Sri Lanka's Continued Ethnic Cleansing ...
- after Tamil Armed Resistance Ends on 17 May 2009
- the Record Speaks...
Sri Lanka's Hidden Massacre of Tamils
Times On Line, 29 May 2009
More than 20,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the final throes
of the Sri Lankan civil war, most as a result of government
shelling, an investigation by The Times has revealed. The number of
casualties is three times the official figure.
The Sri Lankan authorities have insisted that their forces stopped
using heavy weapons on April 27 and observed the no-fire zone where
100,000 Tamil men, women and children were sheltering. They have
blamed all civilian casualties on Tamil Tiger rebels concealed among
Aerial photographs, official documents, witness accounts and
expert testimony tell a different story. With the world’s media and
aid organisations kept well away from the fighting, the army
launched a fierce barrage that began at the end of April and lasted
about three weeks. The offensive ended Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war
with the Tamil Tigers, but innocent civilians paid the price.
Confidential United Nations documents acquired by The Times record
nearly 7,000 civilian deaths in the no-fire zone up to the end of
April. UN sources said that the toll then surged, with an average of
1,000 civilians killed each day until May 19, the day after
Velupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the Tamil Tigers, was killed.
That figure concurs with the estimate made to The Times by Father
Amalraj, a Roman Catholic priest who fled the no-fire zone on May 16
and is now interned with 200,000 other survivors in Manik Farm
refugee camp. It would take the final toll above 20,000. “Higher,” a
UN source told The Times. “Keep going.”
Some of the victims can be seen in the photograph above, which shows
the destruction of the flimsy refugee camp. In the bottom right-hand
corner, sand mounds show makeshift burial grounds. Other pictures
show a more orderly military cemetery, believed to be for hundreds
of rebel fighters. One photograph shows rebel gun emplacements next
to the refugee camp.
Independent defence experts who analysed dozens of aerial
photographs taken by The Times said that the arrangement of the army
and rebel firing positions and the narrowness of the no-fire zone
made it unlikely that Tiger mortar fire or artillery caused a
significant number of deaths. “It looks more likely that the firing
position has been located by the Sri Lankan Army and it has then
been targeted with air-burst and ground-impact mortars,” said
Charles Heyman, editor of the magazine Armed Forces of the UK.
On Wednesday, Sri Lanka was cleared of any wrongdoing by the UN
Human Rights Council after winning the backing of countries
including China, Egypt, India and Cuba.
A spokesman for the Sri Lankan High Commission in London said: “We
reject all these allegations. Civilians have not been killed by
government shelling at all. If civilians have been killed, then that
is because of the actions of the LTTE [rebels] who were shooting and
killing people when they tried to escape.”