UN War Crimes Report Soft Pedals LTTE’s Using Human Shield: G.L.Peiris
Former Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Prof.G.L.Peiris has said that the report of the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights on “war crimes” in Lanka has soft pedaled the LTTE’s using civilians as a human shield, when it is a war crime under international humanitarian law.
He charged that the Lankan government has not forcefully presented to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) the existing prohibitions against the use of civilians as shields in civil wars. The findings of the Maxwell Paranagama Commission on civilian deaths in Eelam War IV was also not conveyed, Peiris told Express.
The UN report pilloried the government forces which had rescued 300,000 Tamil civilians held hostage by the LTTE. But it let the LTTE, the hostage taker, off the hook.
The report does chide the LTTE for using human shields, but its final word is that the government cannot blame the LTTE for the loss of civilian lives.
“The duty to respect international humanitarian law does not depend on the conduct of the opposing party, and is not conditioned on reciprocity,” the report says.
Law On Human Shields
The Geneva Convention of 1949 described the use of human shields as “cruel and barbaric”. In his paper on the human shield, Michael N.Schmitt, Professor of International Law at the US Naval War College, says that violation of the human shield prohibition constitutes a war crime.
The Additional Protocols to the Geneva Convention say that warring parties shall not direct the movement of the civilian population in order to attempt to shield military objectives from attacks or shield military operations. The presence or movement of the civilian population shall not be used to render certain points or areas immune to military operations, they say.
Art 58 of the Additional Protocol I, says that parties to a conflict are obliged to remove the civilian population and civilian objects under their control from the vicinity of military operations. It also prohibits locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas. The LTTE brazenly violated these provisions in the final phase of the war.