The Island newspaper continues to publish leaks from the report produced by the Panel appointed by the UN Secretary General to look into post-war accountability in Sri Lanka. Groundviews has contextualised in detail the Executive Summary and Parts 1, 2345 and 6 of the leaks.

The Island published today Part 7 which deals with credible allegations of war crimes by the Sri Lankan Government and its armed forces that include the deliberate targeting of civilians in the so-called No Fire Zones (NFZs) and wholly inadequate measures to protect civilians from shelling. As the Panel succinctly notes, “… the Government’s instructions for civilians to move into the NFZs, only to be subsequently shelled by the SLA, disregarded this rule and in fact amounted to a cynical manipulation of it.”

As before, we provide context and background information to frame these highlights. Much of the context in this story is actually part of that which was given in previous stories covering other aspects of the leaked UN report. Links to these stories with their related content have been provided.

“In terms of paragraph (1)(a) of Common Article 3, i.e. violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture, credible allegations point to the murder of civilians in widespread shelling of an indiscriminate nature by the SLA. These include attacks in the three No Fire Zones. ”

“The credible allegations also point to murder insofar as information, such as the Channel 4 videos, indicates that the SLA executed unarmed LTTE cadre who were taken into custody, particularly during the final days of the war.”

“The credible allegations indicate that the Government of Sri Lanka did not respect the fundamental principle of distinction. The Government stated that its military operations in the Vanni yielded zero civilian casualties, when credible estimates of civilian casualties are in the tens of thousands; it also provided vastly low estimates of civilians trapped in the conflict zone.”

“International humanitarian law prohibits attacks on civilians and civilian objects. Attacks may be directed only against military objects and combatants (Rule 7, ICRC Study)…. In regard to the presence of the LTTE in the proximity of civilians in the NFZs, international tribunals, including the ICTY, have clarified that the ban on attacks against civilians protects a population that is “predominantly civilian”, and “the presence within the civilian population of individuals who do not come within the definition of civilian [i.e. combatants] does not deprive the population of its civilian character.”

“As for any argument that the SLA did not intend to make the civilian population the object of attack, but that its attacks were aimed at the LTTE, an attack remains unlawful if it is conducted simultaneously at a lawful military object and an unlawfully-targeted civilian population.”

“In addition, with respect to hospitals, the law is clear that the possible presence of wounded LTTE in some hospitals does not transform those hospitals into legitimate military targets – they remain protected civilian objects.”

“It is thus clear to the Panel that credible allegations point to a violation of the ban on attacks directed against civilians insofar as the SLA, whether deliberately or recklessly, attacked civilians situated in the NFZs, as well as other civilian objects, such as hospitals and other humanitarian objects, including food distribution lines. In addition, the widespread shelling that is credibly alleged, notably across the succession of NFZs where the civilian population went at the Government’s urging, also points to a violation of the customary law rule that prohibits attacks, the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among civilians (Rule 2, ICRC Study).”

“While the Panel does not have information on all incidents, credible allegations suggest numerous violations of this provision insofar as the attacks on the NFZs were broadly disproportionate to the military advantage anticipated from such attacks. The Government’s repeated declaration that it had ceased using heavy weapons in these NFZs points to awareness that such usage could be considered disproportionate. Broadly speaking, once both the civilian population and the LTTE were confined to the very limited spaces of the second and third NFZs, the LTTE was no longer mobile as an armed force, and more precise means to defeat the LTTE than barrages of widely-spread artillery and mortar attacks could and should have been employed in order to ensure respect for international humanitarian law.”

“The leaflets that were periodically distributed in the Vanni did not constitute sufficient precautions for specific attacks. In addition, the Government’s instructions for civilians to move into the NFZs, only to be subsequently shelled by the SLA, disregarded this rule and in fact amounted to a cynical manipulation of it.”

  • Shashi

    Dear Groundviews

    Not just cynical manipulation of international law in the case of -Murdering civilians in No Fire Zones and other war crimes allegations – but complete disregard to the very basic norm of any civilized society.

    What happened in the Sri Lanka war is beyond believe and only exists in the worse nightmare.

    —————————

    But the cynical manipulation of the International Community by Repressive Rajapaksa Regime still continues

    Sri Lanka Minister Peiris says “No reconciliation if the UN report is released”.

    This is blackmail.

    He implies eradication of SL Tamils will continue unabated.

    Will Repressive Rajapaksa Regime succeed?

    Probably not. Hitler tried hard in a similar task but failed.

    • TT

      He need not say it. It is happening!

      Reconciliation is dead.

      Most Sri Lankans don’t need reconciliation. Reconciliation is about reducing the triumphalism of the winner and cushioning defeatism of the loser.

      Now there is no need for it. Tamil Elam sympathising Tamils have been pushed down to defeatism and others are elevated to triumphalism once again.

      As USA celebrates the victory over Japan, Sri Lanka celebrates the victory over Tamil Elamists. Harping on the Hiroshima/Nagasaki disasters only encourages more American triumphalism and reinforces Japanese defeatism.

      So called war crimes for some are war chimes for the others. Government was trying to bridge this gap but that is all wasted now. I hope GOSL won’t waste any more resources on reconciliation and instead compel the losers to toe the line UNCONDITIONALLY. It will eventually benefit them most.

      Tamil media in SL are in full gear hatemongering.

      Will there be hate crimes? If so security forces should aggressively put them down at any cost irrespective of the ethnicity of the culprits.

    • TT

      This video released by none other than the Ministry of Defence proves SLA fired and destroyed parts of the No Fire Zone. The final battle was fought in the No Fire Zone.

      http://www.defence.lk/videos/20090517_WanniOPs1.wmv

      Bunt out LTTE artillery guns and some unharmed LTTE artillery and naval guns (it is illegal to use them on land) are dime a dozen in the No Fire Zone! 🙂

      LTTE used the No Fire Zone for military purposes making it a legitimate target. Something tells me that the government deliberately declared a No Fire Zone knowing the LTTE cowards will move their artillery guns there. It was a death trap and the LTTE fell into it hook, line and stinker! A reason was created to hammer them. LTTE had no choice. If it left behind the weapons and hide in the NFZ, civilians would have killed them. If they took weapons, SLA would have attacked them. SLA battle planners did well to run the LTTE out of options. A very clever strategy according to Sun Tsu.

      Making use of the international law to legitimately kill is not a crime; it is a smart move.

      Well done Sri Lanka Army.

      In addition, as DB says, the NFZ had no validity in international law. Many NFZs were declared by the government as it fancied. LTTE and the UN never agreed to them and had no authority to disagree either.

      • sabbe laban

        TT

        I fully agree with the practicality of what you say. The triumphalism should last forever. That will elevate the national pride of all the Sri Lankans(except the handfull of cry-babies) That national pride will help Sri Lanka reach unprecedented heights! I thank GOSL and its present leadership for achieving it;for defeating the boot-lickers of elitism ideologically. The strength of Sri Lanka is its people;not the boot-lickers of the West who preach elitism.

      • TT

        Oh the crybabies and their long list of bad luck stories!
        Haven’t we heard them before.

        If you appease them, they cry MORE!

        🙁

        If you don’t appease them, they slowly learn to be content.

        There was a time when SL politicians RAN after them with political solutions on plates begging them to accept them!

        Thank god they didn’t!

  • The NFZs have no legal standing, and therefore shelling the NFZs itself is not a war crime if it is determined that said shelling was in fact targeting Tigers within the NFZs.

  • Barath

    Thank you Groundviews for your tireless effort to tell the truth !!

    Recently, Gordon Weiss acknowledged your high journalistic standards in interview with The Economic Times

    He said: “… the press in Sri Lanka are part of the problem [media manipulation by the Sri Lanka State].

    Then there is some very good stuff coming out of organisations like Groundviews (a website for citizen journalists). But a lot of the press are controlled by the government, or allowed to print and broadcast only because they are controllable. ”

    http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/opinion/interviews/india-shouldnt-have-endorsed-lankas-brutal-war/articleshow/8086106.cms