|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.
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.
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.
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,
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
The source in the No Fire Zone warned of an inevitable mass tragedy.
Sri Lanka stripped Norway of its role as a peace facilitator, reported the Agence France Presse (AFP).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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
07 Apr 2009 – Sri Lankan military uses chemical weapons, says LTTE
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:
07 Apr 2009 – Shelling starvation and death in the No Fire Zone
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.
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
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.
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.”
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.”
The ICRC press statement also read,