This is the story of the killing or disappearance of several groups of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who surrendered to the Sri Lankan army on or about 18 May 2009 at the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war. They were told by the government if they carried a while flag they would be safe crossing the frontline. But when they surrendered it became apparent they had been lured into a trap.Several were executed in cold blood – others have never been seen since.
The surrender of the political leaders of the LTTE – Pulidevan and Nadesan – is commonly known as “the white flag incident”. It involved approximately twelve people surrendering, including the leaders. Photographs of their dead bodies later appeared.
There was however more than one white flag incident. At least 103 other LTTE leaders and those associated with them were seen later that day surrendering while unarmed. Some were led by an elderly Catholic priest called Father Francis Joseph; witnesses saw them loaded onto a bus under army guard. They have not been seen since and are presumed to have been disappeared by the Sri Lanka security forces.
An analysis of the available evidence points to an organised government plan at the highest level not to accept the surrender of the top civilian, administrative and political leadership of the LTTE – but rather to execute them. In the immediate aftermath of the surrenders, the Sri Lankan government presented a number of contradictory explanations for the killings of the political wing leaders but none for the other people who disappeared.