By Gagani Weerakoon & Skandha Gunasekara
The Maxwell Paranagama Commission appointed to inquire into abductions and disappearances has rejected the suggestion that civilians were either targeted directly or indiscriminately by the Sri Lanka Army as part of an alleged genocide move and has concluded that it was the LTTE who killed a majority of Tamil civilians during the last 12 hours of the final stage of the war.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe tabled the Maxwell Paranagama Commission report and the Nissanka Udalagama Commission report along with the UNHRC report on alleged human rights violations in Sri Lanka.
“In arriving at its findings about the LTTE, the Commission was cognisant of the fact that every major NGO and many international organisations recognized the parasitic conduct of the LTTE in its treatment of the Tamil civilian population, including the enforced recruitment of children as soldiers, particularly in the last stages of the war. It has been estimated by a respected Jaffna-based NGO that in the final 12 hours of the conflict, the majority of the Tamil civilian casualties was caused by the LTTE,” the Paranagama Report said.
The LTTE was “principally responsible for the loss of civilian life during the final phase of the armed conflict through their actions which included :
Taking 300,000 to 330,000 civilian hostages, implementing a strategy of killing Tamil civilians to suit their military aims, using civilians as a strategic human buffer leading to considerable loss of civilian life; using hostages to dig trenches and build fortifications and thereby exposing them to harm; sacrificing countless civilians hostages to keep the LTTE leadership in power; arming hostages and forcing them into the frontline leading to the deaths of large numbers; forcing a great number of children to man the frontlines; deliberately preventing civilians, under their effective control, from fleeting to areas away from the fighting and executing civilian hostages for attempting to escape their captivity; shelling civilian hostages in order that the LTTE might assign those deaths to the SLA for media purposes to provoke international humanitarian intervention; placing their heavy weaponry amid civilians making it inevitable that there would be civilian casualties; killing civilians through the use of suicide bombers; placing mines and other explosive devices that resulted in civilian deaths; causing the deaths of civilians who drowned in an attempt to flee their LTTE captors; and adopting a practice whereby a significant number of its cadres fought in civilian clothes, thus blurring the distinction between combatants and civilians inevitably leading to civilian deaths.”
” The Commission is of the view that the principal reason for the loss of civilian life during the final phase of the war was the hostage-taking and use of human shields by the LTTE.”
The Paranagama Commission rejects the suggestion that civilians were either targeted directly or indiscriminately by the SLA as a part of an alleged genocidal plan,” it said in its executive report adding that ” The Commission finds that the Darusman Report, as well as other reports, have taken a particularly narrow and restricted view of the obligation upon the GOSL to prosecute international crimes.
The Commission accepted that shelling by the SLA undoubtedly led to a significant number of civilian deaths, “but the Commission stresses that this was an inevitable consequence of the LTTE’s refusal to permit civilians to remove themselves from their control in order to use them both as a shield and a pool for recruitment, even when the GOSL permitted a ceasefire on April 12. No government could be expected to permit young children to be forced into the frontlines without taking all available measures to put an end to such ruthless exploitation of a civilian population,”
“The Commission rejects the Darusman Report’s finding that ‘a number of credible sources’ have estimated that there could have been as many as 40,000 civilian deaths.”
The Commission recommends to “deal with the issue of missing persons, effective mechanisms must be established at various levels. Different contexts might require different solutions and no approach that fits every situation has yet been identified. Coordinating mechanisms and national mechanisms should always liaise with the families and communities concerned about their work, its limitations, the chances of success and the probability of finding the missing person alive or of finding the remains through exhumation and forensic identification. In addition, families should be informed about whether and how they might obtain assistance and reparation and about the possibilities for punishing those responsible for the disappearance of their loved ones.”
“Several complainants stated that their family members were abducted or caused to disappear from their places of residence, while some stated that their family members were abducted from places other than their homes, which information was transmitted to the members of the family by a third party.”
The Commission recommends that the legal process against prisoners held in relation to LTTE activities should be expedited.
“Livelihood assistance should be provided to families of missing persons by providing assistance so that they can sustain a continued livelihood for a period of time until they are able to sustain themselves independently. It has been observed by the Commission that lifestyles have been being subdued due to the traumatic conditions imposed on the missing persons family by the war.”
The Commission also suggests a process of counselling and psycho-social related services.
The Commission of Inquiry into Abductions and Disappearances (Maxwell Paranagama Commission) conducted 12 public sittings in the North and the East. Each public sitting was spread over a period of four days.
The Commission chaired by Maxwell Paranagama comprised Suranjana Vidyaratne, Mano Ramanathan, W.A.T. Rathnayaka and H. Sumanapala.
The next report tabled in Parliament yesterday was the final outcome of the Presidential Commission (Udalagama Commission) of Inquiry appointed to investigate and inquire into alleged serious violations of Human Rights arising after 1 August, 2005.
The Udalagama Commission says that the manner in which the Police conducted the initial investigations into the killing of 17 aid workers of the international nongovernmental organization Action Contre La Farm in early August 2006 lacks professionalism. The Commission recommends that it is necessary to incorporate a comprehensive component on human rights and international humanitarian law in all police and armed forces training schemes.
In addition to the case of the killing of 17 aid workers, the Commission compiled separate reports with regard to the deaths of 51 persons in Naddalamottankulam (Senchoali) in August 2006; the alleged execution of Muslim villagers in Muttur and the execution at Welikanda of 14 persons from Muttur who were being transported in ambulances in early August 2006; killing of ten Muslim villagers in Radella in Pottuvil Police area on 17 Sept, 2006 and the killing of five youth in Trincomalee.
“Out of the 16 cases mandated to be inquired into by the Commission, proceedings into seven cases have been concluded. With regard to the other nine cases the COI is not in a position to conduct the inquiry within the mandated period. Two of the cases namely the killing of 17 aid workers of the ACF and the killing of five youth in Trincomalee attracted the attention of many parties including international organizations and foreign governments. Proceedings of these two cases took up most of the time of the Commission.”
The Commission chaired by Justice N.K .Udalagama comprised Upawansa Yapa, Devanesan Nesiah, K.C Logeswaran, Manouri Muttettuwegama, Jezima Ismail, S.S Wijeratne, Javid Yusuf, Douglas Premaratne, M. Faizal Razeen and Denzil J. Gunaratne.