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Sri Lanka: We Challenge the UN to tell us how many LTTE cadres died in the final phase

Ever since May 2009 baseless allegations have been levelled against Sri Lanka’s military. Anyone can make allegations but facts and evidence is what counts. How can anyone accuse a person of murder without a dead body? We know how many Sri Lankan Soldiers died in the final phased but there is a big question mark as to how many LTTE cadres died. Without knowing that, no one can accuse the Sri Lankan Military of killing anyone. Can the UN that is throwing allegations of civilian deaths give proof that x number of civilians were killed after proving with names and clear identities of the LTTE cadres killed. It is only them that claims of killing can be entertained.

Let’s not forget that the Sri Lankan Army were fighting a brutal terrorist outfit that reigned terror upon a nation for 3 decades. These were no angels. They were supported by evil people living overseas and carrying out illegal and legal activities that raised money to buy arms and ammunition and helped by groups of locals and foreigners who were riding on the conflict to advance their own agendas. This was why we did not see any peace and every peace effort was a façade.

When a military offensive takes place there are casualties. If the LTTE had been man enough they should have fought the Sri Lankan Military face to face instead of taking lakhs of people. Yes, there are laws that govern how to engage in conflicts but does the UN seriously believe LTTE cared tuppence to follow Geneva Conventions except to use them for their own advantage. There must be equality and fairness in accusations. What is alleged against the Sri Lankan Army must be applicable to the LTTE. Here’s where we see non-conformity.

UN tell us 

Guestimates count for nothing. We have not seen names of the supposed dead. It’s now 2017 – 8 years has passed since May 2009. Those that make guestimates must surely be able to give figures on LTTE deaths.

The Presidential Missing Person’s Commission mandated to investigate between 1983 and 2009 had only 16,179 names as of 9 April 2015. What happened to the 40,000 supposed dead? Why aren’t their names logged?

5000 names of missing soldiers had been logged with the UNHRC & Presidential Commission. Everyone is silent about these missing soldiers who have names!

To be dead one has to be born. Therefore, anyone who claims 40,000 dead must be able to provide details of names, relations, home address, school records, employment records, a birth certificate or some form of identity.

Those who claim 40,000, 125,000 or even 200,000 must produce some form of evidence that whoever they claim to be dead actually lived!

Where are the dead bodies? 

Whereabouts of the dead bodies (at least skeletons) – by 18th May 2009 the military operations was over.

Surely even the skeletons must be there. Remember, the last battle was in a very small area so if the Army is supposed to have killed 40,000 people the soldiers would have to bury them. In the thick of fighting, the soldiers had no time to be carrying 40,000 dead bodies – even if you throw them to the sea or lagoon they should emerge!

  • How did SL Military kill between 40,000 to 125,000 people between 13-18 May while also saving 295,000 people?
  • How did SL Military dig graves to put 40,000 to 125,000 dead bodies? If C4 has obtained mobile footage of ‘crimes’ by SL forces why has no one taken footage of soldiers digging mass graves and shoving dead bodies inside these graves?
  • To dig graves for 40,000 is no joke. It cannot be done within a few minutes or even a few hours. Also, how deep does the grave have to be to put such a number? A standard grave is 2 ½ feet wide and 8ft in length and 4 ft deep.

These basic questions need to be ascertained before wasting money, time and resources on starting a bogus tribunal when preliminary evidence is zero.

How many actually died – we know the soldier deaths but how many Tamils died? All LTTE were Tamils though all Tamils are not LTTE.

1.    How many LTTE cadres in uniform died

2.    How many LTTE cadres in civilian clothes died

3.    How many Civilians fighting by voluntarily or by force died

4.  How many Civilians who were neither voluntarily nor by force with the LTTE died in battle 

Let’s not forget that ALL of the 12,000 LTTE cadres who surrendered were wearing civilian clothing. How come they all lived and were put for rehabilitation.

With regard to the 4th question – which is the most important.

  • HOW MANY CIVILIANS DIED AS A RESULT OF GUNFIRE BY SRI LANKAN ARMY
  • HOW MANY CIVILIANS DIED AS A RESULT OF GUNFIRE BY LTTE – moreover Tamils themselves have said that LTTE was firing at them when they tried to flee. How many such civilians did LTTE kill by shooting?
  • HOW MANY CIVILIANS DIED NATURALLY DUE TO SICKNESS/WEARINESS/ LACK OF FOOD ETC?

It is in determining the above and in having concrete evidence to prove above that allegations against the Sri Lankan Army can be entertained

How ‘civilian’ were the civilians? 

As for everyone claiming ‘Civilian’ dead. They first need to prove that these people were actually civilians. LTTE fought in civilian clothes and LTTE had a trained civilian armed force!

They trained civilians in armed combat. Civilians were taught how to fire and use guns. We don’t know how many of the ‘civilians’ claimed as ‘dead’ belonged to this category. We don’t know how many of the ‘civilians’ the Sri Lankan army saved were also trained in combat. Is it fair to call them refugees/IDPs if so? We are seriously questioning why LTTE spouses are also being called ‘war widows’ especially when not many LTTE cadres were married!

  • Does the UN know how many civilians did not take part in hostilities?
  • Does the UN know how many civilians took part in one or two acts of hostilities making distinction further complicated?
  • Does the UN know how many civilians volunteered to take part in hostilities?
  •  Does the UN know how many civilians may have died while taking part in hostilities?
  • Does the UN know how many will admit and own up to being a civilian but took part in hostilities during the last phase?
  • Can the UN rely on these civilian accounts if all those saved claim they did not take part in hostilities and thus provide them the package of witness protection for no reason?

What does the lawbooks say?

  • Rule 1 of the ICRC declares the Principle of distinction between civilian and combatant. According to the rule, parties to the conflict must at all times distinguish between civilians and combatants. LTTE had a civilian force armed and trained to kill. Can these LTTE trained ‘civilians’ qualify as civilian under ICRC Rule 1? Principle of Distinction is blurred when LTTE has a civilian combatant force and LTTE also attack in civilian clothing.
  •  Attacks may only be directed against combatants. Attacks must not be directed against civilians. LTTE should not have been shooting among civilians. Sri Lanka Army has every right to return fire because if LTTE should not have fired among civilians. However, LTTE has been firing among civilians since 1980s… was the UN asleep?
  • Under customary international law applicable to international and non-international armed conflicts. LTTE as combatants do not enjoy the protection against attack accorded to civilians.
  • LTTE designated as a terrorist outfit also does not enjoy right to combatant status or prisoner of war status
  • Rule 6 declares that civilians are protected against attack unless and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities. How many Tamils either voluntarily or by force took part in hostilities & died as a result (for a short time or throughout)?
  • A conflict that began in the 1980s and ended in 2009 cannot have just one group of victims and be confined to one select period. Every victim from 1980s, 1990s, 2000 upto 2009 must be given equal treatment. Sadly that is not how UN/UNHRC and foreign players are functioning.

Why have these basic questions been ignored by the UN? Like parrots a bandwagon of people are chanting war crimes and civilian deaths without taking cognizance of ground realities nor providing the facts and evidence to substantiate their claims.

We, the public of Sri Lanka will not allow our heroic armed forces to be taken to any tribunal without first producing the evidence to substantiate these claims. What all those proposing tribunals are trying to do is to set up international courts with international judges and then look for or frame lies as part of a witch hunt for ending a terrorist outfit that was a milking cow for many players.

Shenali D Waduge

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