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Sri Lanka’s dead and missing: the need for an accounting

27 February 2012 | by Crisis Group

Nearly three years since the end of the war, there’s a growing need for an accounting of – and for – those killed and missing in the final months of fighting in northern Sri Lanka in 2009. Members of the UN Human Rights Council, opening its 19th session in Geneva today, should be ready to press the Sri Lankan government for real answers.

A demonstrator cries while holding a picture of her relative who went missing during Sri Lanka’s war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as she takes part in a protest in Colombo September 9, 2009. Photo: Courtesy of: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Reuters

Instead of grappling with the many credible sources of information suggesting tens of thousands of civilians were killed between January and May 2009 – including the UN’s real-time data collection, international satellite imagery, and the government’s own population figures – the government is rewriting history on its own terms. In the lead up to the Human Rights Council session, the government released an “Enumeration of Vital Events” for the Northern Province.

It finds the total death toll during the five bloody months of fighting in 2009 to be under 7,000 with another 2,500 missing, but it doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants or assign responsibility for any death to either the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) or to government forces.

These findings fall far short of the UN Secretary-General’s panel of experts’ estimate that as many as 40,000 civilians died in those last months and even higher estimates based on the government’s own prior census figures. This “enumeration” also runs counter to an important recommendation of the government’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) calling on the government to “conduct a professionally designed household survey covering all affected families in all parts of the island to ascertain first-hand the scale and the circumstances of death and injury to civilians, as well as damage to property during the period of the conflict”. The LLRC made this recommendation at the end of November 2011, well after the “enumeration” project was conducted from June to August 2011.

The LLRC’s report has serious shortcomings in its treatment of allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity by government forces, but it also acknowledges important realities, including breaking with years of government claims of “zero civilian casualties” and accepting that “considerable civilian casualties had in fact occurred during the final phase of the conflict”. While it then goes to lengths to absolve the government of responsibility for those casualties, its recommendation of a professionally designed survey could help clarify the fate of the dead and missing in the north – if done credibly and independently. Unfortunately, there are no signs of such a credible and independent process emerging.

Just days after the LLRC delivered its report to the president on 20 November, his brother, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, delivered a speech to the “Inaugural National Conference on Reconciliation” in which he said that the government had “conducted a complete census” in the north, which was “in the process of finalisation”. He said a “questionnaire” had been used which included seven categories of dead or missing persons: “those who died of natural causes; those who died of accidents; those who left th[e] country through illegal means, particularly by boat to India or to South East Asia, and from there to the West; those who died whilst fighting as members of the LTTE; those who died as a result of being coerced to fight by the LTTE; those who died as a result of resisting the LTTE … ; [and deaths] that occurred due to military action”.

Without explaining how those categories were determined or what the government had done to avoid bias in its questionnaire and information gathering, the defence secretary concluded that “as a result of the census, we already know that the real number of dead and missing is far too small to provide any substance to the absurd allegations of genocide and war crimes that have been made against our military by the rump LTTE and their cronies”. On 8 February at an event hosted by the Swiss mission to the UN in New York, Sri Lanka’s permanent representative to the UN repeated the claim that the government has carried out “a comprehensive census in the Northern Province which will enable firm and verifiable conclusions to be derived at on issues involving disappearances, deaths, etc”.

The “enumeration” released soon after this statement doesn’t deliver the details promised. Instead it appears to be little more than another attempt to short-circuit what Sri Lanka’s people really need and what the global community – and even the LLRC – have been asking for: an independent, credible assessment of who and how many died and under what circumstances (i.e., who and what caused the deaths or disappearances).

The process by which this supposed count has happened is not at all clear, but the conditions under which any census would have been conducted in the north – an area under effective military occupation by a victorious army accused of the crimes in question – are not conducive to a fair and accurate count. The risk that the government has now politicised the department of census and statistics, as it already has politicised the police, judiciary and human rights commission, should be deeply worrying to Sri Lanka’s international partners.

As member states of the Human Rights Council prepare for the upcoming session, they should ask the government for a full explanation of how this purported census was conducted, what safeguards were in place to ensure independence, who (by name and by civilian or combatant) was killed or went missing and how, and whether UN agencies and independent civil society organisations will be allowed to verify the findings. Equally important, Council members should ask the government to reconcile its “enumeration” with the now-extensive information available suggesting that tens of thousands of civilians were killed in the final stages of the war, most as a result of government fire into heavily populated civilian areas.

The precise number and identities of all civilians killed in those last bloody months will likely never be known, especially if the government persists in its resistance to an independent, international inquiry. Nonetheless, several sources of information regarding civilian casualties need to be addressed – fully and transparently.

Sources of information suggesting civilian deaths in the tens of thousands

The UN’s real-time, on the ground survey of deaths and injuries
There are, first of all, the casualty figures gathered by the UN and humanitarian staff trapped in the fighting, which recorded 7,721 civilians killed and 18,479 injured between August 2008 and 13 May 2009, after which information collection became too difficult. These numbers were not estimates, but actual counts based on eyewitness sightings verified by two additional sources. The vast majority of those included in the UN count were killed between late January and late April 2009, before the escalation in fighting in the final three weeks.

The Secretary-General’s panel of experts noted strong grounds to believe these numbers understate actual casualties during that period.

These include the conservative methodology used to collect the figures, suspected underreporting by UN agencies (in response to pressure from the Sri Lankan government), the location of many casualties in areas inaccessible to observers, and the fact that following 13 May, the number of civilian casualties likely increased significantly as many civilians died from their injuries with no functioning hospital or humanitarian facilities in the warzone to register casualties or treat the wounded.

The government, including the LLRC, has frequently dismissed these figures because the UN failed to publish them, without acknowledging that the UN raised them with the government in private discussions.

The UN’s failure to speak out about its casualty estimates and the scale of the humanitarian crisis, and the government’s willingness to castigate the UN for even attempting to assess the civilian toll, are both matters of serious continuing concern.

Casualty estimates for the final week of fighting

Multiple eyewitnesses who were in the warzone during the final week estimate that thousands of civilians were killed in those days. Many describe walking past hundreds of bodies as they exited the final “no-fire zone” and seeing entire families buried in collapsed bunkers. A U.S. embassy cable on 18 May 2009, the day the government declared the war over, said a UN contact thought the LTTE’s claims of 25,000 civilians wounded or killed in the last few days were exaggerated, but that based on a 10 May shelter analysis and estimates of 70,000 to 80,000 people in the “no-fire zone” before the final assault, the number unaccounted for could be as high as 7,000 to 17,000. The UN contact also reportedly said the UN doubted the LTTE’s claims on the night of 17 May that it still had 1,000 to 2,000 cadres.

Contemporary population figures from senior government officials

There is also information from the government’s own officials working in the north suggesting that as many as 70,000 or even 140,000 civilians who were surveyed in the warzone just before or during the final months of fighting never made it to the government internment camps at the end of the war.

At least three separate figures need to be compared against the number of civilians in the camps as of late May 2009, which the government reported to be approximately 290,000. First, the former district secretary for Mullaitivu and current district secretary for Jaffna, Imelda Sukumar, testified to the LLRC on 4 November 2010 that there were 360,000 people caught in the fighting in the Puttumatalan “no-fire zone” established in February 2009.

Second, the UN panel of experts reported that her assistant, the former additional government agent (AGA) of Mullaitivu, and his staff who were in the “no-fire zone” counted some 330,000 people still trapped in the fighting in early February 2009. At that time, government figures showed that 35,000 were already in government camps. After the AGA advised officials in Colombo of the 330,000 figure, they wrote to him that the figure was “arbitrary and baseless” and that the government would be “reluctantly compelled” to discipline him for providing “wrong information to any source especially in regard to IDP figures”.

Finally, documents from the local government offices in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts, dated 30 September and 1 October 2008, available here and here, show a total population of 429,000. These figures were cited in the LLRC testimony of the Catholic Bishop of Mannar, who asked for clarification as to what happened to the more than 140,000 people apparently missing given the much smaller population corralled into government camps.

Corroborating the government’s contemporary population figures

This last estimate of the number of those still unaccounted for may seem high. Indeed, the central government has long argued that local population figures were inflated under pressure from the LTTE, in order to exaggerate the humanitarian crisis and to generate greater quantities of humanitarian supplies, which the LTTE could steal. While some inflation in the figures is possible, it is unlikely to have been large enough to explain all, or even most, of the discrepancies. There is also some corroborating evidence that argues for taking seriously even large estimates of the missing and demanding a full and independent accounting.

For example, if one takes the total population figures for residents of Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts from the 30 September and 1 October 2008 local government documents, they match almost exactly the central government’s estimated 2008 population figures for those districts, which can still be found on the department of census and statistics website in its estimated mid-year population by sex and district, 2000-2010.

The combined total of Kilinochchi residents counted by local officials in late 2008 was 146,700 (121,900 then living in Kilinochchi and 24,800 displaced to Mullaitivu), while the central government estimate for Kilinochchi residents was 140,000 in 2006, 143,000 in 2007 and 147,000 in 2008 (and provisionally 154,000 in 2009 and 156,000 in 2010).

Similarly, the combined total for Mullaitivu residents counted by local officials in late 2008 came to 126,350 (100,600 still living in Mullaitivu and 25,745 displaced to Kilinochchi), while the central government figures for Mullaitivu show 129,000 in 2006, 132,000 in 2007 and 135,000 in 2008 (and provisionally 154,000 in 2009 and 148,000 in 2010).

Because local government officials’ figures for Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu residents in late 2008 are almost exactly what the government had officially accepted for years, the government should explain why so many fewer people ended up in government camps in mid-2009. It should also explain why its most recent “enumeration”, which says there are now only 103,717 people in Kilinochchi and only 66,526 people in Mullaitivu – a drop of over 100,000, doesn’t raise many more questions than it answers.

A UN survey in the internment camps

Another intriguing statistic can be found in a UN Survey of 100 randomly selected shelters in zone 3 of Menik Farm in early May 2009 – prior to the worst fighting of the final two weeks. This small survey found that “22 per cent of the families” interviewed “reported that an immediate family member had died”. Extending this percentage to the approximately 90,000 families who ended up in camps after the end of the war, it suggests a minimum of 18,000 killed. Sample bias and other potential problems with this survey – including the possible inclusion of some combatants or deaths in earlier stages of the war – need to be examined, yet given the timeframe (prior to the deadliest weeks) and the possibility of multiple deaths within (or complete destruction of) some families, it could in fact be a generous minimum.

Estimates of war widows and female-headed households

Finally, there are other estimates available – including from the government – that appear to be consistent with large-scale loss of life. For example, multiple sources have claimed that there are now 40,000 “war widows” in the north. In September 2010, the ministry for child development and women’s affairs said it had lists of 40,000 war widows in the north, though it reduced this number without explanation in August 2011, to only 16,936. A separate media report cites government and donor figures of 30,000 out of 110,000 households in the former warzone that are headed by women. And a survey by the Jaffna-based Center for Women and Development reportedly estimated 40,000 female-headed households in the north, half of those in Jaffna. Not all of these women would have lost their husbands in the final months of the war, nor would all those men killed have been civilians – but many would have. And to the number of non-combatant husbands killed, one would have to add the women, children and unmarried men who died in the fighting, as well as those cases where both members of a married couple – and even whole families – were killed.

What the LLRC said about civilian casualties

The LLRC reported that the scale of civilian casualties, especially from January to May 2009, was a key question for the commission. Yet it accepted what the defence ministry told it – that “an estimate of civilian deaths was not available”. At the same time, the ministry had no problem providing an estimate of LTTE deaths – 22,247 for July 2006 to May 2009, with 4,264 confirmed by name for the period January to May 2009; or an estimate of security force deaths – 5,556 for July 2006 to May 2009.

Separately, the LLRC noted that the defence ministry had estimated the total number of LTTE cadres in the north to be 21,500. Given that approximately 11,700 suspected cadres were detained for “rehabilitation” at the end of the fighting, there are serious questions as to (1) how the government reconciles its 21,500 cadre estimate with its total of 34,000 killed or detained; (2) whether the 22,247 LTTE deaths were combatant deaths; and (2) whether the 11,700 detained for “rehabilitation” were in fact combatants. Unfortunately, the LLRC did not acknowledge, let alone answer, any of these questions.

Instead, the defence ministry told the LLRC that “it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish between LTTE and civilian casualties”. The LLRC expressed its “regret” at the absence of any official record or post-conflict estimate of civilian casualties while at the same time concluding that “considerable civilian casualties had in fact occurred”, but placed the blame primarily on unexplained “crossfire” and on the LTTE – just as the government and military officials who testified before it did.

The LLRC’s recommendation of a professionally designed island-wide household survey regarding civilian deaths and injuries – if done independently and credibly – could make up in part for its unwillingness to challenge the government’s narrative. Such a survey could also provide all Sri Lankans more clarity regarding how many and whose lives were lost in the war, including thousands of missing soldiers and people killed or disappeared outside of the north through decades of counter insurgency operations. Courtesy: International Crisis Group


  1. DilshanF says:

    Dear Crisis Group, Where were you when the real Crisis was on for thirty years? Why do you want accountability for only the last few months of the conflict only ?.

    What would you say that we only take the issue of the dead in Afghanistan during the last few months and point the finger at USA for causing so many civilian deaths.

    What annoys moderates in Srilanka is the double standards of the west and people such as you.

    When we suffered in silence due to bombings and murders on a daily basis you kept quiet. Not only you but BBC and all other media. Bonmings with over 300 dead was limited to one liner.

    We are aware that many innocent people lost their lives in the north and east. BUt it was not limited to the north and east. This was not a case of a one sided state terror. What we had was a terrorist outfit with Ships, Guns, Aircraft, Ammunition factories and all with Foreign funding.

    Write about ALL THE PEOPLE MISSING AND NOT ACCOUNTED FOR and we will listen to you

    Write about the 600 policemen whose bodies were never found. Write about the singhalese and muslims who dissappeared in Jaffna. What happenned to them? Are all skeletons due to Governmenet action? Did not the LTTE kill its own people? Did they not take away husbands from the wives? children – one from each family?

    Why dont you ask some questions from the TGTE the TNA and its proxies in the WEST?


  2. Velu Balendran says:

    In the face of this article Mahinda Samarasinghe’s submission at Geneva HRC19 meet with a figure of 8000 looks laughable. How did he collect the data when the public was totally unaware of such a process? Did he at least get the Grama Sevakas to collect data with names and addresses from the relatives of the deceased? If so why hasn’t the govt published the details of this contentious issue in a web site for all to see?

    Let us not get too serious about SL speeches in Geneva as we know their purpose is to fool the gullible. A professionally designed survey will never be conducted for fear of opening another can of worms. The 40,000 figure cannot be shaken with silly statements.

  3. Tiger says:


    Please tell us where the missing and dead are and how brutally you attacked and killed them.

  4. Patta Pal says:

    I really do not believe that we should get into the guessing game about how many civilians, LTTE were killed during any period of the war. It does not serve any purpose. Each life is as precious as the other, and numbers game belittles even one death, be it innocent civilians massacred by the LTTE or by the Army.

    We should now accept that there were technical violations of international conventions by both sides, and as the Govt. is held to a higher degree of responsibility that a terrorist organization is not, should therefore accept a greater liability and not hide behind excuses of they were worse than us or the US is even more brutal than anything we did. After all it does not matter who does it. We killed civilians and now it means that those who remain must receive some closure, which we are yet to give despite this three year gap.

    We should concentrate on doing what is humane in a civilized society, namely engage all those who lost relatives in the conflict both Sinhala and Tamil in an act of collective grieving as a family member knows no ideology. This will surely be a sign we are ready to move forward, something we are struggling to do now.

  5. Bamini says:

    I sympathize with you, i feel your pain but for your questions i may have answers.

    Q: “600 policemen whose bodies were never found”
    A: Karuna Amman is the key word. I hope this answer doesn’t surprise you because just like you and me, majority out there know this very well. Put this criminal on trial and get the answers. I guess you can’t do that right because he is THE handy man for MR regime for Eastern Province.

    Q: “Write about the singhalese and muslims who dissappeared in Jaffna”
    A: Indisciplined SL forces could have easily arrested the LTTE surrendees and put them on trial but unfortunately look what they did? Not just Jaffna, also dissappearences in eastern provinces could have been investigated too had the surrendees been arrested.

    DilshanF, I hope you are not including yourself in the Sri Lankan moderate crowd because that would just make the moderate crowd look like fools. I hope you get the point. I bet you are on the front line of demonstrations that are taking place in Colombo and it’s outskirts.

    Anyways DilshanF what annoys me the most is people like you fake so hard at thinking in the best interest of our nation. What you are having difficulty understanding is that you are not only justifying the injustices also promoting the looters and killers by giving them power and saving them from punishments.

    USA does it in middle-east and rest of the world, so why can’t Sri Lanka do it in it’s back yard?? RIGHT DILSHANF!

  6. Native Vedda says:

    DilshanF says:

    “Write about the 600 policemen whose bodies were never found.”

    Of course you are right in demanding the corpses of the cops. Why are you asking us we have nothing to do with the killing?

    I don’t know how to find the cops’ corpses but I know a person who can. Probably you too know him.

    He is in Colombo was a pet tiger.

    A couple of week ago he put out a statement saying if the west took action against Sri Lanka he would go to Geneva and disclose LTTE’s secrets.

    Ring a bell?

    Ask him & arrest him. He knows many secrets because he was involved in all those crimes when he was a naughty Col. Then he was the pet tiger and now he is a minister. In between he likes to be a rock star singing and swinging and having a jolly good time.

    Have a guess.

    When is the Sri Lankan police going to arrest him?

  7. Panhinda says:

    It finds the total death toll during the five bloody months of fighting in 2009 to be under 7,000 with another 2,500 missing, but it doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants

    How can one differentiate when LTTE conscripted anyone basically with 2 legs? They conscripted both males, females of all ages including children. Most had no ID or other signs of identification.

    The govt does indeed have higher degree of responsibility to look after people than the insurgents. Although insurgents typically use govt obligation for its own strategic ends. Does the govt give in when a kidnapper takes a civilian hostage? A precedent is set where many more kidnappers down the track to make an easy get away the moment you do.

    There are some parallels for example the Moscow theatre hostage crisis – October 23, 2002. 50 Chechnyian separatists took 850 hostages. Russian Spetsnaz forces ended the siege killing all rebels. At least 129 innocent people died in the raid.

    The Sri Lankan war last state hostage situation 20,000 LTTE separatists take 300,000 people hostage. Sri Lankan forces end the siege too killing most and capturing 10,000 rebels. At least 8,000 civilians die in cross fire. The Russian siege ends with 15% fatalities whereas Lankan forces have been far more successful with only 0.2 % fatalities.

  8. Karolis says:

    Very well said ….. DILSHANF

    You are absolutely right

    crocodile tears of the Crisis group !

  9. All these crisis groups and HRW etc. they never bother about real human rights issues. Those people in the picture crying for their missing and dead relatives, there had been numerous missing and dead when the LTTE controlled the North East. Nearly all of them were the handiwork of LTTE. No one dared to make an open protest against the LTTE, even as the LTTE forcibly took away the school going children for recruitment. Now they are able to do it. I believe the people don’t have any fear to stage protests now as they don’t have to fear the LTTE there. The TNA did not utter a word against the LTTE when they detained the people by threat in the war zone. Those who cry about human rights and war crimes did virtually nothing to prevent it. I do not trust these so-called human rights groups as genuine ones. Almost all of them seem to work on some hidden agenda as they never ever utter any word against the atrocities committed by the western powers. Most of the time those powers use our own people against our own country at the expense of our lives and wealth. After all, it was they who invented the ‘divide and rule’ policy. At least the human lives lost in Sri Lanka were during a fight against terrorism within the country and that was in order to safeguard the integration of a country. But those western powers did commit atrocities in other countries in order to plunder the wealth of those countries on the pretext of protecting human rights! And for many of our people white and west look enchanting and trustworthy even now.

  10. Merlin Van Tweest says:

    There are many blogs disputing the number of dead ad nauseum, I reproduce an earlier blog that disputes this current article.

    Some Elementary Fallacies – Were Thousands Killed in the Final Stages of the War?

    Were thousands of civilians killed in the final stages of the conflict? Was the number 1000? 7000 (as claimed in an internal UN document, later denied)? 20,000 as claimed by Jeremy Page in the London Times? 40,000 as claimed in the ‘Cage’ by Gordon Weiss (commonly known as Gordon the Unwise) and referred to in the ‘Darusman Report’ to the UNSG or higher? The exact number will never be known just as much as we will never know the exact number of civilians killed in Afghanistan and Iraq following the intervention by Western governments. (The medical journal ‘Lancet’ claimed in 2005 that already over 500,000 civilians had been killed in Iraq).

    But certain established facts cannot be ignored. In the final weeks of the conflict, the ICRC with the assistance of the Sri Lanka Navy evacuated approximately 7000 injured and the sick, including pregnant women, and over 8000 others from the last holdout of the LTTE. Is it likely that if there had been other injured, the ICRC would have left them behind and ferried out 8000 healthy persons? Experience and records of other recent conflicts would suggest that the number killed must be substantially lower than the number injured. This is a fact derived from experience.

    Most importantly, at the end of the conflict both sides were hell bent on fighting to the end leaving no time to bury the dead. In the circumstances, the LTTE is unlikely to have had the time to bury the alleged large numbers of dead. The Sri Lankan army never found large numbers of dead bodies either. But what is a fact is that in April and May 2009, close to 300,000 civilians streamed out of the LTTE enclave to seek the protection of the Government Security Forces. Importantly, the Government which adopted a zero civilian casualty policy had learned from the experience of other armies fighting amongst civilians in region that indiscriminate attacks on civilians only result in producing more volunteer martyrs.

    In early 2009, the ‘Committee to Coordinate Humanitarian Assistance (CCHA)’ to the North was working on the figure that there were approximately 121,000 people in Kilinochchi and 127,000 in Mullaitivu for the purpose of directing relief supplies to the North. It is quite likely that the LTTE took with them around 100,000 from Mannar. Please note that the CCHA consisted of the Ambassadors of the US, EU, Japan, Norway and the ICRC, in addition to senior representatives of key ministries. The ‘CCHA’ monitored the supply of life supporting essentials to the North on a weekly basis

    Considering that around 60,000 escaped to Government controlled areas in the previous year, the numbers detained by the LTTE settles around the number accommodated in the Government organized refugee camps in May 2009. It is also on record that the Government adopted a zero civilian casualty policy and consciously adopted an infantry based approach. This resulted in 6000 deaths of security personnel as the final battles were fought by infantry when more devastating approaches could have been adopted. The allegation of deliberate targeting of civilians by the military and the large numbers killed appears to be a convenient and Machiavellian story to pin a charge of crimes against humanity on the GOSL.

  11. peacelover says:

    Dilshan F says:
    “Dear Crisis Group, Where were you when the real Crisis was on for thirty years? Why do you want accountability for only the last few months of the conflict only ?.”

    If I backfire the same question to you, “Dishan F do you agree ICG to backdate their question to 63 years instead of 30 years? Dishan F where were you for the last 63 years, when successive Srilankan governments adopted discrminative policies against minorities and carried out ethnic pogroms against thamils in 1958, 1966, 1977, 1983 ……2009 and to this day as part of the planned ethnic cleansing and genocide of thamils, whihc began by then D.S. Senanayake government. As a result thousands of thamils murdered with the support of the successive sinhala governments in power and its security forces even before the rise of thamil militancy.”

  12. peacelover says:

    Merlin Van Twist says

    “…..The allegation of deliberate targeting of civilians by the military and the large numbers killed appears to be a convenient and Machiavellian story to pin a charge of crimes against humanity on the GOSL…..”

    “….It is also on record that the Government adopted a zero civilian casualty policy and consciously adopted an infantry based approach….”

    Merlin Van Twist,
    Even for the sake of argument if we accept that Srilankan Govt and its military adopted zero civilian casualty policy and actual civilian casualty during the final phase of the war is exaggerated in international media including UN report, do you think your convoluted eyes-closed loyalty to the floundering Rajapakse and argue current GOSL as humanitarian govt will be acceptable to the terror-stricken families of Lasantha Wickramatunga, Prageeth Ekneliygoda, Dr.Pathmanathan of Trincomalee, Raviraj MP, Joseph Pararajasingam MP, Pattani Razick of Batticaloa, Taraki Sivaram, journalist Nadesan of Batticaloa, BBC journalist Nimalarajan, the Hamers of Dehiwala, Bharatha Luxman Premachandra Law Student-in-hiding Thusara Jayaratne – just to mention few names of the many thousands that come to my mind from the national spectrum.
    This argument is already thrown by someone on this blog responding to a comment as such yours.

  13. Merlin Van Tweest says:


    Please note my blog is about the final days of the war and not about the due process of law and the current state of jurisprudence in Sri Lanka. Any country when threatened with an insurgency and when many of its citizens are killed due to the insurgency is duty bound to utilise any method within its ambit in the defence of the realm.

    That is what happened in Sri Lanka and it was incumbent of the GOSL to defend all its citizens. When the insurgency utilises its citizens as a human shield, the dichotomy faced by the realm must be resolved for the greater good of all its citizens. While it is horrendous for those caught in the crossfire and my sympathies are fully with them, GOSL as per my blog did it utmost to rescue its citizens. Unfortunately the ‘LTTE Supporting Diaspora’ and some other detractors castigate the GOSL as they have a different agenda – an agenda in revenge for the utter vanquishing of LTTE whom they supported with funds all through the 30 year war and a hatred of Mahinda Rajapakse who was democratically elected by the majority of the Sri Lankan masses.

    While everything may not be rosy in Sri Lanka as regards the law and criminal investigations, do not forget that the upheaval of war does muddy the waters of law enforcement and it does take time for the ‘great and the good’ to pursue the objectives of law enforcement that we took for granted prior to the advent of the insurgency.

    The insurgency of the LTTE and the rule of law are two separate issues and your emotive rant with a personal attack on my ‘convoluted eyesight’ is doing a disservice to all those who perished during the war and the aftermath of war in the civil society. I too would like closure on the various individual accusations that you have mentioned. There are many accusations flying hither and thither about these issues. These are of no avail as any court will dismiss it as hearsay. What is required is good solid evidence (and not speculation with a political agenda) that can be published to hold the accused to book and then shaming the authorities to proceed with the due process of law. Do not hold your breath as it may not happen overnight, however if the evidence is foolproof all one can do is to continue ‘banging the drum’ until resolution.

  14. Gamini says:

    Yes this is fair and reasoanble request – the GOSL is in the process of going through a transparent investigation process (LLRC) and appropriate authorities will be manadated in due course.

    As matter of interest what is the ICG position on US/UK/EU accountability to say the thousands of Afghanis and tribesmen killed through drone attacks or the 100’s of thousands of iraquis that have been killes as the coalition of the willing tries to wipe out insurgents ??? I see Lord Paton only wonts third world countries to actually be accountable ???

    Nice try ICG, you start applying the same standards to everyone (not a lower standard to funding countries such as US) and Sri Lanka may just take you rambling diatribes seriously !

  15. T.Ramalingam-Wattala says:


  16. […] courtesy Transcurrents If Sri Lanka is fast becoming a pariah state in the eyes of the world, it has nothing to do with […]

  17. James Chance says:

    Dilshan F: It never ceases to amaze me to see people criticise individual statements by organisations like the International Crisis Group as if they are the only ones the organisation has ever made on SrI Lanka. As soon as one bothers to take into account the other statements and reports the Crisis Group has written on Sri Lanka, you will quickly see that it has indeed a) strongly criticised the crimes of the LTTE, including the murder of the 600 Sinhala policeman in the east and the explusion and murders of Muslims and Sinhalese villagers and b) has called for a full accounting of the deaths and sufferings of all of Sri Lanka’s communities. See in particular the report devoted to the challenges of reconcliation, published in July 2011, which looks at the whole history of the more than 30 years of violent conflict and calls for a thorough accounting of the suffering by all communities and the crimes committed by so-called representatives of all communities (e.g., various governments, political parties and militant groups). You can find this report, and all Crisis Group reports, at You might also look at the earlier reports on Sinhala nationalism, which explicitly mentions the need to respond to the legitimate fears and concerns of Sinhalese. And the report from February 2010 on the Tamil diaspora is very critical of the continued attachment to the LTTE among many Tamils and the refusal to criticise their crimes. So – yes, there are double-standards all over the place and among many organisations and governments, including the US and the Sri Lankan governments – but if you read the full set of reports by Crisis Group – or Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch, for instance – you will see they do a pretty good job of taking all parties to task pretty directly and strongly and consistently.

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