The Sri Lankan newspaper The Island has released leaked sections of a United Nations report due to be published next week, which speaks to the credibility of allegations that the Sri Lankan government committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in its brutal assault on Tamil rebels that brought the decades-long civil war to an end in 2009.
Insofar as this report comes with the imprimatur of the UN, it is indeed a welcome addition to the already vast archive of material documenting the Sri Lankan government’s atrocities. The Report states quite unequivocally that the government’s claims of innocence were lies:
The Government says it pursued a “humanitarian rescue operation” with a policy of “zero civilian casualties”. In stark contrast, the Panel found credible allegations, which if proven, indicate that a wide range of serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law were committed both by the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, some of which would amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
But although the final assault on the Tamil rebels, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was conducted under the cover of a strict media blackout, news of these atrocities had found its way into the mainstream media as early as January 2009, when Amnesty International released this report, which read, in part:
The government had declared “safe zones” to allow civilians to seek shelter, but information made available to Amnesty International indicates that several civilians in the so-called safe zone have been killed or sustained injuries as a result of artillery bombardment.
A doctor working in a hospital in a “safe zone” says that about 1,000 shells fell around the hospital.
the LTTE refused civilians permission to leave, using them as hostages, at times even using their presence as a strategic human buffer…
From February 2009 onwards, the LTTE started point-blank shooting of civilians who attempted to escape the conflict zone, significantly adding to the death toll in the final stages of the war.