US-based rights group claims Lankan forces killed civilians

Last Updated: Monday, May 17, 2010 - 18:04

New York: On the eve of Sri Lanka`s first
`unification day` marking the end of the civil war, a US-based
rights group claimed that the military there killed
thousands of civilians by shelling "no fire zones" during the
last phase of the ethnic conflict.

The International Crisis Group, an advocacy group
based in Brussels and Washington, said despite its promises to
protect civilians and aid workers, the Sri Lankan government
had bombed relentlessly in areas where it knew unarmed people
were present.

ICR said it has reasons to believe that senior
government and military officials were aware of the attacks,
but failed to protect the civilians.

"The violations, by both sides to the conflict, became
particularly frequent and deadly in the months leading to the
government`s declaration of victory over the LTTE in May
2009," the group said in a report, released on the eve of the
first anniversary of the end of the bloody civil war that had
claimed over 70,000 lives.

At the same time, the IRV also said the LTTE
"deliberately carried out operations" in some areas in
northern Lanka with a heavy civilian presence in order to get
international attention against the government.

Sri Lanka announced victory in the Eelam War-IV on May
18 after its forces killed the entire Tamil Tigers leadership,
including their chief Velupillai Prabhakaran. The country will
observe tomorrow as `unification day`.

The report said evidence gathered by Crisis Group
provides reasonable grounds to believe that government
security forces repeatedly and intentionally violated the law
by attacking civilians, hospitals and humanitarian operations.

The group claimed that the military encouraged
hundreds of thousands of people to move in to the `no fire
zones` declared by the government and then subjected them to
"repeated and increasingly intense artillery and mortar
barrages."

"It also provides reason to believe that senior
government and military officials were aware of the massive
civilian casualties due to the security forces` attacks, but
failed to protect the civilian population as they were obliged
to under the laws of war," it added.

The report called for an international inquiry into
alleged crimes.

"The scale of civilian deaths and suffering demands a
response," said Crisis Group President Louise Arbour.

"Future generations will demand to know what happened,
and future peace in Sri Lanka requires some measure of
justice."

The report also suggested that the Tamil Tigers
endangered civilians by shooting them and preventing them from
leaving the conflict zone even when injured and dying.

The IRC also found that international community
"turned a blind eye" to the human rights violations.

It also noted that the United Nations too readily
complied with the government`s demands to withdraw from
conflict areas.

"Many countries welcomed the LTTE`s defeat regardless
of the cost of immense civilian suffering," it said.

For the past two months, UN Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon has been in the process of finding experts for an
advisory panel that will counsel him on what accountability
issues arise and what options can be pursued with regards to
alleged human rights violations in Sri Lanka.

Despite the call by several human rights
organisations, Colombo has, so far, rejected any demand for an
international tribunal.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International also called on the UN
to set up an immediate and independent investigation into the
human rights violations in Sri Lanka.

"At the end of the war, atrocities against civilians
and enemy combatants appeared to be fueled by a sense that
there would be no real international consequences for
violating the law," said Madhu Malhotra, Amnesty
International`s Deputy Director for Asia-Pacific.

PTI



First Published: Monday, May 17, 2010 - 18:04

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