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Soldiers caring for wounded civilians www.army.lk

Soldiers caring for wounded civilians http://www.army.lk

I looked earlier at some oft expressed concerns with regard to the conflict in Sri Lanka. After a quick glance at 8 concerns that related to the post-conflict period, I looked in great detail at concerns about alleged shelling of hospitals.

The other matter about which concern has been expressed with regard to the duration of the conflict was civilian casualties. This too needs to be addressed in detail.

10.  Concern has been expressed that the Sri Lankan forces deliberately or indiscriminately targeted civilians.

  1. This concern was first expressed forcefully after the campaign to regain control of the East, which concluded in the middle of 2007. Human Rights Watch soon afterwards, through the agency of Charu Latha Hogg, issued a reoort which was publicized as recording indiscriminat attacks on civilians. However the report itself recorded only one instance of civilians being killed. This was at Kathiravelli, when the forces had used mortar locating radar.

The Human Rights Watch report noted that the LTTE had been in the camp that was struck, and that they had been carrying weapons. Bunkers had been dug in the camp. Despite HRW claiming that they had no evidence the LTTE had used heavy weapons inside the camp, the fact that there were no other instances of civilians being killed, the evidence of those inside the camp of LTTE activity therein, and the ready acknowledgment of the army of what had occurred, and the explanation it gave, all suggest that this was an obvious example of retaliatory fire that had a tragic outcome.

UAV footage of LTTE firing on fleeing civillians

More worryingly, it would seem that the reaction of HRW, and its insistence on making this the incident the centerpiece of its allegations against the Sri Lankan state, encouraged the LTTE in this strategy of promoting harm to civilians to achieve its own propaganda aims. While HRW may not have thought of the impact of its actions, implicitly supporting the LTTE technique of firing from amongst civilians and then crying foul when there was retaliatory fire, the international community must consider the long term effects of its discriminatory and selective responses. Had there been categorical condemnation of the LTTE for even the little bit that HRW claimed it had evidence for, the heavy presence of armed cadres in a camp for the displaced, the LTTE might not have gone ahead with its plan to force the civilians of the North into becoming human shelds. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rajiva Wijesinha

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