In an investigative report into war crimes and human rights abuses committed throughout and following the civil war by the Australian Public Interest Advocacy Centre’s (PIAC) International Crimes Evidence Project (ICEP), new evidence is unveiled supporting allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE (Tamil Tigers). The report provides new witness testimonies to what clearly constitute violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law.
In summary, the report provides:
- New witness testimonies to war crimes and human rights abuses i.e. shelling of hospitals and other clearly marked civilian posts, denial of humanitarian aid and large underrepresentation of civilian numbers in war zone.
- New witness testimonies of LTTE war crimes: Shooting those trying to escape without passes, use of family members as ‘guarantors’, attacking from within NFZ’s (using civilians as human shields).
- The report suggests blatant disregard for international humanitarian law on part of the SLA. Implies possible genocide in the form of deliberate attacks on civilian populations.
- New witness testimonies of post conflict abuse i.e. torture and sexual abuse. And forensic evidence to support the claims.
- Ground-breaking allegations of destruction of forensic evidence in the form of exhuming mass graves and ‘disposing’ of bodies to cover up the death-count.
The hope is that forensic evidence obtained by the ICEP; supporting the claims of victims of torture and abuse in custody, once reviewed in trial, could lead to the conviction of high ranking Sri Lankan officials.
The ICEP report adds to a growing number of comprehensive investigations into the crimes committed during and after Sri Lanka’s civil war. The UN has three such documents: the 2011 UN Panel of Experts report, the 2012 Secretary General’s Internal Review, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights 2013 report on reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka. Meanwhile, in addition to the ICEP reports, NGOs have contributed substantial evidence in the form of Human Rights Watch’s report on Sexual Violence, the International Crisis Group’s documentation of War Crimes in Sri Lanka, and most notably, in the form of Callum Macrae and Channel 4’s Killing Fields and No Fire Zone documentaries.
There is now no shortage of evidence that war crimes and crimes against humanity took place on both sides, and are still taking place. However until the international community actually does something about this evidence, and moves towards prosecution of those responsible, those responsible will continue to assume that they are safe to continue to commit such acts.