UN must learn from Sri Lanka

It comes as no great surprise to discover that international agencies such as the United Nations were unable to protect civilians in the final months of Sri Lanka’s civil war according to a leaked report.

The last few months of the civil war in Sri Lanka were every bit as bloody and violent as the current one war in Syria.

My former Green Party MP colleague, Keith Locke, organised screenings of a powerful documentary on this conflict late last year.  The Film ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’ is a shocking film, made using cell-phone footage to show what it was like for the 300,000 civilians repeatedly bombed and shelled by the Sri Lankan military.

This is not to deny that atrocities were inflicted by both sides to the conflict.

The fact the United Nations was unable to protect civilians everywhere is disturbing.  However it is also disturbing that the international community appears to have taken no action against those that ordered such atrocities, in particular the brutal shelling of Tamil civilians.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights  Navi Pillay said “The way this conflict was conducted, under the guise of fighting terrorism, challenged the very foundations of the rules of war and cost the lives of tens of thousands of civilians.”

It is high time that there was some justice for the civilian victims of those who were in power in Sri Lanka during the time of the conflict.

*Update: Read Ban Ki-moon’s statement on the Petrie Report here.

4 Comments Posted

  1. I wonder how possible it is to protect “civilians” in a civil war.

    If ever there was a misnomer, civil war is it.

  2. I agree with you Shunda, UN never learn from many thing happened in the past in some UN country group. Sri Lanka is only one of the example. I feel sorry for Sri Lanka, hopefully things can get better there.

  3. While I hold no brief for the Government of Sri Lanka (GSL), I am married into a Sri Lankan family, have met several senior military officers from the GSL Army and have some insight from Tamil and Sinhalesefamilies who lived through the generation of ‘civil war’.

    the comment

    The way this conflict was conducted, under the guise of fighting terrorism

    is, for a start, unacceptable on many grounds. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ellam (the Tigers) committed some of the most atrocious acts of terrorism witnessed by civilisation. They were the first to use and perfect the suicide bombing approach to murder. They routinely bombed civilian and military targets throughout Sri Lanka, they murdered an Indian Political leader for daring to oppose them (using a female suicide bomber,) and didn’t hessitate to terrorise Tamils living overseas to procure funds for their activites. They are proscribed as a terrorist organisation in most countries.

    In the last days of the battle against the LTTE, the elected leadership of Sri Lanka decide that enough was enough and there had to be an end to decades of spending GSL income on war weapons rather than societal development. Through a carefully planned and executed strategy, the LTTE leadership, and most of its domestic members, were pincered onto a small pieve of land baded by a lagoon and an ocean. The LTTE leaders made sure that they dragged with them every ‘civilian’ they could and used them as shields – all the while abandoning their ‘uniforms’ and wearing the same clothing as the civilians.

    While “The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka” does indeed show some footage of abhorent acts by what appear to be members of the GSL Armed Forces, there is other footage, captured on cell-phones by Tamil innocents caught up by the herding, that show ‘civilians’ spraying mobs of other civilians trying to break out of the corral they were being held in. I believe the Chanel 4 footage shows a biased view of the situation that pertained.

    There is no doubt, in anyone’s mind that I know of, that there were terrible things happening in those last days, on both sides of the battle. However, the GSL justified itself to its loyal citizens by stating that they would rather have a last big effort to finish the terrorism once and for all, than another 20 or 30 years of hundreds of Sri Lankans being killed by terrorists. A sentiment that virtually every Sri Lankan I have met since, be they Burgher, Tamil, Muslem or SInhalese (the four recognised ‘ethnicities’ in Sri Lanka,) agrees with.

    There are many lessons to be learned from the LTTE episode, some of which the UN should indeed take on board. THere are other lessons that those on the side of the good in the ‘war against terror’ should learn and we, the people, should accept. Primary amongst the latter is that terrorism only ends when its leaders are stopped and their machinery taken apart. This was true of the Kamher Rouge, the IRA and the LTTE, and we should get on with the job that needs doing without trying to protect the guilty for attacking the innocent.

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