Monday, May 17, 2010


Read the full ICG report

The Sri Lankan government killed thousands of its civilians by shelling "no-fire zones" in the last months of the country's decades-long civil war that ended a year ago, an independent group said Monday.

The Brussels-based International Crisis Group urged the United Nations and Sri Lanka's aid donors to press for a war crimes investigation into the military offensive that finally crushed the separatist Tamil Tiger guerrillas.

The ICG said the military encouraged hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians to move into government-declared "no-fire zones" and then subjected them to "repeated and increasingly intense artillery and mortar barrages."

"This continued through May despite the government and security forces knowing the size and location of the civilian population and scale of civilian casualties," the ICG charged.

It repeated allegations that government troops also intentionally shelled hospitals as well as aid operations run by international relief agencies.

"The consequences of the security forces' shelling were made substantially worse by the government's obstruction of food and medical treatment for the civilian population," it added.

The report, released on Monday, said Sri Lanka's leaders must be held accountable for the civilian deaths, and it also blamed the Tamil Tigers for war atrocities.

"The substantial body of evidence collected by the Crisis Group since August 2009 offers a compelling case for investigation of the conduct of hostilities and the role of the military and political leadership on both sides," it said.

The ICG said it had collected eyewitness statements as well as hundreds of photographs, videos, satellite images, electronic communications and documents from multiple sources to support the charges.


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Monday, May 17, 2010

Sri Lanka Forces blamed for most civilian deaths

Read the full ICG report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Their calculation, ultimately an incorrect one, was that escalating civilian casualties would eventually get the attention of the international community to broker a cease-fire so the L.T.T.E. could regroup or perhaps enter negotiations,” the report said, using initials the Tamil Tigers are also known by.

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

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

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

© The New York Times

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Monday, May 17, 2010

A fortnight gone, Tissa not yet pardoned

By Susitha R. Fernando - Two weeks had gone but formalizing the Presidential Pardon granted to senior journalist J. S. Tissainayagam is yet to be finalized. Jailed journalist J. S. Tissainayagam who is on bail is still awaiting the completion of the legal procedure to obtain the President’s pardon issued on him officially.

The Attorney General Mohan Peiris last week said that the procedure with regard to the Presidential pardon on jailed journalist would be finalized during the course of the week. The Attorney General had also said that the pardon would be effected simultaneous with the withdrawal of appeal filed by Tissainayagam before the Court of Appeal.

The AG also assured that it would not be necessary for journalist Tissaiinayagam to go back to prison even though the appeal from which he was bailed, is withdrawn.

“We would workout a way to effect the pardon simultaneous to withdrawal,” AG Peiris had said. When contacted yesterday a senior officer from the Attorney General’s Department said that a meeting had been held with the attorneys of journalist Tissainayagam and pardon would be effected in “a couple of days” from the withdrawal of the appeal from Court of Appeal.

“Once the Appeal is withdrawn necessary formalities will be done to officially handover the pardon,” spokesman who wants to remain anonymous told the Daily Mirror. Exactly two weeks ago, on May 3, External Affairs Minister G. L. Peiries announced that J. S. Tissainayagam would be freed on a Presidential Pardon.

Minister Peiries made this announcement on the World Press Freedom Day at a press conference where a large number of foreign and local media were gathered.

Subsequently the news that President Mahinda Rajapaksa had decided to pardon journalist Tissaiinayagam was given much publicity both locally an internationally.

Tissaiinayagam who was sentenced to twenty years rigorous imprisonment was granted bail on January 11 following an application filed by him. In August 2009 Tissaiinayagam was convicted under three charges of conspiracy and violating the Prevention of Terrorism Act and emergency regulations. Tissainayagam was arrested in 2008 and charged with inciting violence in articles for his magazine. While media rights organizations rallied on behalf of Tissainayagam throughout his arrest and detention, eight media organization including Editors’ Guild on last September wrote to the President urging that Tissainayagam be given a pardon. Last September, Tissainayagam was given an award for courageous and ethical journalism by the Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and he was also named the first recipient of the Peter Mackler Award.

© Daily Mirror

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Sri Lanka: Life is still miserable for resettled northerners

By Gayan Kumara Weerasinghe - “When they say we have been resettled, people of this county think that we are living a happy, decent life. But, that’s far from the truth. We are still the under privileged people without proper shelter and proper settlement plan. We shed tears everyday”, say the war victims who are now resettled.

Lakbimanews toured the North to find out how these people have learned to survive after the war came to an end.

Kamala Raja Maidilee, a 28-year-old resident from the Kanda area of Kilinochchi lives with her family in a house that can hardly be called a house. We met her during a journey we took to inspect the situation of the resettled people in Kilinochchi, Mankulam, Kanagarayakulam and Puliyankulam areas, after a year since the LTTE were crushed last year.

“There are four members in my family,” she said, ‘’which includes her mother, father, and her younger brother’’. “My father worked for the Irrigation Department. I passed the A/Ls but did not get sufficient marks to enter the university. My brother passed the O/Ls and he is doing A/Ls now. I worked for some time as a Development Officer in Kanda for the Red Cross. However, as the tensions of war were escalating, we had to live essentially in hiding for two years; we thought that the LTTE would kidnap me and my brother. Now we are safe here. On April 22, 2009, we were asked go to a Displaced Persons Camp. We were given the chance to go back to our villages on the April 29, 2010 after one year. We had to live in displaced camps under several restrictions and we were wordlessly happy when we were told that we would be sent back to our villages. However, it was the worst experience ever, when we returned to the villages. We, in fact, thought that we had come to the wrong place. Our houses remained where they were ... but all were destroyed. We had no place to stay. We only had the 12 aluminum sheets that the government provided; it seemed that the displaced camp was better,” she said tear filled eyes.

The house which was destroyed during the war, was about to collapse any time. It had no doors, windows or a roof. Maidilee lives in this house after having constructing a tiny shelter with the aluminum sheets she received from the government. She lives here with her parents and brother.

“Although my father worked for the government, he didn’t even get a pension. My parents are old now and they are unable to do anything. As my brother is still studying, I have to earn for them. When I was in the displaced camp, I was teaching in a primary school. I was paid Rs.3000 by a NGO and Rs.2000 by the government. Yet, when I left for resettlement, I lost this job.’’

“The roads are built, and we have electricity and telephones. But, these are not the basics; we need employment, proper housing and other facilities. Our dream is to rebuild our destroyed house. How can I do this all by myself?” she said. Having no one to share her grief she looked so helpless. However, she is very happy about the end of the war and goes on to say that the death of Prabhakaran has given them eternal peace.

“The war is now over and we’d rather not talk about it anymore. We had to endure all these troubles as a result of the war and if the war resumes, I will commit suicide,” she recounted her ordeal with this strong remark.

We travelled passing the Omanthai check point on A 9 to see how the resettled people live there. We could sense that these people were striving hard to re build their lives. The displaced community had cultivated their lands and paddy fields being an example to the whole country.

“When we came to the village from the camps, we did not have a place to rest, and we had to find shelter under trees and stones” says S. Jeyaruwan, a 49 year old resident of the Puliyan Kulam- Paraenkulam. We met him at a cement distribution centre.

“We can now live happily in our villages. Even though it was told that we had been resettled, we had no house to stay as our houses were flattened during the war. We were given only 12 aluminum sheets to build our house. How can we re-build a house with only 12 aluminum sheets? We had no toilets or water facilities. At the least, they should have provided us with basic facilities before resettling us.’’ Jeyaruwan was not blaming the government, but pointed out the flaws in the procedures. On the contrary, Jeyaruwan agrees that the people of Vanni are living happily even sans the basic facilities since the war was the big headache. He is also of the view that this state of freedom can be further enhanced by creating employment to the people of Vanni.

House instead cement

We also met Y. Padmarubi, the Grama Niladari of the North Puliyankulam. She was guiding the procedure of distributing cement and mentioned that in her area alone, there were 216 resettlements. “They returned to their dwellings on 5th December last year but they were not provided with sufficient facilities during the resettlement; however now things are falling into places gradually” said Ms Padmarubi.

We also spoke to some people who were in a queue to get their share of cement. When asked what will they do with the cement, one person replied, “Will keep it as it was given to us”, “Will cement my floor”, “Will build a house when I get the sand and stones,” said others...

These answers show that even though they have been provided with cement, they have no plans for real use of the stuff, because they did not have the other building materials.

“How useful it would be if the government had built some houses rather than distributing these cement bags in such a manner” queried Krishnasami, a resident of Mutthumari Nagar in Puliyankulam. He went onto say that this activity could have been well planned with the support of the police or army. He is also of the view that unplanned activities lead to unsuccessful results. “I made a living when some people hired me as a labourer. I am unable to work anymore due to my old age and illness. I have to make a living with the support of another,” said Krishnasami.

According to Sinnasami, his birth place is Matale. He lived at the Wariyapola tea estate when he was young. He came to Vanni to work as his income was not sufficient. He has a good rapport with the Sinhala people from the South and agrees that the people of the North require the support of the people from the South. He also mentioned that the younger generation in the South must take the initiative to work shoulder to shoulder with the people of the North to develop the country.

On a daily basis, on the A 9 Road, there are thousands of vehicles heading towards the North from the South carrying passengers to Nagadeepa and Jaffna. On some weekends, more than 100,000 people travel on this road.

Even though the resettled community built tea kiosks for the travellers, travellers from the south prefer to use the hotels built by the army. We also witnessed how these people of the South walking towards hotels built by the army ignor the small shops run by the replaced community.

© Lakbima News

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Sri Lanka: UN must investigate human rights violations

Amnesty International today called on the United Nations to set up an immediate and independent investigation into the massive human rights violations committed by both government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam forces, commonly known as the Tamil Tigers, during the country’s recent civil war. The call came a day before the first anniversary of the end of the conflict (18 May).

The failure to act so far has left victims of human rights violations with no access to justice, truth or reparations. Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans displaced at the end of decades-long conflict languish in camps or struggle to rebuild their shattered communities.

Madhu Malhotra, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Asia-Pacific, said:

“The UN never revealed what it knew about the final days of the conflict, acknowledged the scale of the abuse that took place, or pushed for accountability.

“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.”

Instead of investigating and prosecuting those suspected of violations during the war and providing reparations to victims, in the past 12 months the Sri Lankan government has jailed critics and clamped down on dissent.

“Many thousands of civilians died. However, attempts by the government to cover up the full extent of the violations by prohibiting independent monitoring means that the numbers of deaths may even be in the tens of thousands,” said Madhu Malhotra.

One year on, the situation for civilian communities caught up in the conflict shows no sign of improving:
· 80,000 people remain in camps with little access to water, decent sanitation and medical supplies;
· 300,000 displaced civilians who have tried to resettle remain vulnerable and struggle to survive in communities where homes and infrastructure were destroyed;
· Thousands of people detained for suspected links to the Tamil Tigers remain in detention without access to the courts;
· The government continues to extend the state of emergency, restricting many basic human rights and freedom of speech;
· And no meaningful action has been taken to investigate reports of war crimes.

On this first anniversary of the end of the conflict, Amnesty International is focusing worldwide attention on the continuing impunity in Sri Lanka and demanding justice for victims and the families of those killed, with members around the world holding events today and in the coming weeks.

© Amnesty International

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Monday, May 17, 2010

'Setting deadline for resettlement of Tamils is unrealistic': Lankan Foreign Minister

By Naveen Kapoor - Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Professor G.L. Peiris has said that setting a deadline to rehabilitation of the displaced Tamils is "unrealistic".

In an exclusive interview with the Asian News International, the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister spoke in detail about the growing concerns of India on the rehabilitation of the displaced Tamils in Sri Lanka.

When asked if the Sri Lankan Government has set any deadline for the rehabilitation of the displaced Tamils in its country, Peiris said: "It is unrealistic to talk of deadline."

He said there could be "nothing more destructive of credibility than to set deadlines. I don't think that is the right way to say about it; not to tie yourself with the rigid deadlines."

"In a spirit of goodwill, perseverance, to try hard to do it as soon as possible that is very much the aim of the Sri Lankan government. [While] dealing with its own people, nobody can be more concerned than the Government of Sri Lanka," he stated.

Ironically, last May, just after the defeat of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), when the election season had just begun, President Rajapakse had set six-month deadline for resettling the displaced Tamils. However, the Sri Lankan government failed to fulfill its commitment.

The minister further said: "With the help of friendly countries like India" they can do their best for the people, who have suffered so much from the conflict that lasted for so long.

Peiris said: "We started with about 300,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), which is down to less than 50,000 and even out of these 50,000 keep moving in and out. So very considerable progress has been made with regard to that."

Sri Lankan government has come under severe criticism for ignoring and neglecting the human rights of the displaced Tamils, But Peiris disagreed and said: "Government of Sri Lanka is sending food, medical supplies. India has been immensely helpful with regard to that. Recently, they have sent a large quantity of roofing sheet. So the Government of India and other governments have been very helpful in this regard and the humanitarian aspect of things is being catered for it's improving very rapidly."

"The Government of Sri Lanka has an obligation. They are our people. We are determined to do the best we can," Peiris said and added: "I would say, in near future, we would expect them all to be settled." (ANI)

© Sify News

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