War Crimes in Sri Lanka

Sampath Perera in Countercurrents:

A report released last Friday by the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has provided a glimpse into the criminal character of the Sri Lankan government's war against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Entitled “End ‘War' on Civilians,” it calls on the government to “immediately cease its indiscriminate artillery attacks on civilians in the northern Wanni region and its policy of detaining displaced persons in internment camps”.

The HRW is no friend of the LTTE. The report criticises the LTTE's failure to allow civilians to leave its small remaining territory and its shooting at those who try. It also calls on the LTTE to stop placing its fighters near population centres. “With each battlefield defeat, the Tamil Tigers appear to be treating Tamil civilians with increased brutality,” James Ross, HRW legal and policy director, said in a press release.

These allegations are routinely made by the Sri Lankan government to justify its war and repeatedly echoed in the local and international media. What the HRW report does, however, is to undermine the government's own lies, which are rarely challenged in the press. The government and the military have denied all responsibility for civilian casualties and where they have been proven, blamed them on the LTTE.

In its press release, the HRW is unequivocal: “The Sri Lankan government has indicated that the ethnic Tamil population trapped in the war zone can be presumed to be siding with the LTTE and treated as combatants, effectively sanctioning unlawful attacks.