Civilians, in between Kilinochchi and Mulathiv, Sri Lanka, May 2009, during the last few months of the war. (c) Private
Last night, I watched a harrowing new documentary, “Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields,” by Channel 4, a British media company, about the final months of the civil war in Sri Lanka in 2009.
The 49-minute film depicts the massive human rights abuses and violations of the laws of war committed by both the Sri Lankan government forces and the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels. The film is available online at Channel 4’s website until June 21.
Please note: some of the scenes in the film are very disturbing. It is NOT for younger viewers.
The film includes an extended version of the “execution video” released in 2009, in which naked prisoners are shown being shot in the head. There are scenes of dead female Tamil Tigers who appear to have been raped and murdered.
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This week marks the second anniversary of the end of Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war, between government forces and the opposition Tamil Tigers. The Tigers were seeking an independent state for the Tamil minority on the island. As documented by Amnesty International and a recent U.N. panel report, there are credible reports that both sides committed gross abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law, including war crimes. Yet no one has been held accountable for these crimes.
We know that the Sri Lankan government won’t effectively investigate these abuses.
So Amnesty International has been campaigning for an international war crimes investigation in Sri Lanka. On March 15, we took to the streets in Chicago to demand justice in Sri Lanka. In New York City, Amnesty International activists gathered outside the Sri Lankan Mission to the U.N. on April 8 as part of “Get on the Bus – New York.” On April 15, we demonstrated outside the Sri Lankan Embassy in Washington as part of “Get on the Bus – DC.” More recently, as shown in the photos above, Amnesty members in other parts of the U.S. have joined in calling on the U.N. to hold an international investigation on war crimes in Sri Lanka.
It would be a great help if we can get the U.S. government to publicly support our call for an international war crimes investigation in Sri Lanka. Please write the U.S. government today, so that the victims and their families can finally receive truth and justice.
This past Monday, the U.N. finally released the report of its advisory panel on accountability in Sri Lanka. Thanks go to everyone who sent an online letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asking him to release this report.
The report found credible allegations that tens of thousands of civilians were killed in the final months of Sri Lanka’s civil war in early 2009, and that both the government forces and the opposition Tamil Tigers violated international law, including committing war crimes. The panel recommended, among other things, that the U.N. establish an international investigation into these allegations.
Sri Lanka's military held many of those who escaped the conflict in miserable conditions © Private
Today, Ban’s spokesperson explained that Ban would not initiate an international investigation into these allegations unless the Sri Lankan government consented or he was asked to do so by a U.N body such as the Security Council, the Human Rights Council or the General Assembly.
Well, the Sri Lankan government isn’t likely to consent. They’ve rejected the panel’s report, calling it “flawed” and “biased.” President Rajapaksa has called for mass protests against the report on May 1.
We’ll need action by U.N. member states to establish an international investigation. The U.S. government could play a vital role in this effort. Please write to Secretary Hillary Clinton and ask her to support the establishment of an international war crimes investigation in Sri Lanka.
Today, Aug. 19, is World Humanitarian Day, designated by the U.N. to honor aid workers around the world. Today, Amnesty International remembers 17 aid workers killed in Sri Lanka. Their killers have yet to be brought to justice.
The 17 were local staff of the French aid agency Action contre la Faim (ACF) (Action Against Hunger). In August 2006, they were executed in the town of Mutur in eastern Sri Lanka, after an intense phase of fighting between the government and the Tamil Tiger rebels.
The Sri Lankan police bungled the criminal investigation into the murders. A subsequent commission of inquiry failed to identify the killers despite compelling evidence of their identity. The government blamed the Tigers for the killings although a respected Sri Lankan human rights group provided evidence of the government forces’ involvement.
Last year, I wrote on this site that I hoped that a year later, the ACF 17 would no longer be an example of the ongoing impunity enjoyed by the security forces for human rights abuses. Well, it’s a year later and that hope hasn’t been fulfilled.
Sri Lanka has time and again failed to effectively investigate and prosecute those responsible for human rights abuses, including war crimes. Please sign our online petition to the U.N. calling for an international investigation into war crimes and other human rights abuses in Sri Lanka. The families of the ACF 17 and the other victims need justice now!