrical goods were thriving in their business because of the presence of the IPKF.

I noticed the frequent use of the terms ‘development’ and ‘rebuilding’ in discussions amongst NGOs, academics, political activists, students, religious circles, business people and others – development and rebuilding of schools, industries, housing, transport, tourism, towns and cities. There was a noticeable optimism among most people in Jaffna following the signing of the Accord. There was a lull in the terror and violence which had reigned over the North and East for previous four years.

Everyday, the newspapers carried sensational investment proposals for the North and East. There was news of foreign missions visiting the North and East and promising aid in millions of rupees. I heard local development planners talking seriously of building a new town in Nallur, a new city in Vadamaratchi, a modern capital for the Tamils in Trincomalee, and a highway from Point Pedro to Trincomalee by the coastline. Money was promised for every thing from orphanages to building new cities; from rehabilitation to resettlement.

Thileepan’s fast

However reports reaching Jaffna indicated that the East was not fully free from unrest. There were reports of arrests, torture and killing by the Sri Lankan Security Forces But, things were going relatively smoothly until the 15th of September, when it was announced that the LTTE leader of the political wing in Jaffna, Thileepan, had commenced a fast unto death campaign at 9.30 a.m. in front of the historic Nallur Murugan Temple in protest against

the failure to effectively implement the promises in the Accord;
the accelerated state aided Sinhala colonisation in the Eastern Province;
the continued detention of Tamil prisoners under the Prevention of Terrorism Act;
the failure of the Home Guards to surrender their arms;
the failure to close army and police camps situated in Tamil areas; and
the delay in setting up an interim administration for the North and East.

Hartals and peaceful protests

The fast picked up momentum day by day and it became the issue in everybody’s mind as the days passed by. We received reports that more and more people were joining the fast. One lady teacher named Subashanthini Rajasundaram started her fast in support of Thileepan’s protest, sitting next to him on the 17th of September and I was informed that five others had joined the fast at Valvettiturai junction on the 18th of September and so on. I later received reports that such fasts had been spreading in the mainland as well – in places like Chavakacheri, Mullaitivu, Batticaloa, and Trincomalee.

There were hartals and protest marches organised by the LTTE. The schools and colleges were closed and students organised marches to Nallur and picketed the Indian military camps. During the hartal all shops were closed and the public was encouraged to attend pickets and rallies. I saw thousands of men, women and children joining pickets and rallies. All forms of transport, cars, vans, cycles, mini buses, government buses, bullock carts, scooters and motor cycles were used to move people around.

All the Tamil dailies in the North began to highlight the fast and associated events. Surprisingly, the media in the South (of Sri Lanka) was silent on the whole issue – the dailies did not carry the news and the TV and radio blacked out the fast and the protest movement. However in the North, everybody tried to see LTTE’s TV transmission named Nitharshan which gave a day by day account of the events. As days passed by, the deterioration in Thileepan’s health caught the headlines of the Tamil dailies. Coloured posters began to appear in all the villages. Loudspeaker fitted cars and vans were seen in villages making announcements on the fast and asking public to picket IPKF camps and appeal for justice.

I was informed that there had been a skirmish on the 16th of September between the public and the IPKF at Neervelli when a jeep carrying IPKF personnel had been carelessly driven at a picket line – and two women had been knocked down. The public gathered and surrounded the jeep and assaulted the IPKF officers. Three of them were tied up and thrown to the road. They were later released when a higher ranking officer intervened and gave an assurance that an inquiry would be held. On the same day, people who went to picket outside the old Dutch Fort military camp, had entered the recently opened Pannai Police Station in Jaffna, ransacked the whole place, and tore off the uniforms of the Police Officers. The police station was forcibly shut and the police officers took refuge in the Fort military camp I felt the tension mounting day by day.

Thileepan dies and thousands grieve

thileep.jpg (12669 bytes)The Citizen Committees, trade unions, students unions, teachers associations, religious leaders, all held meetings and discussed the issues relating to Thileepan’s fast and passed resolutions and submitted memoranda to the overall commander of the IPKF, Lt. General Depinder Singh requesting the Indian representatives to intervene and stop the fast and initiate immediate efforts to set up the interim administration in the North and East. But nothing moved fast enough to stop Thileepan’s death. Thileepan died on the 26th of September 1987. There was widespread grief in the North. There can be little doubt that Thileepan’s martyrdom had a profound effect on every Tamil soul in Sri Lanka. Thousands of people from the North and East poured into Jaffna as the news of his death spread.

But no violent reaction at funeral

Judging by past events, everyone expected a violent reaction in the North and East, following Thileepan’s death, but to everybody’s surprise the funeral turned into a peaceful day of mourning. The LTTE members moved in decisively to curb any kind of violence. They moved all state owned buses into depots and guarded them. They also provided cover to government institutions after some attempts had been made to set fire to them. The Tamil daily Eelamurasu as well as the TV Nitharshan carried the LTTE leader, Prabakharan’s appealed to the people not to destroy or damage public property, as this was the property of Tamil Eelam. Black flags were seen everywhere – on the roads, in houses, churches, temples, trees, public buildings and so on Thousands of sobbing men, women and children followed the body covered with the red flag of the Tigers with their emblem on it. Thileepan’s body was taken on a decorated van through the villages for the people to pay their homage and finally taken to Suthumalai where it was kept for the people to pay their last respects. I was later informed that his body was donated to the medical faculty of Jaffna University. The LTTE said that this had been his last wish.

Thileepan’s death brought sadness and sorrow and also fear to many people. Most of them had genuinely believed that the Indians would intervene and stop the disaster. They began to have doubts about India’s conduct. They began to say ‘this could have been avoided’ and ‘India should have moved fast’ and ‘India should not have let this happen’ and so on. The Tamil dailies began to carry articles criticising the handling of the whole issue by the Indians. I could feel the tension mounting.

Kumarappa and Pulendran arrested by Sri Lanka Navy

Following the death of Thileepan all other fasts were called off. But on the 3rd of October came the event which was destined to trigger off the final collapse of the Indo Sri Lanka Accord. The Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation and the Tamil and English dailies announced the headline news: two LTTE leaders, Kumarappa and Pulendran along with 12 others had been arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy and they were being held in the Army camp at Pallali. Panic struck Jaffna. There were rumours that the arrested leaders were severely tortured by the Sri Lankan security forces and that President Jayawardene had ordered their removal to Colombo for further interrogation.

The Tamil dailies carried head lines stating that the Indian military officers and high officials of the Indian High Commission had recommended the release of the captives but that this had been over ruled by the Sri Lankan government. I saw messages appearing on the LTTE’s giant blackboards at cross roads. There were reports that negotiations were underway for the release of the two leaders and the others who had been captured. This issue became the talk of the town. There was a big demand for Eelamurasu, the Tamil daily that was published by the LTTE in Jaffna From that which appeared in the Tamil dailies, I gathered that much discussion and behind the scene political moves were taking place daily for the release of the captives.

Arrested LTTE leaders take cyanide and die

But, suddenly, on the 5th of October, there was an announcement from local loud speaker carriers that all the captives, including the two leaders had taken cyanide and killed themselves. This according to the announcement, was to avoid torture and removal to Colombo. There was noticeable panic everywhere. I saw black flags coming up again and people standing at their gates to listen to the latest news from passers by. I saw the tension mounting and I felt a sharp deterioration in the overall situation in the peninsula.

Indian Army attacks

On October 10th, while I was on my way to Jaffna town, I was told that the IPKF had gone and blasted the premises of ‘Eelamurasu’ and damaged the buildings of ‘Murasoli’ and arrested all the employees. These attacks were reported to have taken place at 1a.m. and 6 a.m. respectively. And at 6a.m., LTTE’s TV station at Kopay was damaged by the IPKF and the equipment and machinery was removed. These actions by the IPKF were seen as unwarranted and they led to the LTTE taking up arms again.

As I neared Jaffna town, I saw vehicles carrying bands of young men in and out of the town. It was exactly 12.55 p.m. on the 10th of October that the bloody war started near Jaffna Central College. There was heavy firing which continued at least for about 40 to 45 minutes. Jaffna town was heavily crowded with people and all were taken by surprise, not knowing what was going on and which direction to flee. Mini vans packed with people fled from the main bus stand. Cyclists rolled one top of another, desperately trying to get onto the road. Pedestrians took to their heels and ran wildly in all directions. There was total pandemonium. I managed to get behind a crowd fleeing north and finally reached Vannarponnai, a village in the outskirts of Jaffna town. From there, I wasted no time in getting back home before the violence spread.

The next day I decided to get back to Jaffna to see what had happened. I did not know that a curfew had been declared. Like me, there were several others who were cycling together from Vaddukodai to go to Jaffna town. Everything looked normal. There were people on the road and here and there we saw vehicles moving on the road. Nothing seemed different until we reached Oddumadam which is small village on the outskirts of Jaffna town. We were stopped by young Tigers and some other people living in Oddumadam and asked to get back home. We heard loud explosions coming from the direction of the town. According to those who stopped us, there was continuous shelling from the Dutch Fort by the Indian Army ‘They are blowing up the town’ said the old folks. ‘You can’t go in now’ said the Tigers, all carrying weapons in their hands. We saw a helicopter which appeared to be coming from Karainagar. We ran into a nearby house and after the helicopter disappeared we were asked to return home immediately. We took no chances. We returned home

There was no news about the incidents in Jaffna except that which said in the Sri Lankan government’s news bulletins relayed by the SLBC, the newscast on All India Radio and the Manila Cheithigal (the Regional News) from India. But, the Tigers continued to release ‘Eelamurasu’ which came in a single sheet, and it was hard to obtain. Only a few copies were available in the Vaddukodai area and they were sold very quickly. It was sold at Rs.1/50 per copy and people were willing to pay double to get a copy. It was the only source available to read ‘the other side of the story’

The electricity supply was cut off and there were no lights throughout Jaffna from 10th October until our departure on the 14th of November. Everybody rushed to buy batteries for their radios, but batteries were difficult to find. We were told that the LTTE were buying batteries in bulk. Further inquiries revealed that the batteries were used for land mines. Without good batteries, the BBC World Service and the BBC Tamil Osai were hard to receive. News carried by people living in the immediate environs of Jaffna town was the only source of information available as to what was going on inside Jaffna. We heard frightening stories about killings in Jaffna. We approached the LTTE sentries for confirmation of some of the information that we had received, but they refused to comment. ‘The situation is bad and explosive. The Indians have betrayed us. They are killing civilians and they are firing motor shells indiscriminately into the civilian population constantly from the Fort and other military camps’, they remarked.

Tamilnation

The Satanic Force

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Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi_ An_inside job

12 years today – #Mullivaikkal Same hospital hit again ! #tamilgenocide #GenocideSriLanka #SriLanka #Diasporatamils @UNHRC @UN_HRC #UNFailsTamils

Marking 12 years since the Sri Lankan military onslaught that massacred tens of thousands of Tamils, we revisit the final days leading up to the 18th of May 2009 – a date remembered around the world as ‘Tamil Genocide Day’. The total number of Tamil civilians killed during the final months is widely contested.

After providing an initial death toll of 40,000, the UN found evidence suggesting that 70,000 were killed. Local census records indicate that at least 146,679 people are unaccounted for and presumed to have been killed. By examining different sources, including from the United Nations, census figures and World Bank data, the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) found that the highest estimate of those killed during that final phase could be as large as 169,796. 

See more at www.RememberMay2009.com, a collaborative project launched last year, between the Adayaalam Centre for Policy Research, Tamil Guardian and 47 Roots.

13th May 2009

The same hospital hit again

More than 100 civilians, including children, medical staff, a voluntary doctor and an Red Cross worker, were killed in Sri Lankan artillery attack that targeted a makeshift hospital for the second time in 24 hours. See more from TamilNet here.

The ICRC confirmed that one its employees, identified as Sivakurunathan Majuran, was killed alongside his mother in the shelling. The organisation confirmed the hospital had been “hit by shell fire for a third time”.

In another incident of shelling, at least 39 female patients were also killed at a counselling aid centre for mentally ill women located in the final conflict zone.

The OISL reports that at the time, UN estimates said there were “more than 100,000 civilians remained trapped within three square kilometres”.

It added,

“By 13 May, with shells falling all around, sometimes into the compound, the only treatment that could be given was basic first aid and medication”

“Letters seen by OISL, consistent with witness accounts, including from United Nations and humanitarian workers, indicate that GPS coordinates of most hospital and other humanitarian facilities, including when they were relocated due to fighting, were transmitted to the Government, the SFHQ in Vavuniya and other Sri Lankan security forces, as well as the LTTE, to ensure that these facilities would be protected from attack.”

“During that time, the ICRC ship – which at that stage would have been the only possibility for taking patients for life-saving medical treatment – was not able to approach the shore because the shelling and gunfire was continuing.”

Photographs: The aftermath of a shell attack on May 13th 2009.

Obama calls for an end to the shelling

US President Barack Obama stepped out on to the White House lawn to make a statement on Sri Lanka. He called for “urgent action” and for the Sri Lankan government to “stop the indiscriminate shelling that has taken hundreds of innocent lives”.

See extracts of his statement below.

“As some of you know, we have a humanitarian crisis that’s taking place in Sri Lanka, and I’ve been increasingly saddened by the desperate news in recent days. Tens of thousands of innocent civilians are trapped between the warring government forces and the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka with no means of escape, little access to food, water, shelter and medicine. This has led to widespread suffering and the loss of hundreds if not thousands of lives.”

Without urgent action, this humanitarian crisis could turn into a catastrophe. Now is the time, I believe, to put aside some of the political issues that are involved and to put the lives of the men and women and children who are innocently caught in the crossfire, to put them first.”

“I’m also calling on the Sri Lankan government to take several steps to alleviate this humanitarian crisis. First, the government should stop the indiscriminate shelling that has taken hundreds of innocent lives, including several hospitals, and the government should live up to its commitment to not use heavy weapons in the conflict zone.”

“Second, the government should give United Nations humanitarian teams access to the civilians who are trapped between the warring parties so that they can receive the immediate assistance necessary to save lives.”

I don’t believe that we can delay. Now is the time for all of us to work together to avert further humanitarian suffering.”

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband meanwhile called the conflict zone “as close to hell as you can get”.

A Vice Ministerial Troika from the European Union (EU) visited Sri Lanka and visited the Menik Farm camp where tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were being detained.

Though a statement said the EU is “deeply concerned about the high number of civilian casualties and deteriorating humanitarian situation in Northern Sri Lanka and reiterates its primary concern for the civilians in the conflict zone who are surviving under appalling conditions,” it went on to state,

“The EU recognises that the current crisis is approaching a final phase with the defeat of the LTTE militarily. The EU acknowledges the efforts and welcomes the commitments made by the Government in assisting its citizens that have escaped the conflict zone.”

See the full statement here.

 

The UN Security Council speaks

The UN Security Council released a press statement on Sri Lanka, its first official reaction on the issue.

Extracts reproduced below. See the full statement here.

“The members of the Security Council express grave concern over the worsening humanitarian crisis in north-east Sri Lanka, in particular the reports of hundreds of civilian casualties in recent days, and call for urgent action by all parties to ensure the safety of civilians.”

“The members of the Security Council strongly condemn the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for its acts of terrorism over many years, and for its continued use of civilians as human shields, and acknowledge the legitimate right of the Government of Sri Lanka to combat terrorism.

“The members of the Security Council express deep concern at the reports of continued use of heavy calibre weapons in areas with high concentrations of civilians, and expect the Government of Sri Lanka to fulfil its commitment in this regard.”

“The members of the Security Council demand that all parties respect their obligations under international humanitarian law.”

“The members of the Security Council call on the Government of Sri Lanka to take the further necessary steps to facilitate the evacuation of the trapped civilians and the urgent delivery of humanitarian assistance to them.”

Leaked US Embassy cables reveal the negotiations that took place behind the statement.

“The UK, France and Austria circulated a draft Security  Council press statement on Sri Lanka in the evening of May  12, and formally introduced the text in Council consultations  under other matters May 13.  They stressed that the Security  Council must react in a formal way to the situation in Sri Lanka.  Strongly supported by the U.S., Croatia, Costa Rica,  Mexico, and for the first time, Uganda and Burkina Faso, the  text was negotiated throughout the day and adopted late on  May 13.”

“China and Vietnam initially opposed any official  statement by the Council, but eventually joined the  negotiation.  In a change to its previous position, Russia  accepted the idea of a press statement, although it unhelpfully mentioned that the Security Council had not addressed “similar” issues such as Guantanamo, Afghanistan, Gaza, and the August 2008 conflict in Georgia.

Russia, China and Vietnam only accepted the press statement after references to reported violations of international humanitarian law and to welcoming the Secretary-General’s intention to visit Sri Lanka were stricken from the draft.”

See the full cable here.

Also on 13 May, the UN Secretary-General made his fourth phone call since early April to Sri Lanka President Rajapaksa to “reiterate concerns over the protection of civilians”.

 

UK Special Envoy meets India 

A leaked US embassy cable from this day reveals that British Special Envoy for Sri Lanka Des Browne told diplomats in New Delhi,

“I don’t think anybody can change events over the next 10 or so days”.

Mr Browne had met with  India’s Foreign Secretary Menon and National Security Advisor Narayanan earlier that week. US Charge d’Affaires Peter Burleigh who was briefed by Browne wrote the cable, with extracts reproduced below.

“Browne said he expected military operations would end soon and that he hoped a humanitarian catastrophe could be avoided.”

“While the Sri Lanka government had openly opposed international interference in the conflict,  not least because of the political points it scored, Browne believed it would be willing to accept a role for the international community post-conflict.  “At the end of the day they’ll want the money,” he noted, adding that the government had expended vast resources conducting the war.”

“Indian officials told Browne that it was useful to have Sri Lanka on the UNSC’s agenda, and to issue periodic Presidential Statements, but that it would be counterproductive for the UN to “gang up” on Colombo; providing Rajapaksa with a rationale for fighting off international pressure would only serve to bolster his domestic political standing.”

See the full text of the cable here.

Diaspora protests continue

Tamil protests continued in capitals around the world.

In Toronto, thousands of Tamil Canadians took to the grounds of Queen’s Park calling for an immediate end to the Sri Lankan military offensive.

Photographs: Tamils protest in Toronto on May 13th 2009.

12th May 2009

Another hospital shelled

Photographs: The aftermath of an attack on a makeshift hospital on May 12th 2009.

Artillery shells were fired at a makeshift hospital set up at a school in Mullivaikkal, killing dozens.

HRW reported that nearly 1,000 patients were in the hospital at the time of the attack, including many wounded during the May 9-10 attacks.

The OISL reported,

“According to witnesses, at around 8 a.m., on 12 May, shells fired by SLA fell directly in front of the admission ward of the facility, killing at least 20 people, including a district health administrator, medical volunteers, a nurse, and many patients. Many died instantly, others succumbing to injuries, some as a result of lack of medical care and medicine.

“The shelling occurred at a busy time of the day, with many injured civilians from earlier attacks waiting for their treatment.”

“(A) witness described how there were many injured patients and many dead bodies all together in one place, people crying all around. Medical supplies were almost exhausted.”

One witness said,

“There were so many dead bodies that they could not be separated.  There were pieces of bodies everywhere…”

Another said,

“It was a terrible sight, with people dead and dying everywhere inside the hospital”

The US State Department report said,

“One shell landed in front of the admission ward, killing 26 people instantaneously.”

“Among the casualties was the Administrative Officer of Mullaittivu Regional Director of Health Services (RDHS), who was killed while arranging a patient’s admission to the hospital.”

“A witness at the hospital said that the shelling came from the direction of Iraddayvaikkal, which GSL forces had recently captured. Another source said that in addition to the 49 killed, scores of others were wounded, and he expected the death toll to rise. Shells were still hitting the area hours later, including one that landed about 150 yards from the hospital.”

“the smaller NFZ unilaterally declared by the GSL continued to come under attack.”

Photographs above and right: The aftermath of an attack on a makeshift hospital on May 12th 2009.

Elements of Sri Lanka’s 58 Division have reportedly entered the new civilian safe zone.

Chemical warfare

The OISL reports that later the same day,

“a shell landed near a tent accommodating hospital staff and volunteers, killing a nursing assistant and causing serious burns to six others”.

“At least two witnesses indicated that at that time, patients were being brought in with unusual burns, one of them describing the different parts of the body of the patients being blackened, with skin like “black charcoal”.”

Several allegations of chemical weapons, including white phosphorus, being deployed by the Sri Lankan military have been made. The OISL continues,

“Likewise, while OISL received allegations of the use of white phosphorous, and witnesses described such incidents, particularly in the last few weeks of the conflict where bombs caused intense burning and blackened skin, it was not able to gather enough information to confirm that white phosphorous was used. OISL therefore believes that these allegations should also be investigated further.”

Dr Navaratnarajah Uyatchi, who was heading the last hospital in Mullivaikkal until the early hours of May 17thtold the British House of Commons in 2016 that he witnessed the Sri Lankan airforce drop chemical weapons within the vicinity of the hospital.

Also see our earlier posts:

Video of Sri Lankan soldier describing use of chemical weapons – India’s News X (15 Mar 2014)

Catholic bishops want international probe into chemical weapon use (09 Jan 2014)

Phosphorus attacks covered up in hospitals (02 November 2013)

UN team confirms cluster bomb use in Sri Lanka (26 April 2012)

More evidence of Sri Lanka’s use of cluster munitions and white phosphorous bombs (27 April 2012)

Colombo uses chemical weapons: LTTE (14 April 2009)

 

US, UK want UN to facilitate ‘safe evacuation’ of civilians

Then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with then UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband. A joint statement issued after the meeting said the two, ‘’expressed their profound concern about the humanitarian crisis in northern Sri Lanka caused by the ongoing hostilities’’.

“They expressed alarm at the large number of reported civilian causalities over the past several days in the designated ‘safe’ zone”.

Photograph: Clinton and Miliband meet on May 12th 2009.

See the full text below.

“Secretary Clinton and Foreign Secretary Miliband call on all sides to end hostilities immediately and allow for the safe evacuation of the tens of thousands of civilians trapped within the safe zone. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam must lay down their arms and allow civilians free passage out of the conflict zone. The government of Sri Lanka must abide by its commitment of April 27 to end major combat operations and the use of heavy weapons.”

“Secretary Clinton and Foreign Secretary Miliband express their appreciation for the continued efforts of the United Nations and their staff on the ground in Sri Lanka. They call on the government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers to allow a UN humanitarian team to visit the conflict zone to facilitate the safe evacuation of civilians. They urge both sides to allow food and medical assistance to reach those trapped by fighting, cooperate with the ICRC to facilitate the evacuation of urgent medical cases, ensure the safety of aid and medical workers, and permit humanitarian access to all sites where displaced persons are being registered or being provided shelter.”

“Secretary Clinton and Foreign Secretary Miliband call for a political solution that reconciles all Sri Lankans, and establishes a meaningful role for Tamil and other minorities in national political life.”

TNA says 150,000 trapped and warns of more bloodshed

The Tamil National Alliance held a press conference stating more than 3,000 civilians had been killed in the last 3 days alone and warned of further massacre.

All the TNA MPs in the country, with the exemption of one trapped inside the conflict zone, were present.

TNA leader R Sampanthan said,

 “there is genocide taking place in Vanni; the entire international community is being silent; we don’t want just statements of condemnations and pledges without any action; the killings of civilians must immediately be stopped; this is our urgent request”.

The MPs stated that there remain 120,000 to 150,000 civilians inside the conflict zone.

 

IDPs dying in Menik Farm

At least 61 elderly Tamil IDPs are reported to have died whilst captive at the Menik Farm IDP camp in Vavuniya, from May 1 to May 11.

The OISL says,

“Humanitarian workers reported sometimes seeing the bodies of elderly persons lying on the ground including two in different camps in June 2009. Many elderly were unaccompanied in the camps, in some cases separated from families who were in other camps and not able to reunite with them.  Many witnesses had also described the elderly as being particularly weakened by conditions in the conflict zone.”

“On 27 April, the Vavuniya District Magistrate Court had ordered that all IDPs over the age of 60 who were sick and without relatives in the IDP camps were to be transferred to homes for elderly people.  The decision was based on his findings that there were more than five deaths each day of elderly persons in the IDP camps due to starvation and malnutrition, and that the deaths of 14 elderly people had been registered in Manik Farm the previous day.”

 

 

11th May 2009

More than 3,200 killed overnight

The carnage continued in the No Fire Zone with more than 3,200 people killed overnight according to Lawrence Christy, the head of Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) Field Office.

He called on the international community “to intervene to stop the genocide and to provide food and medicine to the besieged civilians”.

The SLA offensive formations were firing using cannons, 50 calibre machine guns, artilleries, mortar and Multi-Barrel Rocket Launcher (MBRL) guns reported TamilNet.

The then LTTE head of international relations Selvarasa Pathmanathan released a statement saying,

“The recent developments in Vanni are very disturbing because they express so vividly a deliberate intention on the part of Sri Lanka and its partners in this war to subject an entire human community to life-endangering conditions of utmost cruelty.”

“We are convinced that this pattern of conduct is a holocaust-in-the making and appeal to the governments of the world and to international public opinion to prevail upon the Sri Lankan Government so as to prevent these current genocidal tendencies from culminating in a collective tragedy.”

The United Nation’s OISL reports that there was only one health facility for all the civilians in the area”. It adds,

“Between 8 and 12 May the facility was shelled on several occasions as the NFZ3 came under intense daily bombardment by SLA artillery, the air force and the navy.”

The UN spokesman at the time Gordon Weiss said the shelling over the weekend had caused a “bloodbath”, stating,

“The U.N. has consistently warned against the bloodbath scenario as we’ve watched the steady increase in civilian deaths over the last few months… The large-scale killing of civilians over the weekend, including the deaths of more than 100 children, shows that that bloodbath has become a reality.”

Meanwhile Sri Lanka’s Foreign Secretary, Palitha Kohona, said the government took “serious offence” at the remarks by Mr Weiss and had lodged a formal protest. “It is not the role of the UN office to say anything in public to embarrass the host government,” Mr Kohona said.

 

Security Council continues to take no action

The then British Foreign Minister David Miliband said he was “appalled by the reports that have come out of Sri Lanka over the weekend of mass civilian casualties”, at a press conference at the Untied Nations in New York.

“No-one can be in any doubt that this is an issue that deserves the international community’s attention,” he added, saying that “Our message is a simple one which is that the killing must stop”.

However, Mr Miliband claimed that there were only “up to 50,000” people trapped in the final conflict zone. Later estimates revealed the actual number to be as many as three times that.

He went on to state,

“As you know, the issue [Sri Lanka] has not yet been allowed onto the formal UN Security Council agenda. That’s why we will be having a range of meetings either side of today’s formal meeting on the Middle East.”

“I believe very very strongly that the civilian situation in the North East of Sri Lanka merits the attention of the United Nations at all levels.”

leaked US embassy cable says that Mr Miliband referred to the government in Sri Lanka as “liars”.

Steve Crawshaw of Human Rights Watch commented,

“If the Security Council stays silent on this issue any longer, it will be a failure of historic proportions… It is already late, but lives can still be saved”.

A leaked US embassy cable highlights notes of the meeting, hosted by the UK and French Foreign Ministers with like-minded Security Council members. The UN Secretary-General and Council members discussed Sri Lanka during their monthly lunch, it adds.

“The Foreign Ministers of the UK, France, Austria and Costa Rica, as well as the U.S. and Mexico all strongly supported SC action, with Russian FM Lavrov on the defensive. Lavrov said the situation in Sri Lanka is a humanitarian disaster, but not a threat to peace and security. He said other fora in the UN were better suited to address this issue. He added that there were plenty of similar instances when the Security Council did not act. China said that the Security Council’s informal meetings on Sri Lanka had made a difference.

Ambassador Rice disagreed, and said the meetings had not yet made a difference; displaced persons were not receiving help, and the shelling continued despite government assurances to the contrary. On the margins of the meeting, the French said they intend to bring Sri Lanka to the Security Council this week, and would push for a product.”

See the full text of the cable here.

 

Joint Letter to Japanese Prime Minister on Sri Lanka

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, International Crisis Group and the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect wrote a joint letter to Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso calling on his government “to support efforts for the [United Nations] Security Council to keep the situation in Sri Lanka under close and regular review and to consider the situation in Sri Lanka formally at the Security Council.”

Extracts reproduced below.

“If the world continues to look away from the suffering of civilians in Sri Lanka, as it has largely done until now, it will be a failure of historic proportions. We believe that Japan, a powerful player on the humanitarian stage and the largest international donor to Sri Lanka, has an important role to play in saving countless civilian lives, as well as to implement aid policies that ensure sustainable peace, human rights and development in Sri Lanka. It is time for Japan to show that it is prepared to shoulder its responsibilities.”

“Meetings in recent weeks have been held only informally in basement rooms, deliberately kept out of the Council’s main chamber, because of the reluctance of some member states. We believe this must change and formal meetings of the Security Council must be held urgently so that the Council can take the necessary measures to address the humanitarian and human rights crisis.”

“The Council should make clear that both the government and LTTE would be held accountable for their actions, and create a UN commission of inquiry to examine violations of international humanitarian law by both sides.”

 

Tamil diaspora continues protests

Protests continued in capitals across the world, where the Tamil diaspora had taken to the streets to demand a ceasefire.

In Washington DC, more than two hundred American Tamils protested in front of the White House.

Photographs: Tamils protest outside the White House on May 11th 2009.

10th May 2009

Photograph: A Tamil woman mourns, after her relative was killed in a Sri Lankan military attack on May 10th 2009.

Thousands killed in one day

As many as 2,000 civilians were reportedly killed in a barrage of artillery fire by the Sri Lankan military throughout the day, reports TamilNet.

“Dead bodies are found in bunkers and inside the tarpaulin tents,” TamilNet added.

Rescue workers had counted at least 1,200 bodies with fears that many more had been undiscovered.

See more here. (Graphic images)

Photographs: The aftermath of intense shelling by the Sri Lankan military on May 10th 2009.

The US State Department quoted a local source in the NFZ as reporting that “a congested civilian area was under heavy shell attack with many houses and vehicles burning”.

“Many civilians’ temporary tarpaulin houses were struck by shells, and many hundreds of civilians were killed.”

“A local source for an organization also reported heavy shelling with an estimated 1,000 killed and another estimated 1,000 injured. Embassy Colombo also reported that heavy shelling occurred in the NFZ, killing at least 300 civilians.”

“More bodies were on the beaches and along road sides. The source said that heavy arms appeared to have been fired from government-controlled territory into a mainly civilian area under LTTE… The death toll is thought to be closer to 1,000; many of those killed would have been buried in the bunkers where they were slain, and many of the gravely wounded never made it to the hospital for treatment.”

A leaked US embassy cable notes,

The Embassy has credible information that the Sri Lankan Air Force conducted an air strike south of the civilian safe zone yesterday afternoon, May 10. 

Read the full cable here.

Satellite evidence

Satellite imagery analysed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science at the request of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International showed evidence of bomb shell craters, destroyed permanent structures, mortar positions, and 1,346 individual graves, from May 6th to May 10th 2009.

IDP tents inside the No Fire Zone on May 6th (left) and May 10th (right). There is almost complete removal of all structures that were present.

Red arrows indicate craters from possible artillery or air fire from May 6th (left) and May 10th (right).

Further analysis of crater morphology shows evidence of fire in a similar tactic to that described in a US Army field manual.

Possible mortar craters landing in a ‘Lazy W’ formation (left) as detailed in a US military manual (right).

Possible mortar craters landing in a ‘Six Star’ formation (left) as detailed in a US military manual (right).

 

‘The Tamil people are dismayed’

The LTTE released a statement stating,

“At this very moment (Sunday, May 10 2009), the Sri Lankan Government has unleashed its ferocious military aggression against the hapless Tamil civilians living in the so-called “Safe Zone” in Vanni, Sri Lanka. More than 2,000 innocent civilians have been killed in the last 24 hours. The wholesale bombardment by Sri Lankan planes and shelling on a densely populated, non combatant civilian safe zone is state terrorism and a war crime.”

“The international community and UN have an obligation to protect the Tamil people facing genocidal aggression directed in a manner against all international humanitarian laws. It is clear that the Sri Lankan Government has prevented all aid agencies and humanitarian organisations from visiting the conflict zone. The Tamil people are dismayed that the United Nations and the International Community have failed in their obligations to protect the endangered civilians.”

“Every passing day is resulting in the loss of countless number of civilian lives and alienation of the entire Tamil community.”

‘It is a genocidal war’

Catholic Priest Father Francis Joseph writes to the Pope from inside the No Fire Zone, calling on the Church to break its silence on the massacre of Tamils. The father, who was later detained by Sri Lankan security forces after passing through a military checkpoint in May 2009, has not been seen since.

Extracts of his letter are below.

Last night’s toll of the dead is 3318 and of the injured more than 4000. It was a barrage of artillery, mortar, multi-barrel shelling and cluster bombs…

The cries and woes of agony of babies and children, the women and the elderly fill the air that was polluted by poisonous and unhealthy gases…

I deem it my duty to point my finger at the Church for its silence while some of the countries like USA, UK, France and some of the European Union countries and others, even the UN have voiced their dismay at the way the Sri Lankan Government is conducting a war to annihilate the Tamils…

Let it be known that under the guise of eradicating terrorism, the Sri Lankan Government is waging the war to annihilate the Tamil nation. It is a genocidal war.

See the full text of the letter here.

Tamil diaspora continues protests

Protests continued in capitals across the world, where the Tamil diaspora had taken to the streets to demand a ceasefire.

Photograph: Tamil Canadians protest on the Gardiner Expressway on May 10th 2009.

Tamils in Canada including women and children, held a peaceful protest, blocking the main Gardiner Expressway that runs through the city.

Sri Lanka deports 3 British journalists 

“It’s not often that the most powerful man in the country rings you,” Channel 4’s Nick Paton Walsh said.

“I’d spoken amicably to defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa 45 minutes earlier about getting some better access to Sri Lanka’s 25 year war. But this time he was calling me, and seemed to have remembered something.”

“Who is this? You rang me earlier? Is this Channel 4? You have been accusing my soldiers of raping civilians? Your visa is cancelled, you will be deported. You can report what you like about this country, but from your own country, not from here,” Gotabaya told Walsh.

India Congress President Sonia says now ‘people moved to safer places’

India’s Congress President Sonia Gandhi, is in Tamil Nadu, where she says, “our government had done everything possible to bring an end to the hostilities and it was due to our resolute efforts that Sri Lanka announced conclusion of combat operations and people moved to safer places.”

“Our ultimate goal, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said and as has been the stand of the Congress in the last 30 years, is to secure for the Tamils equals rights and status within the framework of the 1987 Indo-Sri Lanka accord.”

9th May 2009

‘Artillery from all directions’

The US State Department quoted a local as stating that the No Fire zone “received artillery fire from all four directions for over 12 hours”.

“He estimated that over 1,000 were killed and another 1,000 injured.”

Human Rights Watch reported two witness testimonies from the day.

“K. Kanaga,” a 35-year-old woman whose name is withheld for security reasons, said that around 7 p.m. on May 9, she and 15 others were hiding in a bunker that they had built under a tractor when a shell struck the tractor. “If it hadn’t been for the tractor, we would have all been dead,” she said. About eight to 10 shells struck the immediate area, which was populated with tents and improvised bunkers. Kanaga’s 45-year-old cousin was staying in a tent nearby; she never reached the bunker and was killed in the attack. “Many other people were injured as well, but I don’t know how many,” Kanaga said. “I could hear their screams.”

 

“R. Raman,” 29, said that he and his family had been hiding in their bunker in Mullaivaikal – a dug-out trench without any cover – for several days. “We were being attacked from all sides,” he said. “My wife and I only left the bunker to get food and water for our three children.”

Early in the morning on May 9, a shell struck one of the tents closeby, killing Raman’s 15-year-old nephew and wounding his nephew’s older brother and sister. Raman believes that the shell came from Sri Lankan army positions and may have been targeting LTTE forces that were deployed in the jungle about 100 meters away. Several shells struck the tented area inhabited by displaced civilians.

Photographs above: A makeshift hospital pictured on May 9th 2009.

Barrage hits NFZ as last ICRC ship leaves

The Sri Lankan military launched a barrage of heavy weapon fire in to the No Fire Zone as the last ICRC-chartered ferry that visits the conflict area leaves.

“Fighting also made it impossible for the ferry to approach the shore on the previous day, 8 May,” said an ICRC press release.

“The plight of the people remaining in the combat area is desperate, ” said  ICRC’s head of delegation in Sri Lanka, Paul Castella.

“We need unimpeded access to them in order to save lives. ”

Head of Sri Lankan army visits Vanni

Then Commander of the Army Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka flew to Vavuniya to meet with senior military commanders and “review the latest developments of the security situation in Vanni areas,” reports the military.

Photograph: Sarath Fonseka visits the Vanni, with other senior military officials on May 9th 2009.

“Army Commander, after being received by Commander Security Forces Headquarters Wanni (SFHQ-W) Major General Jagath Jayasuriya, was conducted to the SFHQ auditorium where he met senior ground commanders and discussed the present security situation in Wanni. He also issued further instructions to his ground commanders,” said an official  military website.

British Channel 4 journalists arrested 

Sri Lanka arrests three British journalists from Channel 4 News, after they compiled a report on the conditions of war refugees and alleged sexual abuse in camps for those who fled the northern war zone.

8th May 2009

Photograph above: Shells land inside the No Fire Zone on May 8th 2009.

With GPS co-ordinates, Sri Lanka attacks hospitals

The Sri Lankan military stepped up its barrage of the No Fire Zone with heavy shelling reported, including with cluster munitions.

The US State Department quotes a HRW source in the NFZ who “witnessed an SLA drone conduct reconnaissance above the Valayanmadam hospital”.

“Shortly thereafter the hospital was attacked, killing four or five people including a doctor and wounding more than 30. Several sources informed HRW that each time a hospital was established in a new location, GPS coordinates of the facility were transmitted to the Sri Lankan government to ensure that the facility would be protected from military attack. Witnesses said that on several occasions, attacks occurred on the day after the coordinates had been transmitted.”

 

Final ‘No Fire Zone’ declared

The Sri Lankan government declared the third and final No Fire Zone.

The OISL reports “tens of thousands of civilians were squeezed into this tiny area”.

“The SLA force now confronting the LTTE was probably in excess of 50,000 soldiers, with significant heavy weapons capability and air supremacy… The SLA was on one side of a large lagoon, the LTTE on the other, the civilians being at some distance behind the LTTE.

However, witnesses, described to the OISL “continuous shelling and devastation as the shells hit the ground”. One source told the OISL,

“Firing from the SLA would pass over the LTTE front line “and impact on the civilians behind it”.”

“He said that everyone was squeezed into a small piece of land and practically each time a shell fell, people would be injured and killed. Another witness said he saw nine people being killed when a shell hit a mango tree by a well where they had gathered. One saw a woman killed when a shell hit her bunker… she had a sewing machine and used to make cloth bags to fill with sand for the bunker. “

Often, people fled when family members were killed – they had no time to mourn or bury the dead…”  Another witness described seeing more than a 100 dead bodies, including children, near his bunker.”

Meanwhile General Shavendra Silva, then Commander of the 58th Division and current head of the Sri Lankan army, stated,

“At the last stages of the operation we just did not go blind, everything was planned through UAV pictures and where we exactly knew where the civilians and the LTTE were and where we found that at least a little bit of confusion whether the civilians are too close to the LTTE cadres we had to resort to other means and buy time to separate the two parties.”  

No food, no medicine

The US State Department reported said that “local sources in the NFZ reported that a supply ship had arrived but was forced by the GSL to return to Trincomalee with its cargo of food and medicine still on board. The sources reported that the SLN had refused to allow them to offload the cargo, and then began firing on the beach.”

“An organization reported that shipments of food and medicine to the NFZ were grossly insufficient over the prior month and that the GSL reportedly delayed or denied timely shipment of life-saving medicines as well as chlorine tablets. A source in the NFZ reported that patients were brought to the hospital for fainting attacks attributed to their lack of food.”

“Mothers were crying at the hospital and asking for milk powder. They had not eaten and were unable to feed their children, but the hospital did not have milk powder in stock.”

Photographs: The aftermath of attacks inside the No Fire Zone on May 8th 2009.

Heavy rains at internment camps

Rains in Vavuniya, where hundreds of thousands of Tamils were being interned, cause mass flooding.

 

7th May 2009

Photograph from US State Department report of “characteristic cluster bomb smoke cloud from a shelling on May 7 in Mullivaikkal”.

More cluster bombs hit No Fire Zone

The Sri Lankan army launches cluster bombs inside the No Fire Zone, one of several such attacks in the last few months.

In the UN’s OISL report, witnesses “described the objects exploding in mid-air and releasing many smaller objects in the air before impacting the ground”.

“Cluster munitions release bomblets over a wide area above a target that explode on impact. However, indirect fire munitions may also be configured to explode into fragments overhead.  OISL believes that given the persistent nature of the allegations of cluster munitions, further investigation needs to be carried out to determine whether or not they were used.”

Photographs leaked in 2016 appear to confirm the use of cluster bombs by the Sri Lankan government. The photographs showed demining teams excavating cluster munitions from Kilinochchi and Chalai in Mullaitivu, sites of heavy bombardment by Sri Lankan forces.

Deminers unearth an RBK-500 AO-2.5RT cluster bomb near Chalai. Photograph: The Guardian/Together Against Genocide

A former Mines Advisory Group (MAG) employee told the Guardian that cluster bombs had been found in a “densely civilian-populated area” in one of the ‘No Fire Zones’ near Puthukudiyiruppu.

Previously the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice released a series of witness stories from the final war zone, which included testimony of a cluster bomb attack.

“The main bomb explodes in the air and splits into many pieces,” the witness said. “One kind of cluster bomb, used in Iranaipalai, produced colorful ribbons. Children were attracted and picked pieces up; as they handled the pieces they exploded.”

In a statement released weeks earlier, the Tamil National Alliance said,

“The use by the Sri Lankan State of internationally banned weapons, such as cluster bombs and chemical weapons, has been a characteristic feature of the current phase of the war being waged against the Tamil people.”

“The Tamil people in the island of Sri Lanka are clearly being subjected to Genocide.”

Also, see more in our feature: Leaked photos confirm cluster bomb use in Sri Lanka (19 Jun 2016)

 

LTTE commits to full support of ICRC

The LTTE released a letter from its Political Head Quarters, stating that it “reiterates its full commitment and support to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)”.

“We also wish to reiterate our organisation’s total commitment to the safety and security of the members of the ICRC in carrying out its humanitarian work and its other mandated activities,” it added. “Please take this letter as the necessary security guarantees from the LTTE for performing the work of the ICRC.”

“We are aware of the GOSL and its armed forces’ attempts at deliberately launching military manoeuvres in LTTE controlled areas to thwart the activities of the ICRC. We take this opportunity to express our deep appreciation of all the invaluable work done by the ICRC with regards to the immensely suffering Tamil civilian population due to the genocidal war waged against the Tamil people by the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL).”

Photographs: A crater from a shell attack on May 8th 2009.

Small scale ICRC evacuations continue

Meanwhile, the ICRC said that “heavy fighting is taking place near the medical assembly point at Mullavaikkal, which puts the lives of patients, medical workers and ICRC staff at great risk.”

495 Tamils were evacuated from the final conflict zone by boat to Trincomalee and Pulmoddai.

An ICRC evacuation taking place in April 2009.

Jacques de Maio, the ICRC head of operations for South Asia, in Geneva said, “not all the wounded could be evacuated today, and it is of the utmost importance that more evacuations take place over the coming days”.

“The food and medical supplies that have been delivered remain insufficient to cover the basic needs of the people there.”

 

Tamil human rights activist abducted in Colombo

Stephen Sunthararaj was abducted by five men whilst travelling in his lawyer’s car in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo. Stephen, an activist with the Centre for Human Rights and Development, is a father of three children who were all under ten years of age when he was abducted.

Diaspora protests continue

British Tamil students protest in London in 2009.

Meanwhile, protests in capitals across the world by the Tamil diaspora continue. In London, a student protester Siva told TamilNet.

“The whole world is now well aware of the plight of the Tamils under the chauvinistic Sinhala-dominated Sri Lankan state. Hundreds of Tamils being massacred or starving to death each week, Sri Lanka’s slow genocide has is accelerating. Yet the continued inaction by some powerful states, while other states support Sri Lanka, is allowing this to continue.”

British Tamil students added,

“what is needed right now is action by the international community, not merely words of sympathy.”

 

6th May 2009

Photograph taken on May 6th 2009 inside the No Fire Zone.

Hospitals hit by Sri Lankan army 

A US State Department report says that on the 6th of May,

A local source reported that the remaining hospital facilities were continually hit by SLA shelling, even though their locations had been carefully reported to the government.

Mano Ganesan, the leader of the Democratic People’s Front (DPF), also responded to a statement from the UNP’s Palitharanga Bandara who called for the continued use of heavy weapons, including inside the No Fire Zone, where tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were sheltering.

“News from Vanni show that heavy weapons are being used in the war on the ‘safe zone’ in Vanni,” he said.

“Why should Palitharanga Bandara urge the government to use heavy weapons on the ‘safe zone’? Is UNP unaware of the presence of innocent Tamils there? Why this racism against the Tamils? This is something utterly shameful. The UNP will lose its Tamil votes in the future polls.”

Photograph: A woman who was evacuated from the conflict zone, receives medical attention on May 6th 2009.

 

More deaths from starvation

Dozens of people are reported to have died from starvation in the preceding weeks, particularly the elderly.

The US State Department says that,

“An organization’s sources expressed their belief that the GSL was deliberately preventing delivery of medicine to the NFZ and reported that ―over the last week, at least 20 people have died due to starvation and lack of medication”

Deaths are occurring not just inside the No Fire Zone, but also at detention centres in Vavuniya, where on May 4th, ten elderly persons reportedly died.

 

5th May 2009

Deaths from starvation add to crisis

Photograph: Inside the final conflict zone, pictured on May 5th 2009.

As the Sri Lankan military continued its shelling of the No Fire Zone, the LTTE called on the international community to facilitate the delivery of urgent humanitarian aid.

Extracts from their press release follow:

Faced with imminent deaths by starvation directly attributable to the Sri Lankan regime’s deliberate denial of food and humanitarian assistance to the Tamil people, the Tamil Diaspora has initiated measures to deliver humanitarian aid direct to the Tamil people in the Vanni/Mullaitivu region. The LTTE calls on the international community to support these actions to deliver humanitarian aid.

We draw attention to the nine deaths by starvation in the last few days and the real fear that the death toll could rise exponentially in the coming days.

The situation of the Tamil people who are being subject to shelling and bombings has been made much worse by the deliberate withholding of food and medicine. The UN and the rest of the International Community has a moral obligation to support this initiative by the Tamil Diaspora.

Photograph: People queue for food inside the final conflict zone, pictured May 5th 2009.

The Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation reported that of the estimated 2500MT of food that was needed per month, only 60MT was allowed through by the government for the whole of April.

It went on to add,

“Dead bodies are being taken by TRO volunteers for burial or cremation. Dead bodies have to be collected from shelters and bunkers. When dead bodies are brought to the hospitals or when the wounded people died in the hospital as the treatment failed they also have to be picked up. 

 

A State Department report quoted sources as stating “various sections of Mullivaikkal were subject to air attack, artillery fire and cluster bombs”.

It added, “a source in the NFZ reported that there were no antibiotics available to treat illnesses”.

Prof Francis Boyle writes that “since the outset of this latest crisis in January, the GOSL has exterminated about 7000 Tamils in Vanni, certainly a “substantial part” of the Tamil population in Vanni and Sri Lanka.”

“If not stopped now, the GOSL’s toll of genocide against the Tamils could far exceed the recent horrors of Srebrenica.”

“A generation ago the world turned away from the Nazi genocide against the Jews–and lived to regret it. Humanity is at a similar crossroads today.”

British MPs conclude trip to Sri Lanka

A delegation of British MPs conclude their visit to Sri Lanka, with a press conference that slams the LTTE and calls on Sri Lanka to “use maximum restraint in their ongoing operations”.

“The LTTE has ignored repeated calls for the release of these civilians,” said Des Browne. “We welcome the Government’s agreement to allow the UN to visit the conflict zone to assess the humanitarian needs of the people there and to plan the evacuation of the remaining civilians… We spoke to a number of people in the camps who expressed their genuine relief at having escaped the LTTE and reached a place of safety. It is clear that IDPs in camps are much better off than their friends and relatives who remain in the conflict zone.”

“The lack of independent reporting from the conflict zone is oxygen to LTTE propaganda and generates unhelpful speculation,” said John Bercow.

Army advances into No Fire Zone 

Wikileaks cables reveal “elements of the 53 Division” have entered the No Fire Zone. It adds “53 Division is advancing south on an axis west of the A35 road and east of the Nanthi Kadal Lagoon, while 58 Division is moving south on an axis east of the A35 and west of the coast.”

4th May 2009

The bombing continues

A US State Department report noted a source inside the No Fire Zone as stating the Sri Lankan military was “engaged in daily shelling and bombing of the NFZ, killing an estimated minimum of 100 people per day”.

Several attacks on Mullivaikkal Hospital led to patients not being able to receive surgery or any other forms of treatment, the State Department report added.

 

Photographs: Above, civilians shelter from Sri Lankan military attacks pictured on May 4th 2009.

 

Hundreds of Tamils arrested

Meanwhile the Sri Lankan military continued its roundup of Tamils across the island. In Amparai 160 Tamils were arrested by Special Task Force (STF) commandos and taken into police custody. In Colombo the military arrested 6 further Tamils, whilst 76 Tamils held in detention centres in the Jaffna peninsula were taken by the military to the Thellippazhai ‘rehabilitation centre’.

TAG calls for ICC investigation

Tamils Against Genocide (TAG) wrote to then Chief Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) Luis Moreno-Ocampo, urging him to investigate senior Sri Lankan military and political officials for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

Bruce Fein, counsel for TAG, wrote

I am writing to urge you to open investigations under the Rome Statute of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lankan Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Sri Lankan presidential adviser and Member of Parliament, Basil Rajapaksa, and Sri Lankan Army Commander Sarath Fonseka.

The quartet should be investigated for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide of Sri Lankan civilian Tamils unconnected with the conflict between the government and the LTTE.

The Government of Sri Lanka is unwilling to investigate itself.

 

Photograph supplied on 4th May 2009 inside Menik Farm, where hundreds of thousands of Tamils were to be detained by the Sri Lankan military.

3rd May 2009

‘Horrendous act of genocide’

Photographs: Above and below – Tamil children with signs of acute malnourishment, pictured inside the final conflict zone.

The LTTE’s Political Head B Nadesan accused the Sri Lankan government of deliberately carrying out a “horrendous act of genocide”, with their restriction on food, medicines and humanitarian access to Tamil civilians in the final conflict zone.

See more from TamilNet here.

The OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL) found that,

“Witness testimonies and other documentation refer to many dying of starvation, exhaustion or lack of medical care in addition to those killed by shelling and shooting”.

“It remains to be investigated how many people – particularly the most vulnerable such as the elderly and children – died as a result of lack of access to food and medical care.”

A medical professional was quoted by the OISL as describing the situation in the final conflict zone.

“One of the children who was 18 months old was suffering severe lethargy, she could not stand up or walk and had to be carried all the time. Even though we favoured the children with food, they showed signs of muscle wastage in their legs, they had distended stomachs and their ribs where showing through their skin where the normal layer of fat in a child of this age had disappeared.”

Another witness said,

“Everyone was starving. I could see the children were malnourished and the elderly were very weak.”

 

The OISL went on to state,

“A senior United Nations official said they were amongst the worst cases of malnutrition he had ever seen”.

 

The attacks continue

A US State Department report quotes a local source as reporting the Sri Lankan military, as part of a multi-barrel shell attack, launched over 40 shells in the vicinity of civilians living in an area between the Mullivaikkal Pillayar temple and the sea.

Photographs taken on May 3rd 2009, in the aftermath of a Sri Lankan MBRL attack.

 

2nd May 2009

Hospital bombed twice

The aftermath of a Sri Lankan military attack on a hospital, which was hit twice on the morning of 2nd May 2009.

The only remaining hospital in Mullivaikkal was attacked twice by the Sri Lankan military on the morning of the 2nd of May 2009, with at least 64 people killed and a further 87 injured.

A US State Department report quoted a local source as stating the hospital was shelled twice, once at 9 a.m. and again at 10.30 a.m. The main outpatient department was hit as well as a bunker in the immediate vicinity to the hospital. Human Rights Watch later reported these attacks, noting that the second attack also resulted in dozens of casualties.

The OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka quoted a witness describing the scene:

“There were many bodies everywhere and I could still smell the smoke from the shells hanging in the air. The smell of blood and the screaming from the injured was overwhelming. There were many women and children dead.”

Human Rights Watch would go on to state that there were “at least 30 attacks on permanent and makeshift hospitals in the combat area since December 2008”.

Photographs: Above – The aftermath of a Sri Lankan military attack on a hospital, which was hit twice on the morning of 2nd May 2009.

 

LTTE calls once more for a ceasefire

The LTTE released a statement calling once more for a ceasefire to end the humanitarian crisis. Extracts of their statement below.

“May, I take this opportunity to draw attention to our unilateral announcement of a cease fire on 26th April and our position that only such a ceasefire can end the humanitarian crisis. We are ready to engage in the process to bring about a ceasefire and enter into negotiations for an enduring resolution to the conflict.”

We call for an international monitoring mechanism that can ascertain for itself the plight of civilians who have sought sanctuary in the areas under our control.”

“Given the political ideology that drives the Sri Lankan state, there is little reason to hope that it would, on its own accord, consider any accommodation with Tamil aspirations. Indeed this is the bitter lesson learnt by the Tamil people during the last 60 years following the departure of the British in 1948. We are convinced that this particular phase of the conflict is an attempt to eradicate a distinct Tamil identity. It is in the face of this situation that we seek the recognition and the support of the international community for our struggle. It is a struggle for democracy and an enduring peace based on our aspirations as a people. Should the Sri Lankan regime be permitted to continue with its ultimate objective of imposing a ‘final solution’ through military means, we have no doubt that it will destabilize the region.

See more from TamilNet here.

Protests in Tamil Nadu, Indian military vehicles attacked

Indians in Tamil Nadu protested against the Sri Lankan military’s offensive and attacked a convoy of military trucks they accused of transporting weapons to the Sri Lankan government.

Paramilitary operatives kill 8 year old girl in Batticaloa

Meanwhile paramilitary cadres attached to the Pillaiyan and Karuna groups are accused of killing 8-year-old Thinusika Satheeskumar in Batticaloa, who was abducted whilst on her way home from school earlier in the week. Her body was found dumped in a well.

Tamil paramilitary groups aligned to the government continue to operate with impunity in the region, with the Sri Lankan military providing them continued protection.

1st May 2009

A night of heavy shelling

The No Fire Zone, photographed on 01 May 2009.

Approximately 200 civilians sheltering at Mullivaikkal were rushed to the hospital as the Sri Lankan military bombarded the area on the night of the 30th of April. Dozens were killed.

Earlier that week the LTTE said the Sri Lankan military had fired at least 5,600 shells in the space of 24 hours, killing hundreds.

See more from TamilNet here.

The aftermath of a shell attack took place on the night of 30th April 2009. 10 civilians were killed on the spot in this shelling.

A young boy stands by a makeshift bunker that was hit by artillery fire on the night of April 30th.

Makeshift bunkers made out of old sheets and saris.

‘Victory without humanity can be no triumph’

Then British and French foreign ministers David Miliband and Bernard Kouchner wrote in The Times on the 30th of April 2009, after a visit to the island where they met with Mahinda Rajapaksa.

 “The Government of Sri Lanka’s announcement of a cessation of heavy military combat is a welcome step towards the protection of civilians. Similar announcements have been made in the past. This one must be implemented and kept to. The UN had an agreement with the Government to send a mission into the conflict zone to help to assess and address civilian needs. That agreement has not been implemented. It must be.”

“Here the refusal to allow the UN, the aid agencies, and the media full and proper access is quite wrong.”

“The gravity of the situation means that the international community has a duty to respond and to do all that we can to halt the suffering.

As members of the UN Security Council we do not shy away from the responsibility of sovereign governments and the international community to protect civilians. Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, has joined us in describing the failure to protect civilians in Sri Lanka as truly shocking. Yesterday we took our plea direct to the Sri Lankan Government. In its moment of triumph it must show the humanity and self-interest to find a way to win the peace.”

See the full piece at The Times here.

Current Tamil National Alliance leader R Sampanthan met with the visiting delegation and informed them that at least 7,000 Tamils in Vanni have been killed and 14,000 injured in the last three months alone.

Meanwhile Sinhala Buddhist monks in the south protested against the visiting minsters.

 

Government admits it bombed ‘No Fire Zone’

The Sri Lankan government meanwhile finally admitted that it had bombed the ‘No Fire Zone’ where it had instructed Tamil civilians to seek shelter.

Confronted with leaked satellite footage of the region, which showed extensive crater marks from Sri Lankan military shelling, Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona made the admission in an interview with Al Jazeera despite earlier government denials.

However, Sri Lanka’s president Mahinda Rajapaksa contradicted his foreign secretary by continuing to categorically deny that the military had attacked civilian areas with heavy weapons.

“If you are not willing to accept the fact that we are not using heavy weapons, I really can’t help it,” he said. “We are not using heavy weapons. When we say no, it means no. If we say we are doing something, we do it. We do exactly what we say, without confusion.”

See more from Al Jazeera at the time here.

IMF loan opposition

The International Monetary Fund is considering granting a $1.9 billion loan to Sri Lanka, despite massive opposition.

Tamils Against Genocide (TAG) had filed a lawsuit against the Secretary of Treasury and United States Executive Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) seeking a declaratory judgment that United States law prohibited voting in favour of the loan.

Diaspora protests continue

Tens of thousands of Tamil protesters from around the world continued their protests, calling on international governments to pressure Sri Lanka into an immediate ceasefire and for urgent international humanitarian assistance.

Tamil protesters in Norway, photographed April 2009

Sri Lankan army vandalises #Mullivaikkal monument and steals memorial stone ! #tamilgenocide #GenocideSriLanka #SriLanka #Diasporatamils @UNHRC @UN_HRC #UNFailsTamils

The Sri Lankan army vandalised the Mullivaikkal memorial monument located in Mullivaikkal East earlier today, just hours after the security forces blocked Tamils from erecting a memorial stone at the site where tens of thousands were massacred 12 years ago.

After cordoning off the area and under the cover of darkness, soldiers caused damage to the structure that commemorates the Tamil Genocide Day.

Troops began cordoning off the area late yesterday evening, just hours after locals had begun preparations to mark Tamil Genocide Day on May 18th.

Journalists who attempted to access the area at approximately 10.30pm last night were prevented from entering by armed Sri Lanka troops. All four roads leading to the area had been blocked by soldiers, who refused to allow anyone through.

When they finally were allowed access in the early hours of the morning, the constructed site lay in ruins.

A memorial monument, which depicts a pair of outstretched hands, had been broken off and tossed into the nearby sand. In recent years the monument was the site of annual memorials, with survivors of the massacres lighting flames of remembrance on it.

Tamils also arrived to find that a memorial stone that had been specially constructed and engraved for the12th anniversary had disappeared entirely.

The memorial stone being brought in by Tamil organisers last night

The inscription on the now missing stone.

“The military must have used heavy machinery to move it somewhere, maybe one of their camps,” said a local journalist. Military boot prints were strewn across the sand, amidst the scattered debris of the memorial.

This morning however, the military refused to take responsibility for the destruction, telling reporters that they had nothing to do with vandalism or the disappearance of the memorial stone. “Look at how they are lying,” added the journalist.

The destruction comes just days before the 12th anniversary of the massacres will be marked on May 18th, and amidst a ramping up of military intimidation and surveillance across the Tamil homeland.

#Bill104 #TamilGenocideEducationWeek has successfully passed ! @TYOCanada @CanTamilYouth #TamilGenocide

#Bill104 #TamilGenocideEducationWeek, has successfully passed in the Ontario Legislature.

I am humbled and honoured to announce the seven-day period in each year ending on May 18th has been proclaimed as Tamil Genocide Education Week.

This is a historic event for Tamil people in Ontario & across the world.

Today, we are standing inside Queen’s Park with a gov’t law that recognizes the #tamilgenocide. Bill 104 is the first law that has been passed to educate and recognize the Tamil genocide in the world

#Bill104 would not have been possible without the advocacy of young Tamil Canadians.
@CanTamilYouth, alongside @TYOCanada, played a vital role in highlighting the impacts of #TamilGenocide to Canadians and emphasizing the need for a #TamilGenocideEducationWeek.
The Progressive Conservative Government in Ontario has demonstrated its commitment to fighting injustices and standing up for the Tamil people who call Canada home. Premier Ford didn’t just promise, he delivered.

Battle of #Aanandapuram #ஈழம் #ஈழமறவர் #விடுதலைப்புலிகள் #தமிழீழம் #Maaveerar #மாவீரர்கள் #Eelam #eelam #tamileelam #TamilEelam

Sri Lankan police officer caught on video stamping on Tamil man ! #SriLanka #tamilgenocideisfact #srilankastateterrorism #tamilgenocide #PoliceBrutality #SriLanka

A Sri Lankan police constable attached to the Maharagama police department has been arrested following an assault on a Tamil lorry driver in Pannipitiya, after a video of the incident was shared widely online, drawing widespread criticism.

The police department launched an investigation after a video circulated online depicting an officer, who was on traffic duty, assaulting an individual. The driver, identified as Kalaimakan Praveen, was attacked by the police officer and had his shirt ripped. He was then thrown to the ground by the officer who then proceeded to jump on his body. The assault was said to have occurred following a traffic accident.

Following the incident, Sri Lanka’s police spokesperson Deputy Inspector General Ajith Rohana clarified in an interview that  “self-defence can be used by the public if and only when the Police officer is misusing his powers while on active duty.” He added, “the public can defend themselves to protect their health and lives, as they are mostly unarmed”.

Across the North-East Tamils and Muslims are constantly subjected to police harassment, surveillance and violence. Police officers are known to intimidate civil-society members and are linked heavily with the military apparatus. The North-East continues to remain one of the most militarised regions on the planet.

Read more at Newswire.lk

Sri Lanka proscribes hundreds alongside Tamil diaspora organisations ! #humanrights in #SriLanka #Diasporatamils @UNHRC @UN_HRC #UNFailsTamils #unhiddenagenda

The Sri Lankan government has announced a sudden and wide-ranging proscription of hundreds of individuals and several Tamil diaspora organisations, as the regime continues to crack down on Tamil civil society and activists.

According to the gazette notification, a number of Tamil organisations and over 300 individuals have been reenlisted under the terrorist designation law. An estimated 35 are Tamils who are listed as residing in Sri Lanka and a few are listed as “LTTE members”. The gazette notification further detailed the addresses of those listed.

The organisations include Tamil advocacy groups such as the British Tamil Forum; the Canadian Tamil Congress; the Australian Tamil Congress; the Global Tamil Forum; the National Council of Canadian Tamils; the Tamil Youth Organisation; and the World Tamil Coordinating Committee.

The list also includes a number of individuals currently residing in Sri Lanka such as political prisoner Dr Sivaruban, the former Judicial Medical Officer (JMO) at Palai Hospital in Kilinochchi, who was arrested by Sri Lanka’s Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) in 2019. Dr Sivaruban had provided medical reports linking the Sri Lankan army with the so-called ‘grease devil’ attacks of 2011 as well as the murder and rape of a child by a member of the EPDP paramilitary group. Particular concerns have been raised about the listing of several Tamil youths whose dates of birth indicate that they were children in 2009 when the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were last active.

This proscription announcement follows a damning report by the UN High Commissioner which warned against the deterioration of human rights in Sri Lanka and highlighted “intensified surveillance and harassment of civil society organisations, human rights defenders and victims”. Tamil activists on the island are frequently interrogated over perceived links to the diaspora. Sri Lanka’s embassies are also heavily invested in carrying out surveillance of, and advocating against Tamil communities in the diaspora.

Under the previous Rajapaksa administration, in March 2014, the Sri Lankan government proscribed 424 individuals and 16 Tamil diaspora organisations, alleging they had links to the LTTE.

In November 2015, under the Sirisena administration, after immense pressure from diaspora groups and the international community, the government de-proscribed 8 diaspora organisations and 269 individuals. In November 2015, the gazette continued however to justify the proscription of 8 diaspora groups and 155 individuals, including the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) and the Tamil Coordinating Committee (TCC).

Read more here: Sri Lanka looks to ban more Tamil diaspora organisations – reports

See the full notice here.

British parliament debates #UK commitments to reconciliation, accountability and #humanrights in #SriLanka #Diasporatamils @UNHRC @UN_HRC #UNFailsTamils #unhiddenagenda

Following widespread criticism of the draft UN resolution, which is seen to fall short on accountability, the British parliament held a debate on the country’s commitments to Sri Lanka on issues of “reconciliation, accountability and human rights”.

The resolution follows a damning report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which highlights the deteriorating human rights conditions in Sri Lanka and urges international action to prevent future violations. The call to action includes imposing sanctions on senior Sri Lankan officials implicated in war crimes; to consider referring Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court; and for UN members to pursue accountability within their national courts under the principle of universal jurisdiction.

Minister of State for Asia and MP of Selby and Ainsty, Nigel Adams

Responding to concerns over Sri Lanka’s human rights record, Minister of State for Asia, Nigel Adams remarked that;

“The human rights situation in Sri Lanka and the limits of progress on reconciliation and accountability raised by many honourable members is deeply concerning.”

In his statement he highlighted the “continued harassment and surveillance of minorities and civil society groups; the increasing role of the military in civilian governments and the constitutional amendment which has extended executive control over the judiciary.” He further raised concerns of religious freedom noting that whilst Sri Lanka’s forced cremations policy was recently reversed, “families face significant restrictions on burials.”

Commenting on the draft resolution, Adams maintains that the resolution calls upon Sri Lanka to “make progress on accountability and human rights, stressing the need for a comprehensive accountability process for all violations and abuses committed”. He further notes addressed the hunger strike staged by Ambikhai Selvakumar, stating that the government “recognised the concerns she’s raised regarding the issues faced by Tamils” and that the government had “highlighted these concerns about the lack of progress towards post-conflict accountability, and the human rights situation.”

“Accountability and human rights must remain high on the agenda. Accountability and human rights to provide justice for all the victims of the conflict, and for the lasting reconciliation and stability that will allow the people of Sri Lanka to prosper”, he further added.

 

Shadow Minister for Asia and the Pacific, Stephen Kinnock

Directly preceding Adam’s remarks was fierce criticism of the government’s inaction by Shadow Minister for Asia and the Pacific, Stephen Kinnock. Kinnock began his statement by reflecting on Sri Lanka’s historic and on-going human rights abuses.

“In 2009, in the final few months of Sri Lanka’s long, brutal civil war, tens of thousands of civilians, mostly from the Tamil community, lost their lives. It is a scar on the conscience of the world that no one has been held accountable for those crimes, which include the deliberate shelling of civilian targets, sexual violence, and extrajudicial executions. The shocking lack of accountability for past atrocities is compounded by the fact that the human rights violations in Sri Lanka continue to this day. Respected non-governmental organisation Freedom from Torture has forensically documented more than 300 cases of torture by the Sri Lankan state since the war ended, and it continues to receive referrals for Sri Lankan individuals today”.

Kinnock further criticises the militarisation of the Sri Lankan government under President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the appointment of senior military officials accused of war crimes to key cabinet positions. Kinnock also shared his concerns over the issued of forced cremations.

Responding directly to the proposed UN resolution, he expressed areas of concern which include a failure to incorporate “universal or extraterritorial jurisdiction” in pursuit of accountability, as recommended by the UN High Commissioner. Kinnock also noted that whilst the government had supported evidence gathering, “it stops short of recommending the establishment of a fully-fledged Independent International Investigative Mechanism (III-M)”.

Kinnock further questioned why the government was failing to refer senior members of Sri Lanka’s military and government to the International Criminal Court, despite “a strong basis” for such a referral.

“We know that two of the permanent members of the UN will likely block such action. But should the position of the government really be shaped by the veto-wielding intentions of China and Russia?’, he remarked.

Kinnock further highlighted the failure to include measures in the resolution to address prevention.

“Why doesn’t the resolution include explicit reference to protecting human rights defenders and British diplomats travelling on a regular basis to the North-East of Sri Lanka to assess the situation on the ground?” –

He further lambasted the resolutions call for 18-months till accountability options are reviewed, noting that “the unacceptably long timeline given the evidence already available will give the Sri Lankan government yet more time to obstruct and obfuscate. He recommends instead a six month period.

Kinnock also drew criticism on the failure to sanction Sri Lankan officials implicated in war crimes stating, “not a single Sri Lankan Government Minister official or military officer has been designated, could the Minister what’s taking so long?”

Kinnock further highlighted the UK defence advisors engagement with Sri Lanka and meeting “with at least four senior commanders of the Sri Lankan military who stand accused of gross human rights violations”. This he notes, follows recently leaked comments made by the Foreign Secretary, which showed that “he’s happy to pursue trade deals with governments that are committing human rights abuses”.

Kinnock also questioned why Police Scotland had recently deployed 90 officers to Sri Lanka and was continuing its training contracts. “Have these deployments achieved tangible results or are they just lending a veneer of credibility?” he asked.

“If global Britain is to mean anything, it must surely mean consistently standing up for democracy, for the rule of law and for universal rights and values—not just with words, but with deeds. That must start today, and it must start with Sri Lanka” he remarked.

 

Leader of the UK Liberal Democrats, Ed Davey

Responding to the dire circumstances in Sri Lanka, Leader of the UK Liberal Democrats, Ed Davey remarked that;

“From the appalling treatment of Sri Lanka’s Muslim and Christian communities during COVID-[19] to the continuing human rights abuses against the Tamil population across the island, things are getting worse as the international community wrings its hands”

He further noted the consistent failure of the international community remarking;

“We have witnessed time and again, the Tamil people being harmed by the Sri Lankan government and let down by the international community.”

Davey’s remarks highlighted the consistent failure of domestic mechanisms and call upon the UK to establish an Independent International Investigative Mechanism which can investigate “allegations of genocide, war crimes” which need “to be properly examined and investigated”.

“It’s clear the Sri Lankan government will continue to deny, delay and evade. We urgently need a new international solution. The 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council is currently underway giving the UK the opportunity to demand accountability in Sri Lanka”, he maintained.

He further chastised the current resolution which he states “totally fails to rise to the challenge”. “The draft resolution is too vague and lacks robust commitment to international accountability mechanisms”, he adds.

“The British Tamil community is growing frustrated on the lack of meaningful progress in finding justice, and I share this frustration. So it’s time for the UK to also undertake bilateral actions to push for accountability” Davey’s remarked.

His speech further his calls to end arms exports to Sri Lanka.

“It is preposterous that arms exports are still not banned. The government should look at Magnitsky-style sanctions, in case individuals are perpetrating human rights abuses”, he noted.

He concluded his speech stating:

“It’s time that countries work together to support the democratic and human rights of the Tamil people and [stop] allowing the Sri Lankan government to become increasingly under the influence of Beijing. It’s time we stood up for the human rights of Tamil people.”

Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington and former Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell 

The former Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, remarked on the pressing need for the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary to strengthen the existing resolution. Reflecting on the High Commissioner’s he remarked that

“Many of us have been shocked but not surprised at the latest report in January on the situation in Sri Lanka from the UN Commissioner for Human Rights. It sets out straightforwardly the litany of concerns that our own constituents have drawn to our attention: the failure of the Sri Lankan Government to address past human rights violations; the closing down of the space for independent voices; the intimidation of civil society alongside a deepening attitude of acting with impunity within the Government; a visible and increased militarisation of the civil Administration; and, yes, the rise of ethnonationalism and hate speech—there clearly has been a concerted and targeted attack on the rights of Tamil and Muslim communities”.

Reflecting on Britain’s legacy in Sri Lanka he noted:

“I believe that this country has a special responsibility for action as a former colonial power. We united the three kingdoms, one of which was a Tamil kingdom, into one country and then left in 1948”.

He further outlined clear steps the government could take:

– First, we must ensure that all trade and aid agreements with Sri Lanka are only granted following the full ratification and enactment by the Sri Lankan Government of the UN human rights conventions and the fulfilment of their pledge to scrap the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

– Secondly, I support all Members who have said that we should use the Magnitsky provisions that we have recently put into legislation to ensure that we take action against those individuals who are accused of gross human rights violations.

– Finally, we must ensure that we fully fund and support bodies investigating human rights abuses and war crimes and bring on to the agenda the claims of genocide during the war in Sri Lanka.

Member of Parliament for Mitcham and Morden, Siobhain McDonagh

Siobhain McDonagh, MP for Mitcham and Morden, who opened and closed the debate began by reflecting on the tragedy of the Mullaivaikkal massacre which she described as a “genocidal killing”. Her statement highlighted that the perpetrators of these atrocities then President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa, “are the present-day link to the atrocities of the past”.

‘The government designated no-fire zone where Tamil civilians took refuge is an utterly horrifying today as it was those 12 years ago, as are the big findings of the expert that government forces, even systematically shelled hospitals’ she stated.

She further added that:

“To this day, no one has been held accountable for international crimes committed crimes that have led many to accuse the Sri Lankan government of genocide against the Tamil community […] The pursuit of justice must now move decisively forward with more sincerity from the international community. The Human Rights Council meeting happening right now provides the perfect opportunity […] The previous resolution promised the establishment of a process of justice, accountability, reform and reconciliation, but six years on and Sri Lanka has made clear that he has absolutely no intention of pursuing prosecutions, or legal redress for war crimes”

Turning to the proposed UN resolution, McDonagh states, ‘it disappointingly falls short’.

‘There is no recommendation to pursue criminal accountability by referral to the International Criminal Court’. ‘I could barely believe my eyes reading the government’s reasoning, citing insufficient Security Council support. Who are we to cast the veto for China or Russia before they have done so themselves’, McDonagh stated.

She further remarked that:

‘Our role on the international stage must be to send the loudest message that impunity will not be tolerated. Not to preempt the inaction of other nations’.

McDonagh also put forwards the case for establishing a III-M and questioned why the UK hadn’t placed sanctions on the likes of General Silva. “It’s an immediate step, we could take”, she noted.

In her statement she called out the British Foreign Secretary stating;

“I cannot see the foreign secretary @DominicRaab, perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. He repeated he had caught declined to meet with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils, in the build-up to the UNHRC meeting. Minister, with all due respect, where is he?”

In her concluding remarks, she thanked the British Tamil community stating

“We owe a debt of thanks to the huge number of Tamils working tirelessly on the front line of our NHS. I sincerely thank them. I say loud and clear that however long the road to reconciliation may still be. We will keep fighting for justice and human rights”.

She further reminded the British government of the need for strong international action stating:

“The government of Sri Lanka only understands very firm action. To rely on that government to seek out those who committed those atrocities, or to take action is simply a fool’s errand, and it has to stop.”

Elliot Colburn, Member of Parliament for Carshalton and Wallington & Chair of the APPG for Tamils 

Colburn highlighted the weakness of the draft resolution stating that it “fell well short of providing the action that was needed” and called upon to UK to show global leadership on this issue. His statement further highlighted the continued and escalating attacks on Tamils in Sri Lanka noting:

The terrorism investigation department has been increasing state surveillance culture, especially in the north, Tamil-populated part of the island. The state-supported demolition of a Tamil memorial monument at Jaffna University and attempts to prevent Tamil memorial events from taking place at all have been causing anguish among the community, occupying private land in the name of security and so much more.

Dawn Butler, Member of Parliament for Brent Central

Butler commended the hunger strike of Ambihai Selvakumar, director of the International Centre for the Prevention of Genocide, which aimed at drawing international attention to the genocide in Sri Lanka. Her statement questioned why the government refused to meet her demands.

Robert Halfon, Member of Parliament for Harlow

In his remarks, Halfon called for strong international action from the UK and recognition of the Tamil genocide as well as proper accountability mechanisms.

He statement noted

“The Sri Lankan state continues to target the Tamil people in all aspects of their lives through surveillance, denying them their livelihoods, physical security, education, economic security, culture, healthcare, freedom of expression and freedom of worship”.

He further questioned

“What action are the Government taking to prevent future cycles of violence and to promote autonomy for the Tamil community in Sri Lanka, as forecast in the latest UN report?”

Theresa Villiers, Member of Parliament for Chipping Barnet

Villiers called upon the government  “to use their Magnitsky sanctions regime to target the men the UN believes are culpable for the atrocities that took place during the Sri Lankan civil war”.

She notes that it is a key request of her British Tamil constituents and would “help break the deadlock and open the way for justice for Tamils and a better future for Sri Lanka”.

Mr Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, Member of Parliament for Slough

Dhesi expressed deep concern over religious freedom in Sri Lanka and highlighted the need to heed the voices of Tamil victims. He further called on the UK to “step up to the plate on the international stage and impress upon the Sri Lankan Government the need to respect universal human rights and the critical need to follow the path of accountability, justice and reconciliation”.

Bob Blackman, Member of Parliament for Harrow East

Blackman shared Dhesi’s concerns over religious persecution and called on the government to strengthen the resolution.

Jim Shannon, Member of Parliament for Strangford & chair of the all-party group for international freedom of religion or belief

Shannon highlighted deep concerns over Sri Lanka’s human rights record and religious freedom. She noted in her statement that:

“The National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka has documented an estimated 387 attacks or violations targeting Christians specifically”.

She further added that

“When it comes to Muslims in Sri Lanka, according to CSW, religious intolerance towards that community predates the 2019 Easter bombings. Many propagators of hate speech towards Muslims play on economic factors. Anti-Muslim rumours are also a regular feature of life on Sri Lankan social media”.

Shannon also highlighted the privilege of Buddhism in Sri Lanka by the state.

Chris Grayling, Member of Parliament for Epsom and Ewell

Grayling’s remarks reflected on the sacrifices Selvakumar made during her hunger strike but ultimately welcomed the UNHRC’s resolution noting that it provided “a framework for continued international engagement on human rights and post-conflict accountability”.

He further states:

“It calls on the Government of Sri Lanka to investigate and prosecute all allegations of gross human rights violations and serious violations of international law. It highlights concerns about the human rights situation, including the protection of Tamils. Those things are the minimum necessary to start Sri Lanka back on the road to justice and stability”.

Sam Tarry,  Member of Parliament for Ilford South

In Tarry’s statement, he highlighted not only the deteriorating human rights conditions in Sri Lanka but further highlighted the failings of the British government.

“The Labour party is committed to defending the rule of law and human rights across the world. It is troubling that the Foreign Secretary was recently recorded saying that the UK could pursue trade deals with Governments who commit human rights abuses. Does that include the Sri Lankan Government? It is deeply concerning that the Government are yet to implement Magnitsky sanctions against members of the Sri Lankan Government who are found to be complicit in serious human rights abuses, and makes the UK an outlier among its allies”.

Anthony Mangnall, Member of Parliament for Totnes & chair of the all-party parliamentary group on the preventing sexual violence in conflict initiative

Mangnall highlighted the “incredibly limited” progress the previous Sri Lankan administration made and the current government’s withdraw from the UN Resolution. He further highlighted continued issues of sexual violence drawing on a recent UN report which detailed

“credible allegations, through well-known human rights organizations, of abductions, torture and sexual violence by Sri Lankan security forces since the adoption of Human Rights Council resolution 30/1, including during the past year”.

Margaret Ferrier, Member of Parliament for Rutherglen and Hamilton West

In her statement, Ferrier highlighted the direct role the Rajapaksa family played in perpetrating crimes against humanity as well as the struggle of the families of the disappeared to receive justice.

“At least 78 of the protesters have sadly passed away since the beginning of the protest, without ever learning the truth about what happened to their families. There is, at present, no prospect that these families will ever know real accountability from officials responsible via the domestic justice system in Sri Lanka, the independence of which has been severely compromised by the Rajapaksa Administration” she notes.

Ferrier further calls on the UK to follow US leadership and designate “both General Silva and Secretary of Defence Gunaratne on the UK sanctions list”. She further called for on the government to immediately “halt UK defence engagement with the Sri Lankan armed forces and withdraw our resident defence adviser in Colombo”.

“That post”, she notes “was established in January 2019 […] to hasten the development of a modern, accountable and human rights compliant military,” However, she highlights that “the post has created is a legitimisation mechanism for the Sri Lankan military and state”.

“The UK has a long record of training Sri Lankan military and security forces on human rights issues, but there is no evidence of significant changes in the approach of the military to human rights, nor of effective vetting or accountability in the army for those accused of serious human rights violations. The UK must not remain complicit in these grievous crimes”, she states.

She concludes by remarking that:

“If our engagement is truly aimed at preventing further human rights violations, we must take real steps to remind the Sri Lankan Government that they cannot expect military engagement and support unless those human rights violations are addressed”.

Wes Streeting Member of Parliament for Ilford North

MP for Ilford North, Wes Streeting also highlighted Sri Lanka’s failure “to honour the existing commitments” to achieve accountability and justice.

“Not only do we have a Government who have withdrawn from the commitments that Sri Lanka made to the international community, but we have back in power the same cast of characters who were responsible for perpetrating human rights abuses during the civil war, and resistance to any sense that they should be accountable for their historical actions and for ongoing human rights violations.”

Streeting asked the Minister what steps the UK will take “beyond the resolution” and called on the UK to “take bilateral action to apply Magnitsky sanctions against the rogues and criminals who perpetrated human rights abuses.”

Taiwo Owatemi, Member of Parliament for Coventry North West

Taiwo Owatemi, MP for Coventry North West, brought attention to Mrs Ambihai Selvakumar’s hunger strike, which called on the UK government to refer Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“The fact that Mrs Selvakumar feels that this is the only way to get her voice heard is deeply saddening,” Owatemi stated.

Commenting on Sri Lanka’s withdrawal from the UNHRC process, Owatemi noted the “increasing concerns about their commitment to peace and justice.”

“We have seen an acceleration of the militarisation of civilian Government functions, the erosion of the independence of the judiciary and key institutions, increasing marginalisation of the Tamil and Muslim communities and even the destruction of a memorial to the victims of the war. There is ongoing impunity and obstruction of accountability for the crimes and human rights violations that have occurred,” she added.

Owatemi also asked the Minister if the UK will “commit to using those sanctions to prevent further abuses in Sri Lanka.”

Stephen Timms, Member of Parliament for East Ham 

Stephen Timms, Labour MP for East Ham, suggested following the US in sanctioning Sri Lankan army commander Shavendra Silva who “led the ground assault on the beaches of Mullivaikkal at the end of the civil war, attacking civilians, hospitals, medical staff and no-fire zones.”

Timms called on the Minister to extend these sanctions to Sri Lankan Defence Secretary, Kamal Gunaratne who “led a February 2009 assault, attacking civilian hospitals and food distribution points. He commanded the Joseph army camp, which was notorious for torture after the war. The UN has named him; will we sanction him?

“Why on earth do we have a resident defence adviser in Colombo, providing training and legitimacy? He has met at least five people who have been credibly accused of mass atrocities. Surely that adviser must now be withdrawn,” Timms stated.

The MP highlighted that Sri Lanka has merely “paid lip service” to the international community at the UNHRC.

“The calculation seemed to be that if they paid lip service to engaging, the international community would leave them alone. They were right: there was no serious effort to hold Sri Lanka to account. The new Sri Lankan Government, elected in 2019, includes guilty men, as we have heard. They are no longer pretending; they have simply withdrawn.”

Gareth Thomas, Member of Parliament for Harrow West

Speaking next Thomas remarked that:

“There is deep, deep frustration with the apparent impunity of the Rajapaksa family and their supporters from either domestic or international accountability. There’s anger with the current UK Government for its tolerance and complicity at the international level.”

He further added that

“There is disbelief too that Tamil refugees might be returned to a country so obviously ravaged by human rights abuses and there is a demand […] for Britain to use the powers […] to account those clearly implicated in serious human rights abuses […] The Tamil community want ministers to back a call for Sri Lanka to be referred to the International Criminal Court”

Thomas further applauded the hunger strike and called on the government to follow the High Commissioner’s recommendations and impose sanctions on Shavendra Silva and Kamal Gunaratne.

Thomas also spoke on the issue of Tamil asylum seekers, highlighting reports from Amnesty International And Freedom from Torture which highlighted the need for the Home Office to “take another look with the Foreign Office at the [guidance] it uses to judge whether refugees should be returned to Sri Lanka”

“Quite clearly given the scale of torture and other human rights abuses, it would be totally wrong to return people with credible concerns about the situation in Sri Lanka. I look forward to the minister finally taking some serious action against Sri Lanka”, he maintains.

Anne McLaughlin, Member of Parliament for Glasgow North East 

Anne McLaughlin, Scottish National Party MP for Glasgow North East, also spoke, stating that “it is a crime against humanity itself that nobody’s been found accountable since this war ended 12 years ago.”

McLaughlin highlighted several instances where she heard firsthand the injustices faced by Tamils in Sri Lanka. “One man gave me a copy of a book he’d written about his account as abuses against the Tamil community. He was so afraid of what might happen […] that he removed the cover and replaced it with another,” McLaughlin stated.

“I met two teenage girls living in Glasgow who’d sought asylum. They watched their father shot to death in front of them by a Sri Lankan army soldier. He made them watch as he put a bullet through [his] brain. Should that soldier be tried or hailed as a war hero?” She went on to say.

McLaughlin commented on the 20th amendment calling it “the most significant signal that there is no respect for the rule of law.” She also went on to offer her opinion on the UK’s next steps, stating, “the UK Government must step up its commitment to reconciliation, accountability and human rights.”

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UK not prepared to push for ICC option in new UNHRC Resolution

[Fri, 19 Feb 2021, 14:02 GMT]

The South Asia Department of the Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office of the UK has stated that it still believed that the UNHRC framework is “the best way” to establish the truth and achieve justice and lasting reconciliation for “all communities in Sri Lanka”. The Tamil organisations demanded both ICC referral and investigations on genocide in their letters to the British Foreign Secretary. However, the FCO was dodging any reference to genocide in its reply. On the ICC option, it said: “The ICC could only exercise jurisdiction if the situation is referred to it by a UN Security Council Resolution, or if Sri Lanka accepts the Court’s jurisdiction. Our assessment is that this step would not have the support of the required Security Council members and that it would not advance the cause of accountability for an ICC referral to fail to win Security Council support or to be vetoed.” Full story >>

Tamils witness false dilemma in Geneva as geopolitical formations pit against each other

[Fri, 26 Feb 2021, 11:53 GMT]

SL President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s ‘balancing act’ has tightly pitted the US-UK-India axis of bandwagoning strategic partners against the China-Russia-Pakistan formation at Geneva. US Ambassador Ms Alaina Teplitz in Colombo was making a North trip as Pakistan’s prime minister visited Colombo. Simultaneously, the politics of human rights was unfolding in Geneva at the Interactive Dialogue on Thursday after Ms Michelle Bachelet, the UN Human Rights High Commissioner and the former president of Chile, presented her report on Wednesday. As usual, the UN High Commissioner’s Report was strongly worded than what one could expect from a resolution being tabled by parties with a vested interest. Eelam Tamils, who demand specific referral to the main crime of genocide from the UN High Commissioner and the UNHRC Resolution, have to confront a false dichotomy once again. Full story >>

UK repeatedly wronged Tamils says hunger-striker, demands genocide justice

[Tue, 09 Mar 2021, 21:34 GMT]

The UK has repeatedly failed to address the root cause of the conflict in its former colony, Ceylon, where its colonial injustice escalated the situation into protracted genocide against Tamils, said 53-year-old Ambihai Selvakumar, who is waging a continuous hunger strike in London demanding the UK government to course-correct its past failures. The UK has continued to betray the Tamils in the constitutional discourses of 1948, 1972 and their aftermath by aiding and abetting the warmongering genocidal state of Sri Lanka during and after the 2009 genocidal war, she said. In 2009 its UN envoy blocked a security council debate. In 2021, as the Core Group’s penholder, the UK has tabled a draft resolution at the UN Human Rights Council, totally failing to call for genocide justice. Furthermore, it delays international justice in the already established UN findings on other atrocity crimes. Full story >>

Deceived Tamil activists in UK falsely claimed ‘substantial changes’ to Zero draft

[Mon, 15 Mar 2021, 20:36 GMT]

A newly formed letterhead organisation in London calling itself ‘Movement for Truth and Justice’ has claimed that “substantial changes were made to the resolution text” of the Core Group on Sri Lanka. The outfit has come with deceptive articulations while announcing the end of a 17-days long hunger strike that was waged by a courageous Tamil woman activist, Ambihai K Selvakumar, on Monday. The announcement was citing a letter written by the UK’s Minister of State for South Asia and the Commonwealth Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon on 10 March 2021. The letter and the text of the latest update of the draft submitted to the UNHRC on 12 March 2021 expose the claim’s falsehood. The deception comes a day after hundreds of Tamils mobilised in London amidst British police attempting to crack down their protest. Full story >>