Daily Archives: May 17, 2006
Amnesty International is alarmed by the increasing number of civilians killed as a low-intensity armed conflict appears to be escalating, despite a 2002 ceasefire agreement between the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). More than 200 people have been killed over the past month alone, the majority of them civilians, and more than 20,000 others have been displaced from their homes. Amnesty International fears that a collapse of the ceasefire agreement and return to full-scale armed conflict would have further devastating consequences for civilians.
In separate incidents over the past weekend, 13-14 May, at least 18 civilians were reportedly killed in the north and east of Sri Lanka. Thirteen Tamil civilians were reportedly killed in a spate of incidents on Kayts Island, a small islet off the northwestern coast of the Jaffna Peninsula that is strictly controlled by the Sri Lanka Navy, which has a major base there. On 13 May, at about 8.30 p.m., unidentified gunmen reportedly entered the home of Sellathurai Amalathas in Allaipiddy and opened fire. Eight people were killed on the spot, including a four-month-old baby and four-year-old boy, and one other person died later in hospital. In another incident, at around 10:30 p.m. the same night, unidentified gunmen reportedly entered the home of 72-year-old Murugesu Shanmugalingam in Puliyankoodal, also on Kayts Island, and shot him and two other members of his family dead. Ten shops in Puliyankoodal were reportedly burnt down. In Vangalady, gunmen reportedly entered the home of Ratnam Senthuran, a tea shop owner, and shot him dead. Other members of his family also were shot and injured, but managed to escape.
The government has condemned the Kayts Island killings and announced that a police investigation is underway. Amnesty International welcomes these initial steps but notes that there is a disturbing pattern of incomplete or ineffective investigations by the government, with the result that perpetrators of such violence generally operate with impunity. In accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Sri Lanka has ratified, the government must carry out independent, impartial and effective investigations into all killings; the results of these investigations should be made public, and those found responsible for the attacks must be brought to justice. Without effective investigations and prosecutions, the cycle of retaliatory violence that so endangers the lives of civilians is likely to escalate.
The LTTE has accused the Sri Lanka Navy of responsibility for the attacks on Kayts Island, a charge which the Navy has denied. However, Amnesty International has received credible reports that Sri Lanka Navy personnel and armed cadres affiliated with the Eelam People’s Democratic Party, a Tamil political party that is opposed to the LTTE, were present at the scene of the killings. The government in turn has suggested that the LTTE orchestrated the attack in order "to divert international opinion".
Regardless of who is responsible for the attacks, the Sri Lankan government has obligations under international law to take steps to prevent such killings, to ensure that those who commit them are brought to justice, and that the families of those killed are able to obtain redress.
Amnesty International calls on all parties to the conflict-including the government of Sri Lanka, the LTTE, and other armed groups-to take all possible measures to avoid harm to civilians and respect international humanitarian law, which prohibits murder or violence to those taking no active part in hostilities.
AI Index: ASA 37/014/2006 (Public)
News Service No: 125
16 May 2006
Tigers, under heavy fire over last week’s bid to sink passenger ferry Pearl Cruise II, carrying over 700 unarmed Sri Lankan troops, will stage a major protest in London on Sunday (21) as part of their strategy to divert international attention.
The UN, EU and the US severely criticised the LTTE attack launched on the seven-vessel convoy. The Stockholm-led five-nation Nordic truce monitoring mission censured the LTTE, accusing it of placing the lives of two senior naval monitors – the Trincomalee – based head of the naval monitors and the Jaffna-based deputy. Coming against the backdrop of the assassination bid on Army Chief Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka, the sea-battle prompted the EU to issue its toughest statement since the Oslo-arranged Ceasefire Agreement came into operation in February four years ago.
The four-hour protest meeting will take place at Trafalgar Square. Well informed sources said that the focus would be on the immediate need to disarm rival Tamil groups, particularly the Karuna-led erstwhile LTTE cadres waging a bloody campaign against the Vanni group. The vast majority of the participants are likely to be naturalised British citizens.
President Mahinda Rajapakse’s government has brought this to the notice of British authorities. The Home Office, Metropolitan Police and Foreign and Commonwealth Office have also been informed of the scheduled event.
"This is part of their efforts to distract the international community," an official said expressing belief that the British would block the gathering organised in the guise of a legitimate protest. The British proscribed the Tigers several years ago. The May 21 protest is likely to be similar to a Brussels rally held in the aftermath of the EU placing travel restrictions on the LTTE after the assassination of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar last August.
Organisers are planning to bring participants from various parts of the 25-member EU to participate in the protest. The Island learns that Tigers are in touch with international wire services to secure adequate coverage.
According to a leaflet distributed in London, four UK-based Tamils including S. Balasundaram, a retired SLAS officer, who had served as the Vavuniya AGA before securing employment at Eelam House in London, the home of the British Tamil Association headed by A.C. Shanthan, are organizing the campaign.
Officials said that organisers would use the Trafalgar protest to raise funds. Among the organisers are S. Srikandarajah, a guest speak at the launch of the London-based former British High Commission (Colombo) employee Anton Balasingham’s book "War and Peace" on September 17th last year and M. Seevaratnam, a trustee if the Sivayogam Trust under investigation by the British Charity Commissioner. A frequent traveller to Kilinochchi and Madras, Seevaratnam is believed to be a key man tasked with fund raising operations in the UK. The other organiser has been identified as P. Mylvaganam who recently moved to UK from Norway. He is believed to have played a major role in setting up the so called Eelam Bank in Kilinochchi which receives millions in various currencies illegally colleted by LTTE gangs. -Island by Shamindra Ferdinando