War Crimes In Sri Lanka’s War Against The Tamil Tigers
By Kamalika Pieris
In the history of wars, Sri Lanka alone stands out as the one country which is penalized for winning a secessionist war. This is one of the most bizarre outcomes of Eelam War IV, observed H.L.D Mahindapala. There has been no previous example of a war winning army being subjected to an international inquiry. Instead of commending the armed service of Sri Lanka for it unique victory over an implacable foe, Sri Lanka’s extraordinarily brave soldiers are being virtually condemned for the act, complained analysts.
Can any reader inform me whether there has been any country other than Sri Lanka where a country victorious in war decided to pursue punitive action against its own military personnel for alleged wartime ‘atrocities’ asked an observer. Also it there any other country which has launched action to harass and humiliate the commanders of the three forces who were equally responsible for the victory.
Eelam War IV falls into the category of wars known as ‘non-international armed conflicts’ (NIAC) where an armed group launches high intensity battles with the security forces of a country. But Eelam War IV was not the usual insurgency. It was not a ‘terrorist’ war at all. It was a secessionist war, fought against the legitimate government of the country for control of territory. Sri Lanka had every right to crush it.
A sovereign state is entitled, indeed expected, to protect its territory from such disruptive forces. Article 3 paragraph 1 of Additional Protocol II states: “Nothing in this Protocol shall be invoked for the purpose of affecting the sovereignty of a State or the responsibility of the government, by all legitimate means, to maintain or re-establish law and order in the State or to defend the national unity and territorial integrity of the State”.
‘UN Declaration on Principles of international Law concerning Friendly relations and Cooperation among States in Accordance with the Charter of the UN’ (1970) opposed any action which would dismember or impair, totally or in part, the territorial integrity or political unity of sovereign and independent States possessed of a government representing the whole people belonging to the territory without distinction as to race, creed or color. The territorial integrity and political independence of the State are inviolable. (Clauses 5.7, 6.2d)
The military victory in the final war was total. The entire guerrilla leadership was wiped out. It was a hard fought victory. Elsewhere such a victory would have been cheered and supported by all countries. Sri Lanka however found to its surprise that it was the target of a war crimes charge manufactured in the west. Sri Lanka Army is criticized, when it deserves accolades and proper recognition, said others.
There is a good reason for this. The Eelam defeat was not simply a defeat for the Tamils, it was also a defeat for USA. The Eelam war was never a local movement. The Eelam war was funded and directed by the US with support from its allies. The Tamil speaking ‘boys’ in Jaffna could never have sustained such a lengthy war. They were only the front, the force behind it was the US .
The US tried hard to push a LTTE victory. The LTTE did not know warfare and lacked the power to break through army lines, so the only way to make them win was by weakening the state forces. War crimes trials, pulling out troops from Jaffna, retiring the most successful Army officers, and drastically downsizing the Army were all recommended by hired Western military experts well before 2005, said retired Major General Lalin Fernando. The conspiracy against the Army was hatched by the West many years ago, he observed.
The US next tried to stop the final phase of the war. Newton observed, ‘the warning of the U.S. Ambassador that strikes should not be undertaken against clearly identified military objectives when the LTTE used the presence of civilians in the so-called NFZ to launch military strikes is both naive and unfounded in modern international law.’. US Ambassador Robert O. Blake tried to take out Prabhakaran using the US marines based in Hawaii, said K Godage.
Western powers were angry with Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gotabhaya Rajapakse for not stopping the war when they were asked to do so. The degree of pressure that was exerted on Sri Lanka by western countries is without parallel said G.L.Pieris. We were hounded and intimidated by the US to stop the war.
The 2009 defeat was a great blow to the west. The west wanted revenge. Sri Lanka was to be punished for defeating the LTTE. The targets would be those who had directed the war and the charge would be ‘war crimes’. Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga said that war crimes should focus on the top chain of command of the Sri Lanka military, not those who carried out orders.
Critics observed that all charges of war crimes began after the defeat of the LTTE. Until the Mullativu operation of 2009 began there were no allegations of any wrong doing of the Sri Lanka forces, observed Lalin Fernando. The International community and specially India observed the restraint of the army with amazement, if not disbelief.
The war crimes campaign led by US focuses only on the last few months of Eelam War IV, ending in May 2009. The west which did not bother about civilian deaths for 32 years suddenly woke up to civilian casualties just as the war ended, observed Mahindapala. Why an inquiry for the last five months of the Eelam War IV.
Lasanda Kurukulasuriya observed in 2011 that there was no complaint of war crimes from any of the groups that one might expect complaints to come from. The IDPs, Tamil political leaders, local rights activists, community leaders, and NGOs did not complain. Nobody in Sri Lanka is asking for such a domestic inquiry, critics said.
Similarly, the BBC, when covering the LLRC sittings in Vavuniya in August 2010 noted that people were talking about the difficulties they faced at present, not about fighting in the last stage of the war. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert O. Blake traveled to Sri Lanka in early May 2011, and met with local leaders in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu. He said none of them had complained about war crimes, and that their problems related to receipt of death certificates and locating of their loved ones.
The current war crimes charge against Sri Lanka was manufactured in the west. It was probably planned and ready long before the war ended, to be used in the case of defeat. The war crimes listed in the IHL which would fit the situation were carefully picked out and slapped down on the Sri Lanka military. IHL was compulsory for the countries which had signed the Geneva conventions. This includes Sri Lanka.
The charge of war crimes started as soon as the war ended. Channel Four” issued a series of documentaries on the supposed war crimes in Sri Lanka, the first was in 2009, and the last was in 2015. There were two UN reports alleging war crimes, Darusman (2011) and OISL (2015). They both said that there were 40,000 civilian deaths. This was an exaggerated figure, without supporting evidence, cooked up for propaganda purpose.
The Tamil Separatist Movement waited till the time was ripe and then went into action. In January 2014 the Northern Provincial Council passed a resolution calling for an international investigation into alleged war crimes. This was picked up by G. Ananda Padmanabhan, chief executive of Amnesty International.
Global Tamil Forum welcomed the OISL report indicating war crimes and crimes against humanity. GTF said the violations reported are most serious. They are crimes of concern to the international community as a whole. The report made harrowing reading, indicating the horrific level of abuse suffered by the Tamil civilians at the hand of the Sri Lanka armed forces, including indiscriminate shelling, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance, denial of humanitarian assistance, ill treatment of IDPs torture and sexual violence. GTF is in full agreement with the report.
In 2015 the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in Geneva, announced that the Sri Lankan military had indeed committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during the period of the war and beyond.” These include indiscriminate bombings of hospitals and no-fly zones, rape and sexual violence, violating the Geneva Convention by conducting summary executions of those who surrendered, enforced disappearances and more.”
Matching statements were made elsewhere, which would help to take Sri Lanka into a war crimes inquiry. For instance, UN spokesman Gordon Weiss told AFP News agency in 2009 that there was a bloodbath in the No Fire Zone. The OISL report mentioned names of important military personnel and units in such a manner that they could be charged for war crimes.
Sarath Fonseka declared in 2017 that wartime Security Forces Commander, Vavuniya, Jagath Jayasuriya had committed crimes during his tenure as the senior officer based in Vavuniya. Fonseka alleged that Jayasuriya had subjected those who were arrested by troops, under his command; to ‘criminal activity’. Fonseka added that he received many complaints that Jayasuriya had allegedly committed various offences. I was determined to take action against him after the war was over,” Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka added. However, Sarath Fonseka was in China from May 1 and returned on May 17 observed Shavendra Silva.
The government of Sri Lanka helped the war crimes plan by using ‘all the wrong words’. Sri Lanka made a mistake in calling the last phase of Eelam war IV a ‘Humanitarian mission.’ ‘It was just a name we used, said Gotabhaya. There was the motive of rescuing people. It had nothing to do with human rights. The government also idiotically announced that there were zero casualties, when there cannot be zero casualties in such a protracted war.
Modern warfare is guided by the Geneva Conventions on war. These Geneva conventions resulted in a jerkily enacted set of sanctimonious regulations known by the absurd name of ‘International humanitarian law ‘, said Chandraprema. They were intended to protect civilians caught up in war. Violations of these regulations constitute ‘war crimes’, while war itself is not declared a crime, he observed.
According to IHL, continued Chandraprema, a war must be won without harming any civilians caught in the war. The army must at all time distinguish between civilian and military objects Attack may only be directed against military objectives, said IHL. Priority must be given to the safety of civilians. Civilians must be protected even when they are in the middle of the fighting. If anything happens to them then it is a ‘war crime’. With laws like these, no country would be able to combat terrorism, commented Chandraprema.
Gabriella Blumm, Professor of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law at Harvard Law School agreed. She criticized IHL for the special attention given to civilians in insurgency wars, where distinguishing between civilian and combatants is difficult. Wars today have mixed combatant-civilian populations within and without the battlefield, she said, stressing that civilian immunity is lost when civilians take part in the hostilities.
Blumm also critiqued IHL for its indifference to soldier’s lives. Human Rights activists are not interested in the protection of soldiers, she said. They appear to advocate sacrificing the lives of soldiers to protect civilians. Soldiers are legitimate targets when they are asleep in their barracks, swimming in the lake, retreating, and probably when they are on leave.
They can be attacked and killed wherever they are in and out of uniform, whether on duty or not, opening fire on them when they are retreating or targeting individual combatants. It does not matter whether they are fighting just or unjust wars. The only restriction is when they are captured or injured. A vast literature both in law and philosophy is dedicated to the protection of civilians in war, said Blumm,
There is some hope though. ICRC’s’ Study on Customary law of armed conflict’, said that civilians are protected against attack only if they are not used militarily. Attacks on civilians who have become participants in the war, is not a war crime if it is an essential part of the war strategy. The military manuals of western nations such as USA, Australia, Canada, Switzerland, Netherlands stated that the presence of civilians within or around military targets do not render such places immune from attack.
ICRC said that where there is doubt whether a person is a civilian, he should be given the benefit of the doubt, but Australia, Canada, New Zealand, France, and UK said that the first priority is the safety of the troops. The security of the attacking forces’ was important, they said.
Sri Lanka is not the only country currently charged with IHL war crimes. USA is facing a similar charge for similar reasons. In June 2018 US and its allies, bombed Raqqa in Syria, killing civilians and destroying homes. U.S. Army spokesman, Col. Sean Ryan came on television to announce that in this type of war, it impossible not to do so. USA had organized safe passages for residents to flee, but ISIS militants trapped them inside to use as human shields. It’s very difficult when you have an enemy that uses noncombatants, to completely avoid any casualties,” Ryan said. USA did everything it could to minimize civilian casualties. USA army used precision weapons and selected targets with the best information available. ”
Amnesty International brushed this aside, saying the assault on Raqqa had killed hundreds of civilians and reduced sections of the city to rubble. The USA coalition should have adjusted its strategy.” If you rely on long-range tactics like artillery and airstrikes, then civilians are very likely to pay the price, and that appears to be what happened in Raqqa said Amnesty International. Amnesty International called on the coalition to release strike data and details on the decision-making process behind target selection.
How is it that the SL Army that liberated the country from LTTE after nearly 30 years of conflict during which about 100,000 died, is facing war crimes charges but not the defeated terrorist LTTE, asked Lalin Fernando. A legitimate army was being targeted for taking on terrorism whereas those who had engaged in terrorism here had been given safe haven in many parts of the world.
The main reason, it appears, is that terrorist acts, fall outside the scope of the laws of war. The laws of war neither approve nor condemn terrorist acts, which fall outside their scope said critics. Thus, LTTE is protected from the application of IHL, while the Sri Lanka Security Forces and the State are liable. The State and non-state entities cannot, and should not, be equated said Deepika Udugama, probably answering a question in her capacity as head of the HRC, Sri Lanka LTTE has been eradicated. Therefore those who survived should be accountable, said US Ambassador in Colombo Patricia Butenis.
It is extremely difficult for a professional soldier to fight a terrorist group said the army. Those who were not familiar with the clandestine operations carried out by the LTTE would find it difficult to understand the counter measures that were required. This was a 26 year war. A lot of lessons were learned. The LTTE did not fight a clean war. Assurances to surrendering troops were always dishonored. Four cease fires were broken without warning by launching massive and devastating attacks on Army camps, killing thousands.
The army was fighting a ‘terrorist outfit’ which totally disregarded the principles of IHL at all times. LTTE summarily executed over 300 soldiers who had surrendered after the fall of the Base camp in Mullaitivu after the fall of the base camp. LTTE had tortured its Sri Lanka army captives, eyes gouged out, tongues torn out.
LTTE used tactics such as human shields, suicide bombers, and religious places to prevent army action or to entice the armed force to commit IHL violations. LTTE cadres did not wear uniforms, often making it almost impossible for the Sri Lanka Army to draw clear distinctions between civilians and LTTE personnel. British Defence attaché Gash’s dispatches said “It is not possible to distinguish LTTE cadres as few are in uniform”.
Also the LTTE resorted to violence to stop the civilians form surrendering to the army. Tamilini, a surrendered former LTTE women fighter in her book published in 2016 titled ‘Oro Kooralin Nizhalil’ (The Shadow of the Sharp Sword) states Prabhakaran had ordered that Tamil hostages attempting to escape to be shot in their knees.
The LTTE abandoned their wounded. At the last meeting of the LTTE top command just before the war ended, they had not bothered to discuss the issue of the large group of wounded LTTE personnel. In the Anandapuram area just before the Puthu defeat, those who survived had fled leaving both the dead and the wounded behind.
At the last meeting of the LTTE top command just before the war ended, they had not bothered to discuss the issue of the large group of wounded LTTE personnel. In the Anandapuram area just before the Puthu defeat, those who survived had fled leaving both the dead and the wounded behind. Pottu Amman had positioned disabled cadres with explosive to thwart the army advance on Puthukuduriuppu. The Panel of experts of the UNSG had also admitted that the LTTE had prevented wounded cadres from leaving the areas in ICRC run ships.
Liability must be assessed in the light of the unique context of this war, said Lasanda Kurukulasuriya, It was a war fought under extraordinary circumstances. The battle field was a mix of civilians and LTTE. LTTE forcibly held a large civilian population within the battle zone, deliberately positioned to gain military advantage, then LTTE conducted its operation from behind the civilians. LTTE fired their artillery from civilian inhabited areas and where hospitals were located.
it was very difficult therefore for the army to apply humanitarian principles. But they were expected to do so. British MP David Milliband said that the fact that the LTTE were holding civilians does not justify the shelling of those sites and individuals. Democratic governments are held to higher standards than terrorist organisations
The west has, with local support, set in motion Operation ’Destroy Sri Lanka’s Army’, said Lalin Fernando Sri Lanka army alleged an international witch hunt. A section of the international community is targeting the war winning government.There is local disapproval too. Jewellery designer Manori Jayasinghe presentation for the Colombo Art Biennale 2014 was intricate crown made of little army figurines held in place with pins.
The military noted those who had spearheaded the war against the LTTE and front line fighting formations were being relentlessly pursued on the basis of unsubstantiated UN allegations not proved in a court of law.
Yahapalana government, in obedience to the west, has shown a deep animosity towards the war winning armed forces and has gone after those who led the Eelam War. After the ‘regime change’ of January 2015, a good cross section of the entire military high command that won the war has been investigated, questioned, arrested or remanded over some criminal investigation or the other, observed Chandraprema. Chandraprema has provided a list of them.
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, former Defence Secretary was questioned by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Serious Acts of Fraud and Corruption, the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID), the CID and the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption. We have lost track of what he has been questioned about but they range from financial misappropriation to abduction to removing scrap iron from the abandoned KKS cement factory, said Chandraprema.
Jagath Jayasuriya, former Army Commander and Vanni Commander during the war, was questioned by the CID in relation to the disappearance of journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda. Daya Ratnayake, former Army Commander and a key figure in the Eastern theatre of the war was questioned by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Serious Acts of Fraud and Corruption about the removal of scrap iron from the Kankesanturai Cement factory. Kapila Hendawitharana, former Chief of National Intelligence, was questioned by the FCID over transactions relating to a Jaffna-based satellite television group.
Donald Perera, former Air Force Commander and Chief of Defence Staff during the war, and Roshan Goonetilleke, the Air force Commander during the war were both questioned by the FCID regarding the 2006 MiG deal. Jayanath Colombage, Somatilleke Dissanayake and Jayantha Perera, former Commanders of the Navy were charged by the FCID over the Avant Guard case. Wasantha Karannagoda, Navy Commander during Eelam war IV was questioned by the CID over the disappearance of several youth in 2008 – 2009.
Apart from the top ranking personnel mentioned above, second tier military officers have also been questioned, arrested, charged over various allegations. Among them are Major Gen. (Rtd) Mahinda Hathurusinghe, former Security Forces, Commander Jaffna, Major Gen. (Rtd) Udaya Perera, and Director Operations of the Army during the war, and Navy Commodore D.K.P.Dassanayake.
Dassanayake and five others were arrested and remanded in connection with a series of alleged war time abductions, unrelated to the war. Dassanayake was a highly decorated naval officer who played a major role in the Eelam War. He has been the senior officer in charge of Chalai-based deployment during the final phase of combined forces operations, said Weerasekera .
Sgt Sunil Ratnayake ,a war hero and member of the long range reconnaissance patrol, found guilty and sentenced to death in June last year for the murder of eight Tamil civilians at Mirusuvil, Jaffna in 2000 is now in death row, he has appealed. The National War Heroes Front requested the President to pardon former Staff Sergeant Sunil Ratnayake as the president had granted presidential pardoned 187 persons including drug dealers, rapists, and financial fraud and LTTE cadres
Many other officers have been questioned or arrested and remanded, observed Chandraprema. Former STF commander Retd DIG K.L.M. Sarathchandra was remanded in November 2016 for allegedly misusing a vehicle belong to the STF. The photo showed an angry Sarathchandra being led away by the police. Commander R. P. S. Ranasinghe had been responsible for the detection of a C4 explosives-packed lorry meant for a suicide mission in Colombo in 2008. Having had taken the lorry packed with 1,008 kgs of C4 explosives on the Padikku beach, Trincomalee, Ranasinghe along with a Petty Officer (name not mentioned due to security reasons) brought it to a safe place. Ranasinghe has been in remand for about nine months.
The government was trying to destroy the military intelligence by portraying it as a criminal outfit, the National Freedom Front alleged.” A plot is being hatched to destroy the army intelligence unit . We call upon people not to forget that it was these very same intelligence unit members who prevented the LTTE from destroy the Colombo city, supplying intelligence reports that led to the destruction of LTTE’s political wing leader Thamilselvan and many other services that helped the then government to defeat the LTTE, said the army.”
The intelligence divisions of the armed forces were specially hunted down, with many persons ranging from senior officers to corporals and soldiers spending varying periods in remand prison. These include former Director of Military Intelligence, (DMI) Amal Karunasekera and Major Gen. Suresh Sally, also a former DMI. Former navy intelligence director Ananda Guruge and Lt. Commander Sampath Dayananda, a navy intelligence officer attached to the Welisara navy camp were arrested over the abduction and disappearance of Vadivelu Pakkili Sami Loganathan and R. Paramananthan.
Three former intelligence officers of the Sri Lanka Navy were arrested in 2016 in connection with the murder of parliamentarian Nadarajah Raviraj in 2006. They were acquitted by the High Court in December 2016 in a judgment given by Court past midnight. It was the longest hearing of a case in history of the Court, before a special Jury Committee. The examination of witnesses commenced at 10:45 a.m. and went on until midnight.
However, in January 2017, Attorney General filed an appeal in the Court of Appeal seeking a re-trial. He said that the trial process was not appropriate and reasonable to make a just and fair verdict, the jury system was not suitable for this case and there were several deficiencies in the summing up of the trial judge. The Attorney General contended that several important legal concepts which are relevant to the case were not considered by the trial judge.
Army intelligence officers were taken into custody for attacking Upali Tennakoon and Keith Noyahr and killing of Lasantha Wickrematunga. Some army intelligence officers have been detained for more than one and half years over the Ekneligoda killing.
Five intelligence operatives including a major have been arrested on charges of attacking journalist Keith Noyahr. The reason for their arrest was their phones being in the vicinity of the Dehiwala Telecommunication tower at the time of the abduction of Noyahr.”These officers are scheduled to face an identification parade. When they were arrested and produced before courts the authorities did not cover their faces. When they were brought before courts, journalists took their pictures, which are now in public domain. ”
Retired Navy Chief of Staff, Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera has urged the government to either prosecute or release the officers presently held in remand. They have served the armed forces well and undertaken missions at the risk of their lives. They are now were being ‘unfairly treated,’ he said. Whereas an LTTE cadre, Jeevaratnam Kirubakaran, tasked with a suicide mission, was set free.
The armed forces were arrested for other activities too, not only the Eelam War. Three persons were killed after the Sri Lanka Army was deployed to disperse a protest against a factory in Rathupaswala in 2013. In March 2017 the CID arrested three army personnel in connection with this shooting.
These arrests suited those who deeply resented the government victory in Eelam War IV. They rejoiced at the arrests and sneered at their war time achievements. ‘The arrest of Dassanayake led to the usual media spectacle accompanied by the drumming up of rhetoric’’ mocked one such supporter. ‘Many sing praises of the Commodore and relate tales of his bravery while in service and allege that the Government was and continues to be on the hunt for war heroes.’
But Chandraprema has another explanation. This spate of investigations against armed forces personnel for various criminal activities like theft and abduction seems to be a softening up of the public for the big show. Once the public sees former and serving members of the armed forces going in an unending procession to the CID, FCID, the ‘Commission Against Bribery and Corruption’ and to the ‘Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Fraud and Corruption,’ that becomes a part of ordinary life and after people get used to it, it will be easier to bring the same personnel to other tribunals to answer allegations of war crimes, concluded Chandraprema.
The persecution of army officers did not stop there. USA and other countries have denied visas to senior commanders on the basis of unsubstantiated accusations. Several army persons have been deprived of scholarships also. Maj Gen Jagath Dias was not allowed to join an ICRC project in Australia. The US refused to accommodate Maj. Gen. Sudantha Ranasinghe, on a programme as he commanded the elite 53 Division in peacetime. The 53 Division killed LTTE leader Prabhakaran.
Maj. Gen. Chagie Gallage was denied an Australian visa because Australian High Commission has stated that troops under his command certainly committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. Gallege was in command of the 59 Division from May 7, 2009 to July 20, 2009. Australia has identified the 59 Division credited with wresting control of LTTE Mullaitivu bastion in late January 2009 as one of the formations responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Australia has alleged that Maj. Gen. Gallege had been aware of artillery strikes on third no fire zone. Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection has extensively cited Report of the OHCHR (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) on Sri Lanka (OISL) in support.
There have never been specific allegations against Maj. Gen. Gallege before. Maj. Gen. Gallege, who was in the forefront of the war against the LTTE, is widely considered one of best strategists Gallage ‘had an outburst’ before Mangala Samaraweera when he visited Jaffna to launch a website for ethnic reconciliation in 2016.. He was immediately transferred to a post which did not have command of troops.
Former Army Commander Jagath Jayasuriya completed his stint as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Brazil and returned to Sri Lanka. Just as he was leaving Brazil, some international human rights groups had filed war crimes lawsuits against him in Brazil and Colombia, alleging that Jayasuriya oversaw military units that attacked hospitals and killed and tortured thousands of civilians. Filing a court case against Jagath Jayasuriya in Brazil shows how far this insanity has gone, observed Chandraprema. It takes days and several transits just to get to Brazil even by air. How is a court in Brazil going to hear a case over events that took place in the Vanni in Sri Lanka?
The Tamil Separatist Movement, fronting for USA, and smarting over their defeat and wanting revenge, are successfully preventing Sri Lanka armed forces from joining the UN. Sri Lankan soldiers “should not be allowed to wear the blue helmet” of United Nations peacekeepers, said Canadian parliamentarian Gary Anandasangaree. Gary is TULF leader V. Anandasangaree’s son. Sri Lankan military “has a long record of rights violations, he said.
Gary Anandasangaree cited reports of Sri Lankan peacekeepers deployed to Haiti by the UN who ran a sex ring operation with children, some as young as 12. “Some 134 members of the Sri Lankan military were implicated, with 114 of these men being returned to Sri Lanka by the UN without any consequences,” he added Given Sri Lanka’s history in Haiti, its treatment of Tamils on the island, and its history of impunity, its soldiers should not be allowed to wear the blue helmet, which is often seen as the embodiment of peace and protection of the innocent” concluded Gary Anandasangaree.
The army had recommended Colonel Wasantha Hewage, a highly decorated officer, as the Contingent Commander of the 12th Force Protection Company (FPC) for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). He was to take up his position in Feb 2018, but several pro-LTTE NGOs petitioned the UN not to grant him permission. They had found fault with Hewage for being involved in the final war. Hewage had actively taken part in the last battle in Kilinochchi and has been awarded seven Rana Wickrama and Rana Soora gallantry medals for bravery in the face of the enemy.
Sarath Weerasekera stated that all military personnel nominated by Army Headquarters (AH) for peacekeeping missions overseas are to be vetted by the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka. However, not a single Army officer or soldier due to go to Lebanon had been cleared by the HRC though the contingent was expected to be in Lebanon on 6th March 2018.
It is believed that the HRCSL is not going to give clearance to anyone who was in any of the Divisions actively taking part in the last battle or anyone awarded with gallantry medals, said Weerasekera. Peacekeeping missions help the army personnel to get international exposure and earn some extra money. These officers are denied that opportunity because they played an active role in the war, concluded Weerasekera. the question that come to mind at this point is, what is the competence of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, (or anywhere else) to judge military matters related to the conduct of a protracted, full blown war.
One of the ugliest aspects of the Eelam War is that there are local groups that also say the armed forces committed war crimes. There was a TV programme (Balaya on Hiru), in 2017 on the subject ‘Whether a War Crimes tribunal should be held against the Sri Lankan armed forces’, The participants were Gamini Viyangoda of the ‘Puravasi Balaya’, Jehan Perera of the National Peace Council, Retired head of the Civil Defence Force Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera, and Journalist Shamindra Ferdinando.
The two NGO representatives were advocating that the Sri Lankan armed forces should be subject to a trial, while Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera and Shamindra Ferdinando maintained that such an exercise, in the context of the brutal LTTE campaign, could amount to treason. The European funded NGO community is back in the business bemoaning the work of the Sri Lankan armed forces, said Palitha Senanayake.
Gamini Viyangoda is a member of the ‘co-existence’ committee, along with Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu, that recommended the establishment of an International tribunal to try the Sri Lankan armed forces. Viyangoda was a member of the committee that advocated the restoration of ‘all monuments, statues and cemeteries built to honor dead terrorist’. Viyangoda appears to be more concerned about the death of Prabhakaran’s young son while ‘eating a biscuit in a bunker’ in Pudumatalan added Senanayake.
The armed forces are definitely not accepting the charge of war crimes, War Veterans Association of Sri Lanka heavily criticized the Association of War Affected Women for complaining to UN Human rights commissioner Pillay when she came to Sri Lanka in August 2013. . But as far as I can see, they have not formally repudiated the war crimes charges, either. They have however, sporadically rejected war crimes charges which were shoved under their noses.
The army did not use heavy artillery (175mm guns and above) or cluster munitions, said Lalin Fernando.. Army denied accusations by two catholic bishops, Rayappu and Saundranayagam that the army had used cluster bombs at the last stage of the Eelam war IV.
Ministry of Health refuted the reports made by Drs. T .Sathyamurthy RDHS Kilinocchhi and Dr T Varatharajah RDHS, Mullativu alleging that the death of several civilians have been caused due to shelling by the Sri Lanka army. They pointed out that Dr V had not carried out autopsies on the bodies, and that he had given different figure of the number of dead in two different statements. Also the two doctors had given contradictory figures in their statements. They had not reports the alleged deaths to the Ministry. They had been silent as regards the deaths caused by the LTTE, indicating that they were pawns of the LTTE.
At one time the US and other international orgs accused the army of killing Thayapararajah during the second week of Sept 2009. His body was never found and in May 2014 he was taken into custody for entering Tamilnadu illegally. Australia issued a new passport to Kumar Gunaratnam under the name noel Mudalige. Jesuthasan antonythasan who was listed among the disappeared starred in the film Dheepan” which won an award at Cannes film festival in 2015.
Sympathetic observers have also tried to fight the army’s battle. The charge that the army killed 40,000 people must be supported by evidence of the bodies, said Rajeewa Jayaweera. Concealment of piles of skeletons or mountains of ashes resulting from an estimated 40,000 bodies in an area that is not heavily forested is a virtual impossibility, said Rajeewa Jayaweera.
A confidential UN report, based on information provided by those who were trapped in the war zone, placed the number of the dead and wounded, including LTTE combatants at 7,721 and 18,479, respectively, said Shamindra Ferdinando. The report dealt with the situation in the Vanni from August 2008 to May 13, 2009. The War ended a week after the UN stopped collecting data due to intensity of fighting. . Further verification can be made as the identities of those who had provided information are known to the UN, he added.
The vast majority of the wounded civilians were evacuated by the ICRC. The Indian medical team tasked with receiving them should be able to explain specific measures taken by India to assist the war wounded, continued Shamindra Ferdinando.
There was an Indian medical team at Pulmoddai, north of Trincomalee to receive the wounded transferred from Puthumathalan under ICRC supervision. The Indian team remained there until the conclusion of the war. The Indian team received several thousand wounded civilians during February-May, 2009 via sea. The government commenced transferring war wounded by sea soon after fighting blocked overland routes to and from Vanni east. Both ICRC and India can furnish details regarding evacuations by the sea, said Shamindra.
Paranagama commission found that the principal reason for loss of life during the last phase of the war was the hostage taking and use of human shields. . Paranagama Commission found that it was the LTTE that killed majority of Tamil civilians during the last 12 hours of the final siege. What is not verified is how many hostages were actually killed by the LTTE.
Several of the leaked US diplomatic cables (Wiki leaks) supported the military, pointed out Shamindra. One leaked cable dealt with a discussion Geneva-based US Ambassador Clint Williamson had with ICRC Head of Operations for South Asia Jacques de Maio. The US envoy declared on July 15, 2009, that the Army actually could have won the battle faster with higher civilian casualties, yet chose a slower approach which led to a greater number of Sri Lankan military deaths.
British Defence attaché in Colombo, Lieutenant Colonel Anton Gash told Lord Naseby in January 2009 that he was surprised at the controlled discipline and success of the Sri Lankan army and in particular the care that it was taking to encourage civilians to escape and how well they were looked after, and that certainly there was no policy to kill civilians.
Gash also said in his dispatches that IDPs are being cared for in Trincomalee, he said, Welfare appears to be overriding security considerations. It is not possible to distinguish civilians from LTTE cadres as few are in uniform. Lastly, he said no cluster munitions were used.
Desmond de Silva and David M. Crane pointed out in their legal submission to the Paranagama Commission, that it is extremely unlikely that some 20,000 cadres of LTTE, at that stage, could have taken up to 330,000 hostages against their will. The probability is that a large section of the civilians went voluntarily with the LTTE I had come to this conclusion long ago.
Allegations that the government denied medicine food and other basic items to Vanni population should be matched against the supplies made available to Puthumathalan until the second week of May, 2009, said Shamindra.
Rajiva Wijesinghe observed that Col. Du Toit UN Security Chief in Sri Lanka was in Jaffna during the last phase of the war. Under close questioning, Du Toit had admitted that while there had been firing on areas near where he had been sleeping, he could not say with any certainty from which direction the firing had come. He had brought with him large pictures of craters caused by shells, and he took out one and said that was the only shot the direction of which they could be certain of, and that had come from the direction of the LTTE forces..
‘Groundviews’ commenting on the book ‘The Cage’ by Gordon Weiss, observed that retired Colonel Harun Khan who was with the UN convoy that went into Jaffna, in the last stage of the war, had taken photographs of the war zone. But the only photo provided in the book was actually taken on 22nd August 2008 at 5.08pm, and not in late January 2009.
Two catholic bishops, Rayappu and Savundranayagam said that the army had killed people at St Anthony ground in Puthumathalan in January 2009. This is clearly a fabrication, said Nalin de Silva. It is known that the armed forces were not in the vicinity of St Anthony’s ground area during that particular time in January 2008. Why did the LTTE keep silent if this was so? The bishops must be made to provide evidence.
The Sri Lankan army has formed a special unit, a Directorate of Overseas Operations to defend itself against war crimes charges, announced Army Commander, Lt.Gen.Mahesh Senanayake, in May 2018. The Army has established its own department to clear their name is because all these years the Army has depended on others to “tell their story”, and that has failed. Different people have been saying different things, but our voice has not been heard. The Army has not told its side of the story. In the absence of adequate support from those outside the army, the Army considers it necessary to set up a department to defend the army against these grave charges.
The Army is keen to clear the institution’s name. The defense has to be carried out with facts and figures. The Directorate of Overseas Operations is already engaged in the collection of the relevant material. “Different units of the army involved in the final offensive maintained figures of casualties. They must be collated.
There is no need to fear an inquiry since the army had not committed any violations wantonly. There was no wanton violation of the laws of war on a significant scale, continued Senanayake..A few personnel may have committed crimes, but the whole Army cannot be blamed for that. 14 personnel who had committed objectionable acts had been punished, Most accusations of abductions or physical elimination were made by non-residents of Sri Lanka and were based in hearsay. Only a proper inquiry would reveal the truth.
Yahapalana government has taken the unprecedented action of going to the UN, in Geneva and saying that its own army committed terrible war crimes and will the international community please come and prosecute them. This should get into the Guinness Book of Records. Because of this, Sri Lankan citizens and the army have come together to challenge the Geneva resolution. That may also make it to the Guinness book of records.
Two associations came forward to help, Federation of National Associations and Global Sri Lankan Forum. The GSLF said they decided to work with the army, to counter lies propagated by the international community and other interested parties, because it was clear that the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration wasn’t going to do anything of the sort.
These two organizations sponsored a team, led by Ven. Bemgmuwe Nalaka, to go to Geneva for the UNHRC session in 2017. The team consisted of Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera, Dr. Nalaka Godahewa, Mrs. Anuradha Yahampath, the Chairman of the Global Forum Mr. Wasantha Keerthiratne and several others of the Global Forum. The delegation planned to mount an offensive against the view that Sri Lankan forces committed war crimes, especially during the closing stages of the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
Weerasekera said he was going to Geneva in a bid to ‘put a stop’ to war crime allegations against the Army. He took with him, a 100-page dossier of facts to buttress his arguments against the allegations. This dossier had inputs from the top brass of the army, who had fought the war as well as lawyers and specialists in international human rights and humanitarian laws. The dossier held statistics proving how the war was won, also how humanitarian aid was distributed in the war zone. Weerasekera hoped to meet UN Human Rights Chief Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein and hand over this dossier.
I will be at the debating table when the Council takes up for discussion the Resolution on Sri Lanka, co-sponsored by the Government, on 20 March,” he said, adding that UN Human Rights Chief Zeid has violated his own mandate by getting involved in a sovereign country’s internal affairs.
Sarath Weerasekera and the Tamil Diaspora went head to head, at the debating table, reported the media. The tense feeling between both sides was clearly evident when Weerasekera and members of the Trans-National Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) delivered statements at the 34th session last week.
The GSLF team also appeared at a series of meetings on the sidelines of the sessions . Media reported that the team countered the terrorist sympathizers with valid arguments. At one of these side events, the TGTE called for the arrest of Weerasekera accusing him of being involved in war crimes in Sri Lanka. They wanted to know how a ‘war criminal’ was allowed to attend a side event in Geneva. A heated exchange then ensued as Weerasekera rubbished the claims and called for the arrest of the LTTE supporters in Geneva at the time.
At another discussion there were ten or so Eelamists in a row to the right of the speaker. The YouTube clips showed them laughing at the statements of their opponents, but not too confident. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wu6lc1w4FfM) There was a confrontation. Both sides hurled comments. The Eelamists tried to assault the anti-Eelamists and had to be led away. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNd_2UcF4TI) Reports from Tamil Nadu said that after a humiliating return from Geneva, Vaiko and the film producer Seaman held anti Sri Lankan demonstrations in Chennai and set fire to Sri Lankan flags.
There had been no contact between the government team and the Weerasekera team. Weerasekera said the government team ‘pretended to ignore me.’ “Harsha de Silva stated that we are abiding by that resolution and this was followed by 27 countries including China and Russia telling us to abide by the resolution. This was followed by seven or eight pro-LTTE NGOs giving a totally false picture of Sri Lanka and our armed forces. The UN was full of LTTE Diaspora represented through various NGOs. .
Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera returned to a rousing welcome at the Airport (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gG-0afrwJF8&t=38s) Participating in the Mokada Vune” news cut of the Derana News cast on 1st October he expressed displeasure about the government’s failure to respond to terrorist allegations and said that the government should take a firm stand on these matters without trying to appease the Tamil separatists who are hell bent on destroying the image of Sri Lanka.
The same team returned to Geneva for the 37th UNHRC session in March 2018. You Tube shows Eric Makawitage representing Global Sri Lankan Forum speaking at the Human Rights council on 14-03-2018. A protest organized by the Global Sri Lankans Forum (GSLF) was held outside the United Nations Office in Geneva. GSLF representatives from Italy, Britain, Denmark, Germany, France, Monaco, Sweden, and Switzerland took part in the demonstration.
GSLF said that it has taken up the responsibility to show the world that the majority of Sri Lankans reject the UN resolution on Sri Lanka, though it was endorsed by the government. The joint statement delivered at the 37th Session of the Human Rights Council on behalf of Macedonia, Montenegro, the United States, & the United Kingdom on Sri Lanka on 21 March 2018. , does not mention war crimes, that does not mean, however that the war crimes threat has gone away .it is probably hibernating.
The armed forces of Sri Lanka did not commit staggering war crimes in Eelam war IV. The LTTE did. LTTE committed many serious war crimes during the Eelam wars. They violated the International Humanitarian Law. . Here are some of the war crimes committed by the LTTE
LTTE violated sacred norms of war. International law prohibits the killing of soldiers who surrender. (ICRC Rule 47) The LTTE executed 200 soldiers captured during Pooneryn army camp attack (1993). LTTE burnt alive hundreds of Sri Lankan soldiers who had surrendered during Mullaitivu army camp attack (1996). LTTE desecrated the bodies of soldiers killed at Kalmunai. (1990).
Jeevan Base had four torture cells. A torture chamber was found at Puthumathalan. Boyagoda, who was held in captivity for a long time by the LTTE, said he had seen the torture chairs the LTTE locked their prisoners into before removing their fingernails. They saw other prisoners, who looked only half conscious, as if they had been tortured. I have heard screams from underground cells. . In one prison, we heard their cries, then the noise stopped, I think they were killed.
LTTE violations regarding the safety of civilians in war zones have not received the attention they deserve. International Humanitarian Law prohibits the use of human shields and the taking of hostages (ICRC Rules 96, 97). LTTE used civilians as human shields in the battle at Dharmapuram. The children and families of women cadres were placed in the frontline in battles so that the state military could be charged with civilian murder. In 2009, LTTE spectacularly used 200,000 Tamils as hostages moving them from place to place. When these hostages ran away from the LTTE, LTTE fired on them with machine guns.
Impersonating soldiers of the other side by wearing the enemy’s uniform, and fighting in that uniform, is forbidden. LTTE posing as elite police commandos fired at a bus killing 11 Sinhalese including 2 children at Arantalawa (1996). LTTE cadres dressed in military uniforms, shot dead 127 Sinhalese civilians, at Habarana, including 31 police and security force personnel who were travelling in 3 buses and 2 trucks to Trincomalee. They stopped the vehicles and dragged out the passengers and shot them to death with automatic weapons after brutally assaulting them with clubs. Over 70 with injuries were air lifted. The dead included many children and 12 off duty security personnel. Most of the victims were families visiting their relatives for the New Year. (1987)
The use of chemical weapons and poisons is prohibited in war (ICRC Rules 72, 73). LTTE used chemical weapons against Gemunu watch at Nachchikudah. Chlorine gas was used at Kiran and tear gas was fired from launchers at Akkarayan. The use of tear gas is prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention. Cans of poison gas were found buried in Puthukkudiyiruppu. Tippmann A-5 guns, capable of firing deadly chemicals were also found.
The Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-Personnel Mines bans the use and stock piling of mines. LTTE heavily mined the approaches to their territory. More than 770,000 anti-personnel land mines have been recovered so far. Mine attacks killed and maimed many armed services personnel. ‘We amputated a lot of legs.’ said the surgeons. LTTE devised a mine which damaged a soldier’s leg in such a way that a prosthetic could not be fitted to it. Mine manufacturing factories were found in Mullativu. Mines were stockpiled. A cache of 1093 mines emerged at Govipal Aru area, Ampara. Another cache had 18,000–20,000 mines.
Article 51(2) of Additional Protocol I prohibits acts of violence intended to create terror among the civilian population”. LTTE ignored this. There were ambushes and killings. Twenty-five civilians who were traveling in a lorry from Negombo at Kokuvil were ambushed by LTTE cadres, who killed 14 of them.
LTTE used bombs to create terror. Bombs were placed on roads, buses, trains, in post offices, railway stations, once in a department store. Bomb explosions in the south were in predominantly Sinhala populated areas. Tamil populated areas such as Kotahena, in Colombo, were not bombed. LTTE bombed Central Bank building, killing more than 100 and wounding about 1,400. Four simultaneous bombs exploded in Colombo-Alutgama train resulting in 64 deaths and 400 wounded. A bus carrying 140 civilians in Kebithigollewa was bombed. A powerful Claymore-type roadside bomb, packed with explosives and ball-bearings hit a passenger bus at Buttala, killing 27 civilians and wounding 67 others. Passengers who ran out of the bus were shot.
Suicide bombing is universally considered a crime. LTTE used suicide bombers to attack vital locations (Katunayake), installations, (Kolonnawa), institutions (Central Bank) and public places where crowds gathered. These persons exploded themselves on roads, buses, trains and at public functions. They rammed into their targets using truck, jeep, motorcycle and once even by rickshaw. There were suicide divers as well using underwater scooters, fishing boats and stealth craft. These ‘Black Tigers’ were glorified as’ ‘highly motivated, well trained, able to get at heavily guarded targets’. But military specialists point out that the suicide bomber is a tool, not a hero. He is given sleep inducing drugs, and then trained to obey a handler and respond to trigger words. The handler activates the bomber at the right time.
There are ‘protected’ places which cannot be attacked in war. Additional Protocol 1 (1977) prohibits attacks on installations and vital institutions. LTTE bombed Central Telegraph office, attacked Kelanitissa power station , Kolonnawa, Orugodawatte oil storages, gas storage, Muthurajawela. Placed of religious worship are also protected sites. Attacks on them are considered criminal acts (ICRC Rule 38, 40, Hague Convention 1999). LTTE did not target churches, kovils or mosques, only Buddhist sites. A truck with explosives was sent into the Dalada Maligawa. Samudragiri vihara, Illankathurai was destroyed. Stupas at Verugal, Kalladi and Toppur were used as communication towers. It appears, also that heavy weapons were installed at Thoppigala. Kumbakaranamale Chaitya, Ampakaman, was used as a food store and Wedivetttukallu Chaitya was used as a bunker.
There are ‘protected persons’ as well, whom soldiers are forbidden to kill (Geneva Convention IV). They include Buddhist monks. LTTE targeted Buddhist monks. Kitulagama Seelalankara Nayaka Thera of the Dimbulagala Forest monastery was assassinated in 1995. In 1987 armed LTTE cadres ambushed a bus taking Buddhist monks on a pilgrimage, ordered the bus to Arantalawa jungle, and killed the chief priest and all 30 samanera monks in a brutal manner, using swords, guns and machine guns. One monk was permanently disabled.
LTTE also targeted worshippers in Buddhist temples. In 1985, LTTE entered Anuradhapura main bus station and opened fire with automatic weapons, killing and wounding civilians who were waiting for buses. The LTTE cadres then drove to the Sri Maha Bodhi and gunned down worshippers, killing 146 persons including children. Somawathi vihara was attacked twice. The second shooting was done to discourage pilgrims coming to the temple on Esala Poya. A bomb killed 23 and injured 70 at a Buddhist temple in Batticaloa during Vesak in 2000. The bomb that exploded in an Anuradhapura-Kandy private bus at Dambulla (2008) was to be exploded at Ruwanveliseya when a ‘pichchamal pujawa’ was in progress with thousands of devotees taking part in the ceremony. The informant who had carried the bomb had been accompanied by her mother and sister, all posing as Buddhist devotees going on pilgrimage.
ICRC Rule 88 prohibits discrimination against any particular ethnic group. LTTE systematically attacked Sinhala civilians. LTTE cadres killed twelve Sinhalese villagers working at an irrigation canal construction site in Omadiyamadu, close to Welikanda in Polonnaruwa district (2006). In 1986 and 1987 LTTE ambushed three buses in Polonnaruwa district, separated the Sinhalese from the others and murdered 127 of them. In Pulmoddai LTTE stopped a private bus, removed the Sinhalese and killed them. 25 Sinhalese passengers travelling by bus on Potuvil-Moneragala road were shot dead. A private bus was stopped by LTTE cadres, who removed Sinhalese and killed 11 including three policemen. 40 Sinhalese passengers in the night-mail train from Batticaloa were killed by LTTE cadres who stopped the train at Valaichchenai (1986.)
LTTE attacked over 75 unprotected Sinhala villages in Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Vavuniya, Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara districts. The main target was Sinhala villages in Trincomalee district. Villagers took to sleeping in the surrounding jungle during the night for safety. Some villages were attacked more than once. Arantalawa, Mahadiulwewa, Namalwatte and Serunuwara were attacked twice. Wadigawewa thrice, Morawewa four times. Many of those killed were women and children. Pregnant mothers were specially targeted.
LTTE killed in a brutal manner. There were massacres in the Sinhala villages of Morawewa, Gomarankandawela, Kantale, Ganthalawa and Seruwila (late 1980s). In 2009 ten civilians including children were killed at Rathmalgaha Ella near Rathugala in Inginiyagala and 21 Sinhala villagers at Kirimetiyaya on the Bibile-Ampara road. At Kithulutuwa 127 men, women and children were slaughtered. At a press conference to discuss the film ‘Gamani,’ a speaker who had lived in the threatened villages said that the situation was far worse than what had been shown in the film. The film shows only little of what actually happened.
At Arantalawa, LTTE cadres armed with swords, machetes, clubs and small-arms killed 27 to 28 civilians including women and children, in a night house-to-house raid at Arantalawa. Pregnant mothers were found hacked to death. Their necks were slashed. Armed LTTE cadres stormed Serunuwara village, herded the farming families at gunpoint on to a road and shot them there in execution style. At Morawewa, villagers were brutally tortured before they were murdered. At Sagarapura a house-to-house massacre was carried out. They hacked the adults with sharp instruments and clubbed children to death in front of their parents. They looted the houses and set fire to them, burning the wounded victims alive. At Godapotta LTTE, surrounded the temple and attacked a gathering of over 175 villagers who had met to discuss a new temple. http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=86562
The Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict forbids the enlistment of anyone under the age of 18 into the armed forces. According to the UN LTTE recruited 6,905 children. . They were forcibly taken away from their families and placed in the front line. A large number died in battle. Child soldiers rescued by the army refused to go back to their families. They can’t recognize their parents. Some don’t even know their names,” the army said. ( continued)