Sri Lanka War Crimes allegations can hold water only if the accusers can name the dead

War victims

The efforts to bring down the curtain to the investigation on Sri Lanka will be to pin the argument of command responsibility thus enabling key heads already named to be indicted for war crimes, crimes against humanity and so forth. Nevertheless, for any war crime allegations to hold water there must first be bodies of dead to prove a crime has been committed. As things stand neither do we have bodies nor do we have names of the dead. What a preposterous situation when we have only allegations but nothing to substantiate them except experts from overseas spending colossal amounts of someone’s money to produce reports of ‘credible witnesses’ but none of them able to produce even a skeleton!

Let’s first take a look at who are making the accusations

  • All the LTTE fronts that the GOSL has proscribed. Incidentally they ran the global LTTE propaganda against the GOSL accusing the forces of killing civilians. It would be extremely interesting if the UN Panel puts out accounts of Tamil civilian submissions with witness names on the manner LTTE fired at fleeing civilians, LTTE abducted children of the Tamil civilians and gave them training and put them into the battleground, LTTE on the pretext of giving clothes fixed suicide vests onto clueless 10 year olds and sent them back to the civilians and blew them via remote control. All these accounts have been sent to the UN by these Tamils themselves and what is interesting is that they have openly declared their willingness to appear before the panel and give evidence against LTTE. This would shatter all accusations that Tamil civilians were killed by Sri Lankan army.
  • Gordon Weiss has lost all credibility for his guestimates keep changing with every book launch and pro-LTTE panel discussion
  • Frances Harrison has also inflated figures beyond 100,000 civilian deaths with no evidence
  • Foreign Parliamentarians linked to proscribed LTTE fronts are also parroting the same figures quoted by LTTE sources
  • Media channels have also quoted numbers from the above without questioning their lack of evidence or giving balanced accountWhat are the estimated figures?It is crucial to keep in mind that we do not know how many were LTTE and how many were civilians that did not take part in any form of hostility. 
  • From accounts by Tamils who have sent submissions to the UN Panel, they have admitted that their children were given 5 days of training and put into combat areas leaving them vulnerable to death. If so the Sri Lankan forces cannot be held responsible for these unfortunate deaths.
  • UN Panel of Experts in March 2011 could only say that ‘there could have been as many as 40,000 civilian deaths” – could have been is not tantamount to claiming that 40,000 were killed
  • UNHRC Head on 13th March Rights stated that “2800 civilians may have been killed and more than 7000 injured since 20 January 2009”
  • United Nations Country Team Assessment declared 7721 killed and 18,479 injured from August 2008 to 13 May 2009
  • Satellite Analysis by American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) discovered only 3 graves highest in which had 1346 buried and one was a LTTE graveyard with 960 dead. Why has the satellites failed to pick 40,000 or more deaths if they did occur?
  • Enumeration of Vital events 2011 conducted by the Dept of Census and Statistics on the Northern Province have put the conflict related deaths at 7896 which includes LTTE killed in action.
  • Statistical remuneration of deaths occurring between 2005 and 2009 in the districts of Jaffna, Mannar, Vavuniya, Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi have given an estimate of 8649 deaths.
  • UNICEF supported Family Tracing and Reunification Unit in its June 2011 survey of North had only 2564 tracing applications of which 676 were children and 1888 adults while 64% of requests were from parents who reported that LTTE abducted their children.
  • Population estimates by Government, UN, NGOs established the highest population figure of 300,000. The Security Forces saved 293,000 which leaves 7000 to be accounted for (this includes LTTE too)
  • What is interesting is that the Foreign Agencies that were living and located in LTTE controlled areas have been able to give wrong estimates of civilians in the North while the Government Agent in Mullaitivu had placed the estimated civilians at 305,000:
  1. UN Resident Coordinator – 120,000 – 180,000
  2. Centre for Humanitarian Agencies – 75,000-150,000
  3. UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief  – 150,000 – 190,000
  4. World Food Program – 210,000
  5. Humanitarian Community – 250,000
  6. Government Agent in Mullaitivu (Jan 2009) – 305,000
    • The Consultative Committee on Humanitarian Assistance (CCHA) was established in 2006 and members of this Committee that included foreign envoys met weekly throughout the height of the conflict which next questions why none of them gave a proper estimate of the civilian figures before the final battle!

“ The hostilities are now taking place in a very narrow stretch of land along the eastern coastline of Sri Lanka. And within that narrow stretch, which had been declared a ‘no-fire zone’ by the government, tens of thousands of civilians remain trapped. At present we put their estimate at 50,000,”

28days before the LTTE was eliminated the ICRC placed the number of civilians as 50,000.

  • Indian embedded Journalist Murali Reddy on 16th May 2009, said that 50,000 civilians had escaped and corresponds with UN Spokesman Gordon Weiss estimate of 50,000 civilians on 13 May 2009 after which President Rajapakse announced an unconditional surrender which LTTE refused.
  • We need to note that ICRC, Gordon Weiss and Murali Reddy declared that on 16th May 2009 50,000 civilians had escaped.
  • Therefore, the UN Panel first need to explain why it has not taken into account
  • A body to be buried needs a grave that is 6×4 – a mass grave would take time to dig and it is impossible to imagine even for those with the wildest of imaginations soldiers digging up mass graves while artillery and fire were coming from all corners!
  • Let’s be fair, if war crimes did take place, there has to be deaths, if there are deaths, there have to be bodies and every dead body has to have a name, names of the dead can be given easily by family or there has to be some evidence that they lived (residence address, National ID copy, passport etc) so where are these vital evidence to prove that people had lived to have died.
  • Therefore, while anyone and everyone has a right to make allegations and give numbers of death without the dead or the names of the dead or even the skeletons of these dead none of these numbers can hold water and on a ‘may be’ or ‘could be’ the UN panel cannot pin ‘collective responsibility’ or ‘command responsibility’ against Sri Lanka and people they are targeting to be named as war criminals.
    • 7721 deaths quoted by the UN Country Team
    • 7896 deaths quoted by the GOSL Dept of Census and StatisticsNext the UN Panel has to establish that 40,000 or more actually died and if the UN Panel says they died they need to name who has died. We are not going to accept numbers without proper factual account of the dead. Wrong guestimates were used in Yugoslavia, Libya and scores of other countries that were targeted for ‘humanitarian intervention’. If UN is adamant on pinning war crimes charges based on ‘command responsibility’ bring out the dead by naming them first.

– by Shenali D Waduge