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Sri Lanka: New Evidence of Wartime Abuses
May 21, 2010, 6:17 pm
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New Evidence of Wartime Abuses
[ Friday, 21 May 2010, 08:43.26 AM GMT +05:30 ]
New evidence of wartime abuses by Sri Lankan government forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during the armed conflict that ended one year ago demonstrates the need for an independent international investigation into violations of the laws of war, Human Rights Watch said yesterday.
New evidence of wartime abuses by Sri Lankan government forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during the armed conflict that ended one year ago demonstrates the need for an independent international investigation into violations of the laws of war, Human Rights Watch said yesterday. Recently Human Rights Watch research gathered photographic evidence and accounts by witnesses of atrocities by both sides during the final months of fighting.

Last week, the government created a Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission with a mandate to examine the failure of the 2002 ceasefire and the “sequence of events” thereafter. It is not empowered to investigate allegations of violations of the laws of war such as those documented by Human Rights Watch.

“Yet another feckless commission is a grossly inadequate response to the numerous credible allegations of war crimes,” said Elaine Pearson, acting Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Damning new evidence of abuses shows why the UN should not let Sri Lanka sweep these abuses under the carpet.”

Human Rights Watch called on Secretary-General Ban to promptly establish an international investigation to examine allegations of wartime abuse by both sides to the conflict.

New Evidence of Wartime Violations
Human Rights Watch has examined more than 200 photos taken on the front lines in early 2009 by a soldier from the Sri Lankan Air Mobile Brigade. Among these are a series of five photos showing a man who appears to have been captured by the Sri Lankan army. An independent source identified the man by name and told Human Rights Watch that he was a long-term member of the LTTE’s political wing from Jaffna.

The first two photos show the man alive, with blood on his face and torso, tied to a palm tree. He is surrounded by several men wearing military fatigues, one brandishing a knife close to his face. In the next three photos, the man is lying – apparently dead – against a rock. His head is being held up, he is partly covered in the flag of Tamil Eelam, and there is more blood on his face and upper body.

A forensic expert who reviewed the photos told Human Rights Watch that the latter three photos show material on the man’s neck consistent in color with brain matter, “which would indicate an injury to the back of his head, as nothing is visible which would cause this on his face. This would indicate severe trauma to the back of the head consistent with something like a gunshot wound or massive blows to the back of the head with something such as a machete or ax.”

While Human Rights Watch cannot conclusively determine that the man was summarily executed in custody, the available evidence indicates that a full investigation is warranted.

Several of the photos also show what appear to be dead women in LTTE uniforms with their shirts pulled up and their pants pulled down, raising concerns that they might have been sexually abused or their corpses mutilated. Again, such evidence is not conclusive but shows the need for an investigation.

The new accounts by witnesses described indiscriminate shelling of large gatherings of civilians during the last weeks of fighting, apparently by government forces. In addition to an incident on April 8, 2009, previously reported, witnesses told Human Rights Watch about three other incidents in late April and early May 2009 of government forces shelling civilians, mainly women and children, who were standing in food distribution lines. The witnesses also described LTTE recruitment of children and LTTE attacks on civilians attempting to escape the war zone.

To download the photos, please use following links:


To read the May 2010 Human Rights Watch document, “Q & A on Accountability for Violations of International Humanitarian Law in Sri Lanka,” please visit:

To read the May 2009 Human Rights Watch news release, “Sri Lanka: Satellite Images, Witnesses Show Shelling Continues,” please visit:

To read the May 2009 Human Rights Watch news release, “Sri Lanka: Repeated Shelling of Hospitals Evidence of War Crimes,” please visit:

To read the February 2009 Human Rights Watch report, “War on the Displaced: Sri Lankan Army and LTTE Abuses against Civilians in the Vanni,” please visit:

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USA Puppet Meles Zenawi Steals Election in Ethiopia
May 21, 2010, 2:25 pm
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Ethiopia’s Democratic Sham

A government clampdown has rendered the outcome of Sunday’s parliamentary elections a foregone conclusion. Washington doesn’t seem to mind that its ally, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, is assured a win.


I first glimpsed the depth of suppressed urban anger toward the Ethiopian government a few hundred paces into the annual 10-kilometer Great Ethiopian Run in Addis Ababa in November 2008. An immensely popular fun-run organized by Ethiopia’s most famous marathoner, it is one of the very few occasions when the government still allows citizens to gather en masse. And the runners took advantage; as we surged through the city’s main artery in matching red race T-shirts, anti-government slogans began to rumble across the crowd around us. The chants rose in volume and intensity whenever we passed a bastion of federal power — the Justice Ministry, the Supreme Court, the presidential compound. One recurring refrain combined a demand for the release of a popular political prisoner with a rhythmic, insistent, “O-bam-a!” It had been just a few weeks since Barack Obama’s election, an event that had inspired many in Addis to hope that change would come not just to the White House, but to its approach toward their country and eventually to their own government.

On Sunday, May 23, Ethiopians will be out politicking again — this time heading to the polls to vote in parliamentary elections. But few will harbor any illusions about the likelihood of voting in a change. In the 18 months since that race, there has been no meaningful revision in U.S. policy toward Ethiopia, and there is today even less reason to anticipate change in the country’s leadership. As one opposition leader has put it, the question is not whether the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) will defeat its intimidated and harassed opponents, but whether this will turn out to be the election in which Ethiopia takes the last step toward becoming a truly one-party state.

This is what passes for democracy in Ethiopia today. As the election has drawn closer, the government has done everything it can to push the result in its favor, waging what Human Rights Watch called in March a “coordinated and sustained attack on political opponents, journalists, and rights activists.” That was the same month that Prime Minister Meles Zenawi took  aim at one of the few independent sources of news still available, comparing the Amharic-language Voice of America programming to the genocidal Radio Mille Collines of Rwanda and ordering its broadcasts jammed. Journalists have fled into exile at an escalating pace over the last year, while civil society has been effectively neutered by a deeply oppressive NGO law. Political activists on both sides have been killed in recent weeks, and the government has publicly accused the opposition of planning violence, raising fears that it might be laying out a pretext for a crackdown.

All this has revealed a deep-seated unwillingness on the government’s part to even contemplate sharing political power — an instinct that emerged out of the last set of parliamentary elections in 2005, when Meles was dangerously close to forfeiting his majority. That proximity to losing — and the subsequent crackdown that ensured he didn’t — has hung like a cloud over Ethiopia ever since. Indeed, as this year’s election approaches, memories of that vote are pronounced. On election night, Meles banned public demonstrations. Then, as the vote count proceeded and protests grew, he assumed direct control over the security services, which, in separate incidents over several months, killed nearly 200 demonstrators. At least 30,000 people were detained, and much of the opposition’s leadership was arrested on charges including treason and “attempted genocide.” When the official results were finally released nearly five months later, the opposition had been awarded just a third of the country’s parliamentary seats — while the EPRDF won with a comfortable majority.

Sri Lanka Tamil killings ‘ordered from the top’


Channel4: Executions of Tamils at the end of the Sri Lankan civil war were carried out under orders

Genocide of Tamils

Genocide of Tamils

Exclusive: a senior Sri Lankan army commander and frontline soldier tell Channel 4 News that point-blank executions of Tamils at the end of the Sri Lankan civil war were carried out under orders.

In August 2009 Channel 4 News obtained video evidence, later authenticated by the United Nations, purporting to show point-blank executions of Tamils by uniformed Sri Lankan soldiers.

Now a senior army commander and a frontline soldier have told Channel 4 News that such killings were indeed ordered from the top.

One frontline soldier said: “Yes, our commander ordered us to kill everyone. We killed everyone.”

And a senior Sri Lankan army commander said: “Definitely, the order would have been to kill everybody and finish them off.

“I don’t think we wanted to keep any hardcore elements, so they were done away with. It is clear that such orders were, in fact, received from the top.”

Despite allegations of war crimes, Sri Lanka’s government has managed to avoid an independent inquiry. But the evidence continues to mount.

‘Body blows to humanitarian law’
So decisive was Sri Lanka’s victory over the Tamil Tigers last year that other nations facing violent insurgencies are now citing the “Sri Lanka option” as a model for crushing rebellion, writes Channel 4 News foreign reporter Jonathan Miller.

International lawyers, human rights and conflict prevention groups are alarmed, accusing the Colombo government of riding roughshod over international law.

Last night Louise Arbour, a former chief prosecutor in international war crimes trials, told an audience at Chatham House – the foreign policy think tank – that “the [Sri Lankan] government’s refusal to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants” and the “sheer magnitude of civilian death and suffering” dealt what she called “the most serious of body blows to international humanitarian law”.

Now, the International Crisis Group, of which Ms Arbour is the president, has joined forces with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to demand an independent international investigation into what they brand “massive human rights violations” and “repeated violations of international law” – by both sides.

Channel 4 News reports on the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war
– 12 May 2009: thousands flee Sri Lanka bombardment
– 25 Aug 2009: is this evidence of ‘war crimes’ in Sri Lanka?
– 26 Aug 2009: Sri Lanka calls ‘war crimes’ video a fake
– 01 Sep 2009: UN probing Sri Lanka ‘executions’
– 11 Sep 2009: Sri Lanka steps up death video rebuttal
– 16 Sep 2009: Tamil medic describes camp conditions
– 07 Jan 2010: Sri Lanka video ‘appears authentic’
– 27 Jan 2010: Sri Lanka’s Rajapaska wins re-election

The Sri Lankan government has repeatedly rejected the charges of civilian deaths as grossly exaggerated and has denied that any of its security forces have committed war crimes or violated international humanitarian law.

Ms Arbour appeared live on Channel 4 News to outline options available to the international community to prevent the “Sri Lanka option” gaining currency. A new ICG report entitled War Crimes in Sri Lanka defines this option as “unrestrained military action, refusal to negotiate, disregard for humanitarian issues, keeping out international observers including press and humanitarian workers”.

‘War Crimes in Sri Lanka’
– Download the International Crisis Group report in full (.pdf)

Ms Arbour also responded to dramatic new evidence contained in a film broadcast by Channel 4 News. The fresh evidence, detailing extremely serious allegations of possible war crimes, has been gathered in an extended undercover investigation in Sri Lanka. Testimony from soldiers interviewed by Channel 4 News corroborates persistent allegations aired by this programme since the end of the war a year ago.

Chief among these: the accusation that Sri Lankan soldiers were responsible for extrajudicial executions – as graphically illustrated by the disturbing video we aired last August. The video – long dismissed as a fake by the government in Colombo – was authenticated by the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions in January this year.

The clamour from international rights groups for an impartial investigation into alleged atrocities contrasts sharply with the failure of the UN to demand accountability from the Sri Lankan government. Last year, the Sri Lankan president promised the UN Secretary General that he would look into the question of accountability.

On Monday President Mahinda Rajapaksa named an eight-member panel to glean lessons learned from the war.  But members of the group say they have no legal power to investigate alleged abuses. “If this is ‘it’,” Louise Arbour said last night, “there’s no reason to expect from the government’s past record that it’s got any intention to investigate or put in place an appropriate accountability mechanism.”

The UN Human Rights Council seems to provide little hope of investigating war crimes, having congratulated the Sri Lankan government on its victory, within days of the war ending.

Channel 4 News blogs on events in Sri Lanka
– Blogs by Jon Snow, Jonathan Miller and Nick Paton Walsh

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council holds out no hope at all. The Sri Lankan issue has failed to force its way onto the UNSC agenda – and were it to do so, China and Russia would likely stand in the way of any unlikely referral to the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

The secretary general has also so far failed to appoint international experts to investigate – as he’s previously promised he might.

Amnesty and the ICG have taken the UN to task for its failure to act decisively to push for accountability. Crisis Group went so far as to recommend that the UN should open an inquiry into its own conduct in Sri Lanka. Last night Louise Arbour – herself a former UN human rights commissioner – talked of the UN’s “silence – verging on complicity” with the Rajapaksa regime.

A statement from the Sri Lankan high commission
The High Commission of Sri Lanka in the United Kingdom totally deny the allegations made against the Government of Sri Lanka and its armed forces. As it has been repeatedly stressed and supported by evidence, Government’s security forces were engaged in a humanitarian operation with the objective of rescuing the civilians held as human shields by a terrorist outfit: the LTTE, which was banned in many countries including the UK. All internationally accepted standards and norms of such operations were followed in the prosecution of the humanitarian operation by the security forces which were under strict orders to follow a zero civilian casualty policy.

The government of Sri Lanka is now in the process of rebuilding and reconciliation. The President of Sri Lanka has established the “Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission” of eight eminent persons reflecting all ethnic groups in Sri Lanka to inquire and report institutional administrative and legislative measures which need to be taken in order to prevent any recurrence of such concerns in the future, and to promote further national unity and reconciliation among all communities.

This High Commission is not in a position to make comments on specific allegations said to have been made in the video without viewing it. Therefore, we appreciate it if you could forward the said video to the High Commission for viewing and for verifying its authenticity prior to the telecast.

High Commission of Sri Lanka
The United Kingdom
18 May 2010

In January 2009, as the final chapter opened in the 30-year-long Sri Lankan civil war, I was in Gaza, picking over the humanitarian disaster left after Israel’s three-week war there. Between 1,200 and 1,400 civilians were killed during the aerial bombardments and subsequent ground offensive. In the final weeks of the Sri Lankan government offensive on the “no-fire zone”, Ms Arbour believes a figure of 30,000 civilian deaths “is not implausible”.

Within months of the Gaza conflict, the UN Human Rights Council had dispatched Judge Richard Goldstone to investigate possible war crimes. He produced a damning report.

There has been no investigation in Sri Lanka. Local journalists who’ve raised their heads above the parapet have been jailed or disappeared or killed. The UN has done nothing concrete in moving towards an impartial inquiry. There has been no Goldstone in Colombo. Even the UN rapporteur for extrajudicial executions has been denied a visa for the past four years.

You can kind of see why the “Sri Lankan Option” might just catch on.