Churches and ICRC regions in No Fire Zone shelled by Sri Lanka

As we approach seven years since the end of the armed conflict where Sri Lankan government troops systematically killed tens of thousands of Tamil civilians, the Tamil Guardian is revisiting the events of the final weeks.

Tens of thousands of civilians were killed in mass atrocities accompanied by a litany of systematic rights abuses that have since been outlined in UN reports.

Seven years on, not a single prosecution for these crimes has taken place and the military responsible for the atrocities remains deployed in the Tamil speaking areas.

23 April 2009 – Further shelling of churches and ICRC regions

The church in Valaignarmadam was shelled for the second consecutive day, injuring and killing several social welfare personnel, reported Tamilnet.

Further instances of shelling of coastlines where injured Tamil civilians were looking to be evacuated by the ICRC ship were reported from the ground.

23 April 2009 – India calls for political solution and an end to killings of Tamil civilians

The ongoing carnage came as the Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, calling for the killings to stop, warned that only a political solution would ensure true lasting peace.

Speaking to media after an hour long meeting on the situation in Sri Lanka he said,

“We are very unhappy at the continued killing of innocent Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka. These killings must stop. The only lasting solution will come from political efforts to address the real concerns of the Tamil people, giving them a life of dignity within the Sri Lankan mainstream.”

22 April 2009 – ICRC intimidated, churches shelled and US reiterates calls for international access into No Fire Zone 

The Sri Lankan Military fired shells in close range of an ICRC ship a short time after exact co-ordinates of the evacuation ship were given to the Sri Lankan government, sources on the ground told TamilNet.

Further reports from the No Fire Zone, said that prominent places of refuge such as a church in Valaignarmadam had been shelled by the Sri Lankan military.

The US state department, in a press brief on Sri Lanka, repeated calls on the government to allow international aid agencies and observers into the No Fire Zone.

The US official also stressed the need to ascertain the number of people remaining in the No Fire Zone.

Meanwhile, an official from the LTTE political division estimated that over 200,000 Tamil civilians remained in the No Fire Zone.

21 Apr 2009 – Sri Lankan government delays aid to Vanni

The Sri Lankan government delayed the departure of a World Food Programme (WFP) aid ship to take supplies to conflict affected regions in Vanni.

The government had stopped the ship form leaving despite having the exact co-ordinates of the docking point in Vanni, officials from the Vavuniyaa District Secretariat toldTamilnet.

Situational reports for the previous month showed that only a quarter of the required aid had reached Tamil civilians in the conflict regions.

21 Apr 2009 – South African political party members condemn ethnic cleansing and stress need to consider political solution

The Solidarity Group for Peace and Justice in Sri Lanka, which consisted of members of the African National Congress (ANC), Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and South African Communist Party (SACP) groups condemned the ‘ethnic killings’ Tamil civilians by Sri Lanka government forces.

The South African organisation in their statement warned,

“The pursuit of a military solution not in favour of a viable political framework addressing the legitimate grievances of the Tamil people and their aspirations for self-determination remains the fundamental barrier between permanent peace amid an unfolding humanitarian disaster.”

“If a policy of ethnic cleansing continues to be pursued by the Sri Lankan administration, the Solidarity Group and its affiliates will be poised to take strong measures in pressuring the state to accept an unconditional ceasefire.”

See full statement here.

20 Apr 2009 – Shells, cluster bombs and hospital attacks leave thousands injured

The Sri Lankan military in one of the most deadly offensives of the 2009 conflict bombarded the No Fire Zone with shells and cluster bombs injuring over 1000 civilians and leaving countless dead, sources on the ground told Tamilnet.

Further reports said that the Puthamathalan makeshift hospital within No Fire Zone had been hit by several shells causing severe injuries.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Country Chief, also expressed concern over the lack of medical aid for the people in the No Fire Zone.

“The situation there is very difficult. The makeshift health facilities that are still existing are not immune of the effects of the hostilities.” Paul Castella told the BBC.

“The Ministry of Health staff still working there is really worn out – these people are working for months now without any break, they work day and night. And medical supplies are lacking,” he added.

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report in to Sri Lanka’s mass atrocities (OISL) , released in September 2015 found:

OISL notes with grave concerns the repeated shelling of hospitals in the Vanni. Hospitals and other medical units and personnel enjoy special protection under IHL and cannot be made object of attack. Their protection does not cease unless these are used to commit hostile acts, outside their humanitarian function. The recurrence of such shelling despite the fact that the security forces were aware of the exact location of hospitals raises serious doubt that these attacks were accidental.  Other civilian facilities in the NFZs were also impacted, notably humanitarian facilities and food distribution centres. The information available to OISL indicates that in none of the incidents reviewed were there any grounds that could have reasonably led the security forces to determine that these facilities were used for military purposes.  These facilities therefore maintained their civilian character and could not be directly targeted.  Directing attacks against civilian objects and/or against civilians not taking direct part in hostilities is a serious violation of international humanitarian law and, depending on the circumstances, may amount to a war crime.

Another concern is that security forces employed weapons that, when used in densely populated areas, are likely to have indiscriminate effects.  This is reinforced by the fact that the security forces reportedly had the means to use more accurate weapons and munitions so as to better respect their legal obligations, notably the requirements of distinction and precaution. In addition, the security forces publicly declared that they had means at their disposal, such as real-time images from drones, that would have helped them accurately target military objectives.

20 Apr 2009 – LTTE welcomes US statement, say it’s willing to discuss key issues with international community

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, in a statement by its political headquarters, welcoming the US state department’s calls for a ceasefire, urged the Sri Lankan government to stop military actions and commit to an immediate ceasefire.

The LTTE further added that they were committed to meaningful negations with the international community on issues related to humanitarian access, security and the movement and welfare of the Tamil civilian population.

See full statement here.

20 Apr 2009 – Thousands of Tamil protestors blockade roads in London

After witnessing a weekend of carnage in the No Fire Zone, thousands of Tamildemonstrators swelled onto roads outside the Houses of Parliament in London.

Over 2500 protestors temporarily blocked the roads leading up to Westminster Bridge in desperate attempts to force international action to stop the ongoing slaughter of Tamil civilians.

 

Apr 19 2009 – Tamil Civilian deaths and casualties continue in No Fire Zone

Civilian casualties and deaths continued to escalate as reports suggested that Sri Lankan military shelling killed 60 civilians and left over 100 injured.

Medical authorities from makeshift hospitals said that death tolls were inaccurate as dead bodies were not being brought back to hospitals, reported Tamilnet.

470 wounded patients were sent to ICRC aid ships at the end of the week. Speaking toThe Guardian a doctor on the ship, Gnana Gunalan, said,

“Most of the people have shell blast injuries and gunshot injuries. Some people have lost their limbs, other people have lost other parts of the body, some people have wounds in the abdomen, some in the chest.”

Apr 19 2009 – British Foreign Secretary calls for an immediate ceasefire

The British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, in a statement, maintained calls for an immediate ceasefire in Sri Lanka, and for Tamil civilians to be allowed to leave the conflict area.

“Protests and demonstrations around the world have highlighted the tragic loss of life of innocent civilians in Sri Lanka. Further loss of life will only compound the tragedy. We have heard their voice and will keep listening. We are committed to do all we can to bring this terrible conflict to an end,” said the Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

The Australian capital of Canberra earlier that week saw over 8500 Tamils take part in a rally to demand an immediate ceasefire in Sri Lanka and an end to atrocities committed against the Tamils.

Tamilnet reported that a peace activist, Lara Pullin, who came to see the demonstrations that week, said,

“The rallies by the Tamils have gathered the same momentum that I saw during the pre  East-Timor independence time and Anti-apartheid movement; one gets the feeling where Tamils have come to a stage where they are saying ‘Enough is Enough’

Meanwhile, Tamilnet reported that 67 social welfare Tamil diaspora organisations in France, in a secret ballot, showed unanimous support for the Independence struggle of Tamils in Sri Lanka.

18 Apr 2009 – Tamil civilians on verge of dying of starvation in No Fire Zone

Thousands of Tamil civilians were on the verge of dying by starvation in the No Fire Zone , sources on the ground told Tamilnet.

A United Nations official in Colombo further said, that the situational report by the Mullaitheevu District Secretariat had requested for food and rations to feed at least 305,219 people. Humanitarian aid figures suggested that only 22% of the aid needed had reached the No Fire Zone in the month of March.

Highlighting the extent of malnutrition in the No Fire Zone, the report said,

“A nutrition survey conducted by the Department of health, Mullaitivu District in last week of March, 2009, indicates that 69.91% of children were under weight and acute under nutrition is very much increased. The report requests for immediate intervention in supply food.”

18 Apr 2009 – Rape, torture and violence prevalent in state run IDP camps

A human rights activist, Thomas Seilbert, returning from a trip to Sri Lanka, expressed extreme concern regarding the welfare of Tamil civilians run in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps run by the government.

Describing the welfare of Tamil civilians in government hands, he said,

“Many are tortured or simply shot. There are also reports of regular rapes.”

See full statement here:

18 Apr 2009 – Further calls by Tamil demonstrators for UN to take action

Over 5000 Tamil demonstrators gathered in New York’s Times Square and outside the United Nation to urge the UN to stop the slaughter of Tamil civilians by the Sri Lankan government.

Protestors travelled from across the North American continent to attend one of the largest demonstrations seen in New York at the time, reported Tamilnet.

17 Apr 2009 – Sri Lanka intends to exterminate the Tamil population says TNA

The Tamil National Alliance, in a letter to the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, said that Sri Lanka’s actions proved that ‘the real intention of the Sri Lankan State is the progressive extermination of the Tamil people.’

The letter highlighted concerns over  the Sri Lankan military usage of chemical weapons, an imminent mass annihilation of Tamil civilians, and the ongoing shelling of the No Fire Zone.

See full letter here.

17 Apr 2009 – Global Centre for Responsibility to Protect calls on UN Security Council to fulfil its duty

The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, in an open letter to the UN Security Council, urged the international community to demand access to the conflict zone for humanitarian groups and media and fulfil responsibility of preventing peoples from genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

See full letter here.

 

16 Apr 2009 – 600 shells fall in No Fire Zone, US calls to halt shelling and allow international access

The US department of state, in a press release, called on the government of Sri Lanka to halt shelling of the No Fire Zone, allow international monitors to ensure the safe passage of Tamil civilians and enforce international humanitarian standards within IDP camps.

See full statement here.

The statement came as over 600 shells fell in the No Fire Zone within the space of a day. Sources in the No Fire Zone registered over 1500 shell explosions with roughly 600 occurring within the No Fire Zone.

Tamilnet reported that 130 injured civilians were admitted to the ad-hoc hospital within the No Fire Zone in Puthumathalan.

 

15 Apr 2009 – Tamil civilians killed carrying white flag in No Fire Zone, diaspora continues protests

The Sri Lankan Military, in an intense 3 hour assault on the No Fire Zine killed at least 180 Tamil civilians.

Reports form the ground highlighted that injured civilians transported with white flags were being killed.

“The seriously wounded civilians are dying as their transport has been blocked by the Sri Lankan army firing on medical transport carrying white flags. The Sri Lankan army gunners shot a man who was trying to transport a wounded victim while holding white flag,” sources on the ground toldTamilnet.

Thousands of Tamil diaspora across the world continued protests and hunger strike demonstrations demanding immediate humanitarian assistance for the people in the No Fire Zone and an end to the genocide of Tamils.

 

14 April 2009 – Mexico says R2P doctrine applicable in Sri Lanka

Responding to questions regarding a meeting between the Mexican Ambassador to the United Nations, Claude Heller, and Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohana, the Mexican ambassador told the Inner City Press that the Responsibility to protect doctrine could be applied in Sri Lanka.

“We are very concerned that in the case of Sri Lanka there is a concern of the responsibility to protect the population.”


Heller further added that Sri Lanka’s summary of the viewpoint he expressed in his meeting with Kohana was not accurate.

This report was not the first time the Inner City Press picked up on Sri Lankan misrepresentation of international officials.

The Sri Lankan foreign secretary at the time misrepresented calls by the US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, to allow international aid agencies into the No Fire Zone.

14 Apr 2009 – States party to Geneva convention have legal obligation to intervene

Speaking to Tamilnet, a professor of International Law at the University of Illinois College of Law, Francis Boyle, calling on the United States to take action in Sri Lanka, said that all states party to the Geneva Conventions had a legal obligation to intervene and protect Tamil civilians in the North-East of Sri Lanka.

See his statement here.

14 Apr 2009 – Sources on the ground warn of mass tragedy after further indiscriminate bombing of No Fire Zone

Sources on the ground told Tamilnet that 16 bombs were indiscriminately dropped by the Sri Lankan air-force into the No Fire Zone in the early hours of the morning, as the Sri Lankan military advanced with gunfire into the No Fire Zone, in Puthukudiyiruppu.

The source in the No Fire Zone warned of an inevitable mass tragedy.

 

13 Apr 2009 –  Sri Lanka strips Norway of peace facilitating role due to US involvement

Sri Lanka stripped Norway of its role as a peace facilitator, reported the Agence France Presse (AFP).

“The government of Sri Lanka perceives that there is no room for Norway to act as facilitator,”  a government official told the news agency.

Speaking to Aljazeera, Norway’s special envoy to Sri Lanka, Jon Hanssen-Bauer, responding to Sri Lanka’s decision, said,

“We cannot be facilitators in a peace process which has in effect been suspended since 2006”

Diplomatic sources in Colombo told Tamilnet, that Sri Lanka has made the decision due to worries over United States influence in the Norwegian led peace negotiations.

13 Apr 2009 – Offensive Sri Lankan military assaults into No Fire Zone continue despite ceasefire claims

The Sri Lankan Military stepped up the shelling and gunfire during an offensive into the No Fire Zone, resulting in the deaths of at least 23 Tamil civilians, reported Tamilnet.

The offensive came despite announcements from the Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, that the military forces would act defensively over the 2 day new-year period.

13 Apr 2009 – LTTE calls for permanent ceasefire with humanitarian considerations

The political division of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), in a statement, emphasised that the LTTE were calling for a politically and militarily meaningful ceasefire with humanitarian considerations.

See full statement here.



12 Apr 2009 – TNA: Tamil people face genocide

The Tamil National Alliance in a statement released by its Foreign Relations Committee, accused the Sri Lankan government of deliberately targeting Tamil civilians and concluded that ‘the Tamil people in the island are clearly being subjected to genocide.’

See extracts from the TNA statement below.

“The Sri Lankan State by imposing an embargo on food, medicine and desperately needed humanitarian assistance has precipitated a humanitarian catastrophe.”

“The Sri Lankan State’s use of food and medicine as weapons of war is a war crime under international law.”

“The situation faced by the Tamil people is unprecedented. Whilst a considerable section of the Tamil people are being exterminated in the so called “safe zones”, or are in imminent danger of being exterminated, the remaining sections are being systematically silenced by being herded into concentration camps, terrorized by mass round ups, abductions and forced disappearances.”

“The use by the Sri Lankan State of internationally banned weapons, such as cluster bombs and chemical weapons, has been a characteristic feature of the current phase of the war being waged against the Tamil people.”

“The Tamil people in the island of Sri Lanka are clearly being subjected to Genocide.”

12 Apr 2009 –  31 Tamil civilians killed amidst Sri Lankan military shelling and gunfire in No Fire Zone

Reports from Tamilnet suggested that at least 31 civilians were killed and 36 Tamil civilians were submitted to the make shift hospital in the No Fire Zone.

12 April 2009 – Swiss Tamils protest against genocide of Tamils

Swiss Tamil protestors took part in a demonstration to raise awareness about the ongoing genocide of Tamils to the international community.

The protests occurred on the final day of a hunger strike undertaken by Tamil students in Switzerland to raise awareness about the atrocities occurring in Sri Lanka, reportedTamilnet.

11 Apr 2009 – Hospital records report 599 deaths and 3350 injuries in 3 days of attacks on No Fire Zone

Tamilnet reports from hospital records outlined at least  599 deaths and 33350 injuries amongst the Tamil civilian population in the No Fire Zone after 3 days of shelling.


11 Apr 2009 – 200,000 British Tamils march through London demanding a ceasefire

Over 200,000 British Tamils marched through London demanding a ceasefire in Sri Lanka, reported Tamilnet.

The demonstration, which was instigated  by British Tamil students, broke all previous records of attendance at Tamil protests.

 

 

10 Apr 2009 – Reporter Sans Frontiers demands that journalists be allowed into No Fire Zone, expresses concern over SL war crimes

Reporters sans Frontiers (RSF)  warned that the death of two journalists in the No Fire Zone was yet another  war crime that the Sri Lankan government would be held accountable for, and strongly condemned the Sri Lankan government’s banning of independent journalists from the No Fire Zone and Sri Lankan army front lines.

Extracts from the statement reproduced below.

“It is a disgrace that this war is being waged without independent journalists present. And by preventing thousands of innocent civilians from moving freely, the Tamil Tiger rebels bear a large share of the responsibility for these crimes. By limiting media coverage to guided tours with the purpose of confirming military victories, the armed forces are preventing the press from doing its job and are disregarding the public’s right to be informed in an independent manner.”


“Reporters are unable to travel freely in the northern Vanni district, especially the coastal area were nearly 100,000 civilians and rebel combatants have been surrounded by the army.” 


10 April 2009 – Stop shelling No Fire Zone, HRW tells Sri Lanka

Human Rights Watch in a press release demanded that the Sri Lankan government stop firing heavy artillery into the ‘No Fire Zone, where they estimated some 100000 Tamil civilians were trapped.

The Asian director at Human Rights Watch described Sri Lanka’s No Fire one as ‘the most dangerous place in the world.’

Reaching out to Human Rights Watch, a doctor in the No Fire Zone, said,

“We have been reporting every day, every day providing reports to relevant authorities and to the international community, and still there are no real steps taken to save these innocent civilians.”


See full Human Rights Watch press brief here.

10 Apr 2009 –  US Tamil organisations urge state department to check reports of chemical weapons used in No Fire Zone

Eleven Tamil organisations in a meeting with the US state department urged the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Robert Blake, to investigate allegations and evidence of chemical weapon attacks against Tamil civilians and called for aid to be delivered to the No Fire Zone.

See press release from the US state department meeting here.

 

09 April 2009 –  ICRC team leader killed in Vanni

A team leader for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Sinnathurai Kugathasan, was killed by Sri Lankan military shelling within the No Fire Zone, rescue workers told Tamilnet.

08 April 2009 –  Child nutrition centre shelled by Sri Lankan military

411 civilians including 100 children were affected by the shelling of a child care centre and milk powder distribution centre at Pokkanai, within the No Fire Zone.

Reports given to Tamilnet alleged that three artillery shells were fired into the civilian facilities, leaving 129 dead and 100 children injured.

An survivor of the shelling in an eyewitness account to Human Rights Watch, said,

“There had been no distribution of milk powder for three months, and so when they announced that there would be distribution today, hundreds of people lined in queue. It was early in the morning. I heard the first shell, and hit the ground. I survived by miracle, but my 45-year old uncle died on the spot- he lost both legs.”

 

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report in to Sri Lanka’s mass atrocities (OISL) , released in September 2015 found:

On 5 February 2009, the United Nations, the ICRC, medical workers and Government officials relocated from PTK to Putumattalan and Valayarmadam, on the coast.  As humanitarian agencies moved in convoy, they encountered shelling and airstrikes near Iranaipalai, and were forced to stop temporarily due to airstrikes along the road ahead.

Intense fighting continued in the NFZ, including around Putumattalan hospital, which the ICRC described as “nothing short of catastrophic”. The ICRC expressed particular concern about the impact on civilians of using weapons such as artillery, and called on both sides to take extreme precautions, describing the context as “exceptional in that combat is occurring in a very densely populated area.

Witnesses alleged the use of cluster-type munitions by the Sri Lankan armed forces in their attacks on Putumattalan hospital and the United Nations hub.  Medical staff reported that they amputated the leg of a woman who had suffered injuries allegedly as a result of a “cluster bomb”

07 Apr 2009 –  Sri Lankan military uses chemical weapons, says LTTE

A senior commander of the LTTE, who witnessed attacks in the No Fire Zone said that the Sri Lankan Military was extensively using chemical weapons, reported Tamilnet.
The Sri Lankan government had already received criticism for the purchase of weapons banned under international law.

Video footage obtained in 2014, showed Sri Lankan soldiers confirming that they used chemical weapons against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and Tamil civilians during the final stages of the war.

See related articles:

Video of Sri Lankan soldier describing use of chemical weapons – India’s News X (16 Mar 2014)

Controversial weapon meant for genocide alleges MP (17 August 2001)

07 Apr 2009 – Shelling starvation and death in the No Fire Zone 


A wounded Tamil civilian speaking from the No Fire Zone described the hellish conditions that the people faced under relentless shelling from the Sri Lankan army.

Describing a shell attack that killed his son, the wounded civilian, Subasan, said,

“I was thrown by the blast and both my ears were blocked by the explosion. When I recovered from my initial shock, I realised that I was injured. I tried to save a badly injured 14 year old boy lying nearby but the boy succumbed to his injury.”

“I have two children, but the food we have is inadequate to feed the family. The food we have here is enough for only one person, but we share,” he further added speaking to Tamilnet.

6 Apr 2009 – Thousands of Tamil protestors occupy parliament square demanding international action as slaughter of Tamil civilians in North-East escalates

6 April marks the anniversary of the parliament square protests. Following 2 weeks of protest outside British parliament the number of demonstrators escalated to thousands in response to the intensified shelling of Tamil civilians in the North-East. Thousands of protestors took to the streets and staged a sit down demonstration in front of the Houses of Parliament.

The protests that happened in response to the shelling of Tamil civilians in the No Fire Zone, were eventually documented as the longest ever continuous mass protests outside the Houses of Parliament in its recorded history.

For an eye-witness account of the events see here.

Protests in London were followed by protests around the world calling for international governments to act to stop the killing of Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka.

Thousands of protestors take to the streets
Veteran British politician Tony Benn joins demonstrations
 Photographs: The Guardian

6 Apr 2009 – Medical officials in the North-East report systematic shelling of over 250,000 civilians in  No Fire Zone

The regional officer of the Mullaitheevu Regional Director of Health Services (RDHS),outlined an obvious pattern of shelling within the No Fire Zone.

The officer reported that conservative estimates placed at least 250,000 people within the No Fire Zone.

6 Apr 2009 – UN Sec-Gen on IDPs warns of disproportionate collateral damage among civilian population in No Fire Zone

After a visit to Sri Lanka in April 2009, the Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on the Human Rights of IDPs warned that the second NFZ “essentially overlaps with the conflict zone as LTTE forces have been pushed back into it. This creates an extreme and deadly risk for the remaining civilian population. Due to the zone’s limited size and high population density, any military operation – even if undertaken with the utmost caution and with respect for the principle of distinction between civilians and combatants – is highly likely to be indiscriminate by nature and cause disproportionate collateral damage among the civilian population.”

5 Apr 2009 – Sri Lankan Airforce intensifies attack on civilian No Fire Zone

Over 200 civilians were either killed or wounded due to Sri Lankan Air-forcebombardment of the No Fire Zone on this day.

Areas of Maaththalan, Pokkanai, Valaignarmadam, Iraddai-vaaykkal and other areas of safety zone were shelled

4 Apr 2009 – Tamil Eelam Bank official warns of atrocities happening in Vanni

In a message to the international community and the Tamil diaspora, the head of Finance at the Tamil Eelam Bank in the Vanni outlined dire conditions that Tamil civilians were living in due to arial bombardment by Sri Lanka’s military.

Mr Balakrishnan said that 350,000 people were being fed with supplies that could only cater for 70,000 people. The official accused Sri Lanka’s government of denying aid to the Tamil areas and killing at least 50 people a day through its military activity.

Deploring the fact that Sri Lanka had exiled international NGOs and journalists from the Tamil areas to cover its crimes and prevent information from leaking to the outside world, the official called on the Tamil diaspora and others to raise international awareness about the atrocities happening in Sri Lanka.

The official added that the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were workign to provide aid to Tamil civilians but needed further aid resources from the diaspora as the Sri Lankan government was with holding aid.

 

13 Mar 2009 – UN Human Rights Chief warns of potential war crimes

The High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement on 13 March 2009, expressing her concern for the civilian population in the conflict zone, suggesting war crimes and crimes against humanity may have been committed.

6 Mar 2009 – Doctors warn of severe shortage of medicines in Vanni

The Regional Director of Health Services (RDHS) of the Kilinochchi district, Dr Saththiyamoorthy, accused the government of Sri Lanka of systematically blocking medical supplies to the Vanni region, causing several Tamil civilians to die.

In a situational update, Dr Saththiyamoorthy said the region had not received medicine for 4 months prior to his report.

“There is a severe shortage of medicines, particularly anesthetic drugs, surgical items, IV fluids, Oral antibiotics, Paediatric syrups, Arv, toxoid and Vaccines,” said the report.

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report in to Sri Lanka’s mass atrocities (OISL) , released in September 2015 found:

“OISL has reasonable grounds to believe that the Government knew or had reasons to know the real humanitarian needs of the civilian populations in the concerned areas, including from its own Government agents who were organizing assistance in the conflict zone, and yet it imposed severe restrictions on the passage of relief and the freedom of movement of humanitarian personnel.”

 

13 Feb 2009 – Tamil civilians face intense shelling as they flee to ‘No Fire Zones’

Over 150 civilians were feared killed by Sri Lankan Army shelling roads that were being used by civilians to flee from conflict areas and reach newly defined ‘no fire zones.’

Several casualties and fatalities were reported along roads side from Teavipuram to Puthukkudiyiruppu, with the fleeing civilians forced to leave their dead on the side of the roads or bury them under intense shelling.

A further 90 civilians were reported killed by similar circumstances two days prior.

11 Feb 2009 – Hospitals bombed, relentless assault on Tamil civilians and calls for international protection

February 11th saw the Jaffna Government Agent (GA) made an urgent appeal to international non-governmental organisations to provide food and protection to over 2400 internally displaced people (IDP) that were in held across three Sri Lankan Military run camps.

The LTTE Divisional Political Head in Vanni, C Ilamparithy, whilst rebuffing Sri Lankan military claims that the LTTE were responsible for the slaughtering of civilian, urged the international community to protect Tamil civilians.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in a statement released the previous day, expressed ‘shock’ at the lack of protection and absence of international aid reaching the Tamil population in Vanni.

Speaking at an ICRC press release, the head of the delegation in Sri Lanka, Paul Castellasaid,

“We are shocked that patients are not afforded the protection they are entitled to.”
In a statement LTTE official Ilamparithy said,

The ‘safety zone’ unilaterally announced by the Colombo government has been turned to a killing field by the Sri Lanka military. The Sri Lankan military machinery, which has relentlessly killed and maimed thousands of civilians during the past four weeks, is now engaged in a propaganda drive to divert mounting pressure on the Colombo government by the international community.

Colombo is committing the worst crimes of humanity, by killing and maiming hundreds of civilians every day with the ‘safety zone’ and by indiscriminately bombing medical institutions.

The international community must ensure the presence of international protection and the monitoring authorities to assure the safety of the civilians, including the wounded patients and their guardians who accompany them.”

The ICRC press statement also read,

“Most of the population is now displaced and completely depended on outside aid, yet none has reached the area since 29 January.”


In a statement made at the start of the month the ICRC expressed dismay at the Sri Lankan Airforce’s repeated bombing of  hospital and medical facilities in Vanni, stating,

We’re shocked that the hospital was hit, and this for the second time in recent weeks. Wounded and sick people, medical personnel and medical facilities are all protected by international humanitarian law. Under no circumstance may they be directly attacked. The staff are under acute stress surrounded as they are by the sound of ongoing fighting and the influx of new patients. Ambulances are constantly arriving, but people are also being brought in by wagon, pick up trucks, tractor and even motor scooter.”