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US War Crimes Report Details Extensive Abuses-HRW

Report Shows Need for International Investigation

(New York, October 22, 2009): A US State Department report on possible violations of the laws of war in Sri Lanka made public on October 22, 2009 shows the need for an independent international investigation, Human Rights Watch said today. The report details violations of the laws of war committed by both government forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) from January through May 2009.

“The US State Department report should dispel any doubts that serious abuses were committed during the conflict’s final months,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Given Sri Lanka’s complete failure to investigate possible war crimes, the only hope for justice is an independent, international investigation.”

The Office of War Crimes Issues of the State Department prepared the report on possible war crimes committed during the final months of the 26-year-long civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE, which ended in May with the LTTE’s defeat. The report details alleged incidents of LTTE child recruitment, government and LTTE attacks on civilians and civilian objects, killings of captives or combatants by government forces, enforced disappearances by government forces and government-supported paramilitaries, and severe shortages of food, medicine, and clean water for civilians trapped in the war zone.

The report was presented to Congress on October 21 and was released today on the US State Department website.

The report was mandated by the 2009 Supplemental Appropriations Act. The act directed the secretary of state to submit a report “detailing incidents during the recent conflict in Sri Lanka that may constitute violations of international humanitarian law or crimes against humanity, and, to the extent practicable, identifying the parties responsible.”

The act further instructed the US government to withhold financial support from Sri Lanka, except for basic human needs, unless the Sri Lankan government respects the rights of internally displaced persons, accounts for persons detained in the conflict, provides access to affected areas and populations for humanitarian organizations and the media, and implements policies to promote reconciliation and justice.

Human Rights Watch’s own research into the fighting found that both sides repeatedly violated the laws of war. The LTTE used civilians as human shields, employed lethal force to prevent civilians from fleeing to safety, and deployed their forces in densely populated civilian areas. Government forces indiscriminately shelled densely populated areas, including hospitals. Both parties’ disregard for civilian life resulted in thousands of civilian casualties. Because independent observers, including the media and human rights organizations, were denied access to the war zone, detailed information on violations of the laws of war by both sides has been limited.

Human Rights Watch has repeatedly called upon the United Nations and member nations of the Security Council and the Human Rights Council to establish an independent international investigation into allegations of laws-of-war violations. The Sri Lankan government has promised to ensure accountability through domestic inquiries. For example, in a joint May statement, President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, underlined the importance of an accountability process for addressing violations of international law and stated that “[t]he Government will take measures to address those grievances.” In the five months since the war ended, however, no investigations have taken place.

“Concerned governments should use the US State Department report as a clarion call for an international investigation,” said Adams. “There are no more excuses for inaction.”

Related: US State Department-Report to the Congress on recent incidents in Sri Lanka


Good work US state dept & US embassy Colombo. well documented.

Posted by: Kuru | October 22, 2009 02:03 PM

Before anyone goes to a wet dream based on this report read the disclaimer first!

"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,"

As usual US has given you some lip service for all this drama played by the diaspora such as burger eating hunger strikes.

Posted by: SLFireBall | October 22, 2009 09:10 PM

(Yawn) Thank you AMERICA...for this wonderfully Detailed report! We'll be sure to read it at our next available opportunity!

But till then, let me remind you that there simply are NO RULES TO WAR. We did what we had to do to win. Its that simple. And as you can see...IT WORKED.

Posted by: Devinda Fernando | October 22, 2009 10:55 PM

Human Rights Watch is hyping up the US State Department's report way beyond what it and its spokesman actually said. That is a pity, because in the past the HRW did much to bring the crimes of the LTTE to the world's attention.
In fact, the State Department's report is remarkably tentative and non-accusatory, compared with what many seemed to expect. It does NOT call for an independent investigation into the allegations, but asks the Sri Lankan government to themselves investigate them. A cynic might say they they could hardly do anything else, given the US's stance on the much more comprehensive and thorough Goldstone report into the events in Gaza at the end of last year.
Those who supporter of the splitting of Sri Lanka into two separate states will be bitterly disappointed by this report and LTTE supporters will now have another scapegoat to blame for the failure of their violent project: the USA. Now the entire world can be blamed for their failure; everyone, except, of course, their own leaders.
The report does seem to indicate a more conciliatory approach by the USA towards Sri Lanka, as also does the recent vote by the European Parliament. The timely arrest of Mr Rajaratnam in the USA and the visit by south Indian politicians have also helped.
One hopes the Sri lankan government will use these events wisely to further the process of reconciliation, both internally and externally.

Posted by: Candidly | October 22, 2009 11:17 PM

The last days of conventional war against LTTE ended with armies from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka joint forced comitting Genocide. Strong hints on Narayanan trio’s role in planning the May 16-19 massacres given by Gothabhaya Rajapakse now in the public domain raises serious questions of the circumstances that compels Delhi’s meek and stooping stance before a bellicose and provocative SL. SL is virtually dictating India’s Delhi’s foreign policy and Delhi-Chennai relations? Delhi apparently dreads the UNHRC SL war crime initiatives more than SL does that for the Tamil genocide victims UNHRC is virtually paralysed over delivering justice to genocide victims. Inexperienced OBama will be easily checkmate by RAW.

Posted by: Clips | October 23, 2009 01:26 AM

This must be a joke here is the senate of usa who in my opinion are a bunch of hypocratics who killed so many people in their wars namely vietnam to afganistan trying to tell others how to govern hahahaha

Posted by: Roshan | October 23, 2009 09:06 AM

In US once a legal process is initiated it will not end until it reaches its culmination. Hence our government should take immediate action to satisfy the requirements stated and promises made. Otherwise there is the possibility of sanctions etc which we can ill afford.

Posted by: SriLankan | October 23, 2009 10:43 AM

It is important to ask the US State Dept. about wars fought by the US in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam and bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. Did they compile reports of those wars or did any other country compile reports about atrocities committed by the US in those wars? It seems that Hillary Clinton is running a parallel government in the US, from the State Dept. She has already put her foot in the mouth by referring to SL Forces using Rape as a weapon in the war against the LTTE. I had a cursory glance through this report. Most of the evidence is based on third party accounts such as "An organization says .....". It is patently clear that US Spy Satellites failed to make an impact in Sri Lanka due to some ingenious camouflaging by SL Forces. So to cover up their utter failure, now they have put up a report based on heresy and various concoctions. The US State Dept. is more worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize than President Barak Obama. I hope GOSL would not give two hoots to this kind of report and ask the US to even go to hell, with it. Why do we, Sri Lankans, have to be survile to US. It is far better to be servile to India or China.

Posted by: Max Headroom | October 23, 2009 12:57 PM

The State Department says if the Sri Lankan government really is interested, as it says it is, in post-war reconciliation, it should investigate alleged abuses in the closing months of the conflict and bring to justice those responsible.

This is what people with some commonsense believe.

Any one thinks that post-war reconciliation can be achieved in any other means, like writing letters or pretending nothing happened in the past are simply being stupid and kidding themselves and all of us.

Posted by: M FERN | October 23, 2009 01:21 PM

Well prepared report by US State department,
But too late to acknowledge, Why was this delay? The Tamil diasporas and other organisations have warned the world about these atrocities are going to happen as early as summer 2008, when GSL has ordered INGOS out of Vanni . And during the war the Tamils by various and continuous protests tried to bring it to the attention but the world ‘s power bases have failed to listen Including the UN . Even during these atrocities are happenings the world and the UN stood silent . They are also in complicit with SLG in these crimes. Even the UN Secretary General went To Srilanka and Failed to bring relieve to the long ( over 60 years ) suffering of Tamils. Even after knowing the history of Srilanka during the last 60 years, some of the leaders of the world gave statement they have confident in the SLG will protect Tamil civilians. And they have fooled themselves and made the long suffering of Tamils worse. During Last few years SLG and its officials have repeatedly intimidated the INGO officials and even foreign Government representatives, politician’s in un diplomatic and arrogant way . And the World is still waiting patiently. Why? Aren’t these enough evidence to forecast what else is in store to happen in there? If the power full Governments and UN are Impotent and unable to prevent these in Sril;anka what fate Tamils have in there in Unitary Srilanka?

Posted by: Glen.Eagle12 | October 24, 2009 05:22 AM

USA first should investigate its own war crimes and punish the culprits and show the world how it should be done – set an example, so to speak. Then SL will follow.

Posted by: Chaminda Tilakumara | October 24, 2009 09:15 AM

Today we see on the internet the gory details of the death of Prabakharan at the hands of prominent officer. It is a very brutal and sadistic killing by any standards whatever the anger we may have against Prabhakaran. If this is true then other accounts too may be correct. Now things are coming out and the Government will be hardpressed to explain these incidents.

Posted by: SriLankan | October 24, 2009 10:17 AM

Devinda Fernando: If you say there are no rules for war then why did you cry fouel and hide behind Bush's terrorism when VP blow bombs in Colombo under your arse in this asymetrical war.You went every where begging for arms,money,men, and condoms. Without foreign help you would not have been able to stand up with VP's Tamils.You say your are Sinhala Buddhist Unable to stand up to the Tamils One your own only Talking when VP has gone.Now Tamils have started to gather foreign help and regroup your talking of no rules. VP's Tamils stood up to Indian army and you on their own before cried foul and got foreign help.

Posted by: Bomber | October 25, 2009 05:00 AM

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