US report on the conflict in Sri Lanka

Report to Congress on Incidents During Conflict in Sri Lanka

I now understand why this report was initially delayed. It was to be released on 21 September 2009, but was pushed back a month.

The authors of the report were keen to note on page 3 that this report never intended to be "a comprehensive portrayal of the conflict."

The authors also stress that, "the report does not reach legal conclusions as to whether the incidents described herein actually constitute violations of IHL, crimes against humanity or other violations of international law. Nor does it reach conclusions concerning whether the alleged incidents detailed herein actually occurred."

The report says US government sources could not determine who was responsible for the shelling in the No Fire Zone, even with satellite images. [Page 10]

The report states, "In the context of civilian casualties, an analysis of whether particular military operations were conducted consistent with the laws of war would require an understanding of who committed the harms and the knowledge.."

Children in Armed Conflict

The report is extremely critical of the abduction and use of children as soldiers by the Tamil Tigers. Much of the evidence pointing to forcible child recruitment, by the Tamil Tigers, originate from eyewitness accounts published on news sources such as the Indian daily The Hindu and the BBC.

The report claims the Tamil Tigers recruited children as young as 12. In one instance when a child refused to be recruited the report claims he had, "both his arms broken by the LTTE as punishment."

According to the report, between 21-24 March 2009, when Tamil protesters around the world wanted Sri Lanka to stop it's offensive against the Tamil Tigers, the Tigers rounded up 400 Tamil children who had sought refuge at the Valaiganar Catholic Church, and took them to Tamil Tiger combat training camps.

Harms to Civilians and Civilian Objects

Despite no solid evidence, and claiming that in it's summary, the report cites unnamed sources who claimed that "majority of shelling in the NFZ was from GSL forces."

The report also mentions the Tamil Tigers use of Tamils as a human shield to protect it's leaders. But fails to acknowledge the Tamil Tigers' tactics within the No Fire Zone.

It was widely reported that the Tigers sought international intervention to free their leaders. They put women and children in harms way with hopes that the international community would pressure Sri Lanka to stop it's offensive. All this whilst conducting it's own offensive missions, which included the use of Battle Tanks within the No Fire Zone and artillery.

This section of the report also touches on the concern Sri Lanka had for Tamil civilians. It mentions the ceasefires the Sri Lankan government enforced, giving Tamil civilians an opportunity to flee the clutches of the Tamil Tigers. The gesture would be sufficient to disprove the notion that Sri Lanka showed no concern for civilian life. Furthermore, as testimony to the concern for collateral damage, the final thrust to crush the LTTE dragged on for 2 years. Relentless and thoughtless bombardment would cut that time down in half.

According to the report civilians who assisted the Tamil Tigers and took part in hostilities loose their immunity from International Humanitarian Law. Civilian establishments such as schools and hospitals loose immunity if they were being used by the Tamil Tigers.

Unnamed sources on the report claim the Puthukkudiyiruppu was repeatedly shelled in January 2009. But the report is quick to point out that satellite images taken on January 28 2009 of the hospital "did not appear to show visible damage and appeared to be functioning." Which again highlights the Tamil Tigers use of the media to falsely claim hospitals were being shelled.

It should be pretty clear that much of the allegations, thus far, pointing to the fact that the Sri Lankan government intensionally shelled and killed civilians, breaking International Humanitarian Laws, seem very loose. However, the evidence pointing to Tamil Tiger child abductions and forcible recruitment and abuse towards Tamil children and their parents all stem from eye witness accounts from Tamils. Importantly, they don't only stem from unaccountable rights groups like Human Rights Watch, but from neutral news sources speaking to Tamil refugees who fled the conflict zone.

An artillery shell can be fired from a significant distance. Far away from it's intended target. Therefore, to claim to know the source of the shelling would require super human ability. Interestingly, closer scrutiny of the time line of the alleged artillery shell attacks, compared with important UN meetings involving Sri Lanka and crucial global debates pertaining to Sri Lanka, will reveal that allegations of artillery attacks, and deaths as a result, increased when international pressure on Sri Lanka intensified. A tactic used worldwide by various movements using civilian plight as a tool to further their own needs.

The report utilises video broadcast by an unnamed media outlet which claimed it was filmed from within the No Fire Zone. That too at a time when only the Tamil Tigers had cameras within the zone.

In March 2009 when the UN Security Council met in an informal meeting on Sri Lanka, the accusations turned from artillery shell attacks to Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher attacks. The casualty figures pouring out of Tiger controlled territory increased ten fold.

Most Tamil civilians cited in this section of the report all fled the No Fire Zone, and provided eye witness accounts of the Tamil Tigers executing people who were fleeing the No Fire Zone.

All sources who claim to have known the source of shelling, were pro-Tiger and permitted to speak to the media via Tamil Tiger satellite phones. If contacted, media outlets will verify that their contact with individuals from within the No Fire Zone occurred via satellite phone.

Killing of Captives or Combatants Seeking to Surrender

Despite having over 15,000 Tamil Tiger combatants in custody, and giving former leaders of the Tamil Tigers a due legal process, Sri Lanka is faced with allegations of executing Tamil Tiger combatants after their surrender.

The report claims, "A number of sources alleged that the GSL committed unlawful killings. There is video footage showing purported evidence of GSL soldiers killing captive Tamils in January. Separately, multiple reports alleged that in the final few days of fighting, between May 14 and May 18, senior LTTE leaders contacted international representatives via satellite phone in an effort to broker a surrender but were killed after they allegedly reached a surrender agreement with the GSL."

Much of the accusations within this section stem from a video which claims to picture Sri Lankan soldiers killing blindfolded men, and that the Tigers wanted to broker a surrender before they were annhilated.

In regards to the video, read this. Make what you may of the investigation carried out by Sri Lanka to prove the video is a fake. Sri Lanka has thousands of former combatants in prisons, and most are being rehabilitated with the assistance of international humanitarian agencies. This backs Sri Lanka's claim of rehabilitation not revenge.

The theory that some Tiger leaders attempted to broker a surrender and were shot first surfaced on a pro-Tamil Tiger website. With the sophisticated weaponry and the huge amounts of currency found on the party which was to surrender, it is clear that they wanted no part of any surrender.

Furthermore, Kumaran Pathmanathan, made it very clear in an interview with Channel 4 that none of the Tamil Tiger leaders were interested in surrendering.

Disappearances

While the report claims that the government, and government backed "paramilitaries" abducted and killed Tamils. Much of the substantial accusations of disappearance appear to revolve around the government's screening for combatants. The report does raise valid concerns in regards to the immediate need for documenting and reporting on the well being of combatants, or persons, taken away from within IDP cams, for questioning and lawful incarceration.

The report states, "As is common in the aftermath of armed conflict, there have been reports that organizations had located some of the people previously believed to have disappeared during the conflict."

Humanitarian Conditions

According to the report, it is alleged that the government of Sri Lanka intensionally under estimated the population in the No Fire Zone and as a result the food and medical supplies were inadequate. The report claims this was to "pressure civilians to escape."

This video by Al Jazeera provides a first hand account from a woman who fled the No Fire Zone. She says the Tigers stole most of the supplies sent for them and sold it back to them. As a result starving thousands who had no money. The malnourishment you see in the displaced is as a direct result of that.

Appendix A: Photos
[Page 63]

Photo 1: Shows men, women and children behind barbed wire in IDP camps. Not knowing that barbed wire is the most common fencing material in Asia, the developed world associates with inhumane imprisonment.

Photo 2: A photo which is said to be from within the No Fire Zone, when the Tamil Tigers remained active, shows civilians queueing up for medicine. It has to be noted that, as pointed out in this very report, it was the Tamil Tigers who were holding these civilians against their will, and not a case of the government depriving people of health care.

Photo 3: Another photo from within the No Fire Zone shows people queueing up for water.

Photo 4: Shows a crater which is said to be as a result of a shell. What appears to be civilian shelters (tents) can be seen in the background. The shell however has failed to scorch the earth, or topple the motor bike which remains standing.

Photo 5: Is said to be what was left of Mullivaikkal Hospital after it was shelled. With the exception of trees, in which even flowers are still visible, everything around appears to be destroyed. How the shells missed just the trees is beyond me.

Photo 6: Shows another hole in the ground with nothing scorched around it. It claims to be craters left after a Sri Lankan government Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher attack. All 3 craters in the photo appear to be dug by hand. The angle of all 3 craters disputed the rocket attack theory as the angles portray varied angles of impact. The raised area of the caters should point in the same direction since the Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher is a stationary object which dispenses it's projectiles in an orderly fashion.

Photo 7: Claims to show spent shell casings after the above attack. The Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher does not leave a shell casing at the point of impact.

Photo 8: A wounded child. The title claims it was due to a "rocket attack."

Photo 9: Shows a malnourished baby. Again, this video explain the root cause of the malnourishment.

Photo 10: Shows several specks in the sky. The title claims it is the "characteristic cluster bomb smoke cloud." Barak Obama has to only turn to his military intelligence agencies to confirm that Sri Lanka does not possess cluster bombs, nor does it have the technology to deploy such. The cluster bomb theory only surfaced via Tamil Tiger front organisations.

Photo 11: Another small hole dug up in the sand. It is claimed to be a crater. Another motor bike in sparkling condition appears unharmed and standing nearby.

Photo 12: A woman grieves with a dead child in her arms.

Photo 13: Carnage. A body appears to be in pieces, but the report is quick to note that the image is inconclusive in determining if the victim was actually blown apart from the shelling.

Appendix B: Satellite Imagery

All of the images provided in the report are of very low resolution. It is impossible to independently verify. The titles to all images say "possible artillery strike," as with most parts of this report, nothing conclusive.

Despite all talk of genocide amongst sympathisers of the Tamil Tigers, not once has the US accused Sri Lanka of the heinous crime. Not once has the US report insinuated that Sri Lanka intended on persecuting a minority.

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