‘WAR CRIMES’ AND EELAM WAR IV (Part 1)
Posted on April 26th, 2018

KAMALIKA PIERIS

REVISED 26.4.18

The   war crimes” charge against the Sri Lanka army is that the army killed hundreds and hundreds of   innocent” Tamil civilians instead of killing off the LTTE. This ‘war crimes’ charge is part of a calculated strategy carried out by the western countries that support Tamil Eelam. A bogus ‘body count’ was created at the end of Eelam War IV. The first estimate was 20,000 civilians killed.

The Paranagama Commission reported    that   ‘privately UN staff were puzzled by the new death toll, then alleged to be 20,000 and wondered how it had been calculated. UN staff were reported as saying someone has made an imaginative leap and that is at odds with what we have been saying before”. One official said. It is a very dangerous thing to start making extrapolations.”’

Upul Wijewardena had been told by a relative, who was a diplomat that a newspaper reporter from Times (UK) had flown over Nandikadal area in a helicopter soon after Eelam War IV ended. She had told Wijewardena’s relative that she had seen bodies and thought it may be around 20,000. When asked why other UN officials who were on the same helicopter denied seeing that many bodies, she had no explanation. (Island 21.11.17 p 8).     This shows that the figure of 20,000 had been decided by then.

Then the figure started to rise. ‘Amnesty International’s conclusions, derived independently from eyewitness testimony and information from aid workers, are that at least 10,000 civilians were killed.’ Gordon Weiss, UN spokesman in Sri Lanka during the final phase of the war, said on Australian television, that ‘I believe that between 10,000 and 40,000 is a reasonable estimate. I think most likely it’s somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000’.

This was not considered sensational enough and it was soon displaced by a far   more impressive total. The Darusman report ( 2011) said  that there is no authoritative figure for civilian deaths in the Vanni in the final phase of the war but a number of credible sources have estimated, that due to wide spread shelling by the Sri Lanka  army, There could have been as many as 40,000 civilian deaths.  This figure of 40,000 deaths ‘ was eagerly picked up by the Tamil Separatist Movement, for whom it was intended and broadcast around the world,  as an accusation against the Sri Lanka army.

The arbitrary figure of 40,000 sudden deaths has been treated with great suspicion in Sri Lanka.  ‘Where are the bodies? ‘asked one of Sri Lanka‘s leading criminal lawyers. ‘Such a large number of bodies cannot be hidden easily’. No evidence has been presented justify this astronomically high death toll, said Chandraprema. The ‘credible sources’ used by the Darusman Report are not named. These figures are not corroborated anywhere, not by the any of the missions in Colombo who were noting down deaths. ‘40,000 civilian deaths’ has been calculated by simply subtracting the number of  registered IDPs (290,000) from the Darusman estimate of the number of civilians caught up in the final months of the war (330,000), said the Paranagama Report.

Critics pointed out   that this highly questionable estimate has not taken in to account the wounded and their next of kin evacuated by the ICRC or those who escaped from the LTTE into the jungles and across waterways. None of them would appear among those registered at the end of the war. The estimate could also include LTTE fighters not in uniform and civilians who   had been helping the LTTE.

Nice and Dixon criticized the Darusman Report for not discussing the estimates that were less than 40,000. A UN report should set out the various competing accounts, they said.  They point out that the UN Country Team figure of 7,721 for 13 May 2009 is mentioned in the Darusman Report with no explanation for the considerable leap of 30,000 additional people killed by 18 May 2009. There is no clear breakdown given in the Report of where and how these alleged deaths occurred. Whether they were actually civilian deaths and who was responsible for each of these deaths, concluded Nice and Dixon.

Several other estimates are available for the final phase of Eelam War IV. Many of these estimates are from agencies   that were present in Sri Lanka at the time. These estimates   confirm that the correct tally of deaths is around 7,000 not 40,000.

Here are these estimates.

  • An unpublished report from the UN Country Team (received by Lord Naseby) stated that from August 2008 up to May 2009, the number of civilians killed was 7,721. The war ended six days later, so it cannot possibly have gone up to 40,000.
  • A N. working document, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, says 6,432 civilians have been killed and 13,946 wounded in fighting since the end of January, 2009. Reuters reported this some three weeks before the war ended.
  • ‘British Defence Attaché in Colombo Lt. Col Anton Gash said in his report that the civilians killed from Feb 1 – 26 April 2009 is 6432. The figure could be higher with the civilian deaths occurring within next 3 weeks.
  • US Ambassador Blake stated on 7 April 2009 that there were deaths of 4,164 from January to 6 April.
  • US Department of State in its unclassified Report to Congress on Incidents during the Recent Conflict in Sri Lanka, 2009 said ‘The State Department has not received casualty estimates covering the entire reporting period from January to May However, one organization, which did not differentiate between civilians and LTTE cadres, recorded 6,710 people killed and 15,102 people injured between January 20 to April 20. These numbers were presented with a caveat, supported by other sources, that the numbers actually killed and injured are probably higher.’
  • International Crisis Group said ‘UN agencies, working closely with officials and aid workers located in the conflict zone, documented nearly 7,000 civilians killed from January to April 2009. Those who compiled these internal numbers deemed them reliable to the extent they reflected actual conflict deaths but said that the  calculations were still in progress and
  • Major General Holmes in his expert military report of March 2015 thought the figure would be between 7,000 to 8,000.
  • Department of Census and Statistics had calculated that all civilian deaths, those killed by LTTE and those killed by army, plus LTTE dressed in civilian clothing totaled 7,934.

Therefore we now have a clear estimate of around 7000 deaths at the end of Eelam War IV. The ‘40,000 deaths’ accusation can be discarded.

Analysts have provided further clarification about some of these calculations. The UN report should be 98% accurate, said Lt. Colonel (Retd) Athula Lankadeva. The UN “Crisis Operation Group” which was formed to collect reliable information regarding civilian casualties took figures from Regional Directors of Health Services majority who were Tamil persons as the base line, Sri Lankan staff of UN who were deployed in Wanni again majority who were Tamil persons and NGOs deployed inside Vanni, the ICRC, religious authorities and other sources to cross check and verify the baseline.

Lankadeva also said that there was another report titled “Fatalities in terrorist violence in Sri Lanka 2002- 2015” from South-Asia-Terrorism-Portal which said 3,139 LTTE cadres were killed in 2009. However, only 1,346 individual graves were identified by satellite imagery. Therefore, 1,793 (3,139 – 1,346) LTTE cadre who got killed may have posed as civilians. When an Army is fighting a war operating within civilian population,  an average of 1,371 civilians ( as indicated in the Darusman Report )  killed in cross fire during the period of 4 ½ months is not a war crime,  he added

Shamindra Ferdinando also commented on the UN report. There cannot be a better ‘source’ than the UN report that dealt with fighting on multiple fronts in the Vanni region, both west and east of the Kandy-Jaffna road from August 2008 to May 13, 2009, he said. The project was supervised by the head of the UN mission in Sri Lanka, Neil Bhune   and approved by the UN mission in Colombo. he UN had accurately covered the ground situation for almost 10 months (Aug 2008 to May 2009). Also, unlike the Darusman report, the UN report defined the period of the ‘final phase’.

The UN report was based on information provided by local staff of the UN and other NGOs in the LTTE-held area, the ICRC, religious authorities, and other sources. As the UN mission in Colombo can still get in touch with those who had contributed to the report, the UN investigators have an opportunity to verify facts, said Shamindra. Darusman Panel and the OISL team had opportunities to examine the UN dossier. There is no reason for any party to object to its release now.

Major General Homes told the Paranagama Commission that according to the   imagery analysis given in the Darusman Report, there are 1,332 obvious graves. These might be LTTE gravesites, but let us assume that they are IDP ones and that there are 4 bodies to each grave. That gives a total of 5,328 bodies. There would, of course, be unmarked graves invisible to imagery and a large number of bodies were never recovered because they died by drowning, were buried in LTTE bunkers and fortifications, or just decomposed quickly in the monsoon climate. However, in most wars the number of missing presumed dead is lower than the number of bodies recovered. The figure of 40,000 civilians killed, which has been repeatedly published is, in my view, extremely difficult to sustain on the evidence which I have seen, continued Holmes.

A cable from US Ambassador Blake to the State Department on 7 April 2009 states that the UN estimate of deaths for the period 20 January to 6 April was 4,164 with a further 10,002 wounded. The cable also states that the estimated daily kill rate was 33 a day in January and 63 a day in February and March. To reach 40,000 deaths would require a kill ratio of 287 per day over 139 days from 1 January to 19 May, concluded Holmes.

The Paranagama Report paid special attention to ’40,000 dead’ accusation. One of the most explosive findings of the Darusman Report is the allegation of civilian deaths in ‘a range of up to 40,000’, said the Paranagama Report. This Commission finds that there was no reliable body of information which says that 40,000 civilians were killed in the final phase of the war. This figure has now become the ‘North Star’ of calculations. It has been accepted as fact. The figure of 40,000 dead has even been mentioned in the British Houses of Parliament. The Tamil Seperatist movement has seized upon this figure and has even sought to increase it  Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice said in December 2017 that the figure was 40,000- 70,000.

The   Paranagama Commission listed several factors that have to be taken into account in any calculation as to whether deaths were those of civilians or combatants.  LTTE concealed their uniforms beneath sarongs.  LTTE also removed the uniform from a dead LTTE cadre and put civilian clothes on the body, to create the impression that it was a civilian. LTTE cadres wearing suicide vests detonated themselves, killing themselves and civilians. LTTE used a vast number of the civilian hostages as human shields, made them dig trenches and prepare other defences, also forced some into the front line carrying guns. This blurred the distinction between combatants and civilians’. It is almost impossible in these circumstances to work out, how many civilians were killed by the army.

Dharshan Weerasekera in his critical assessment of the OISL report   expanded on the Census Department findings. The Census Department is run by professionals whose work can be evaluated and assessed by other professionals, he said.

In November 2011, the Department of Census and Statistics of Sri Lanka completed a full census of the Northern Province. There were a total of 22,329 deaths between the years 2005-2009, about half of which occurred in 2009. Of this, 2,523 were due to natural causes, while 7,934 are classified as other deaths, this means that, roughly 8,000 persons died in the first five months of 2009 as a result of the conflict, and this is inclusive of LTTE combatants. It is generally understood that around 5,000 LTTE combatants died in the closing phase of the war. That means that, at most 3,000 civilians died in the last phases of the war.

Weerasekera then drew attention to a study by the American Association for the Advancement of Science of aerial photographs of the conflict-zone at the very peak of the fighting. The purpose of the study was to find out, among other things, if there was evidence of a rapid expansion of gravesites, or evidence of mass graves, which would indicate that large numbers of people were in fact being killed. The study found little or no expansion of gravesites, and no evidence of mass graves. This establishes that the Census Department‘s numbers are correct, The actual number of civilians deaths is roughly 3,000.

However, local critics, were not interested in decisively squashing the ‘40,000 dead’ statement. They were happy to keep the figure going, by engaging in knee jerk reactions. The person who took action to crush the statement was not a Sri Lankan, it was a Britisher, Lord Naseby.

Sir Michael Morris, now Lord Naseby, former Royal Air Force pilot, has long been an ally to Sri Lanka in the West. A member of the British House of Lords, he founded the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sri Lanka in 1975 and was its elected president. He has visited Sri Lanka many times, the last was in February 2017. In 2005 he was awarded the Sri Lanka Ratna, the highest national honour bestowed upon foreigners for exceptional and outstanding service to the nation.

For years Lord Naseby has defended the reputation of Sri Lanka, regarding conduct during the Eelam war, in UK and before the international forum. Naseby   decided that the figure of 40,000 civilian deaths given in the Darusman report was nonsense. In 2014, using the Freedom of Information Act  , Naseby requested the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office to release the dispatches sent between 1 January to 19 May 2009, sent from Colombo, by British Defence attaché, Lieutenant Colonel Anton Gash. This attempt to get official data was blocked at every turn. His request was refused twice. Appeals to higher authorities at the Foreign Office were also rejected.

He then appealed to the Information Commissioner who, having understood Lord Naseby’s purpose, ordered release of the pertinent documents. Naseby then he received 26 pages of redacted documents, none which covered the crucial last six weeks of war.  A further appeal to the Information Commissioner brought in 12 more dispatches, yielding a total of 39 highly edited (redacted) dispatches.

Lord Naseby referred to these documents when on Oct 12, 2017 he addressed the House of Lords at the Parliamentary debate on Sri Lanka’s progress towards reconciliation . He stated that British Defence Attaché in Colombo Lt. Col Anton Gash had said in his dispatches  that the total number of civilian deaths was around 7,000. At least a quarter of that figure were probably ‘Tigers’ who had shed their uniforms. Gash also said that that the Government of Sri Lanka never targeted civilians. Gash was knowledgeable, independent and would be accurate in his dispatches about the war. This information was never changed. If a mistake had been made, it would, surely, have been corrected, said Naseby.

Lord Naseby continued, I have discovered an unpublished report from the United Nations Country Team, which stated that from August 2008 up to May 2009, the number of civilians killed was 7,721. The war ended six days later, so it cannot possibly have got up to 40,000. Then I looked at what Gordon Weiss, the former UN spokesman said. He produced an estimate in 2009 of 7,000 civilian deaths. US Ambassador Blake stated on 7 April that there were deaths of 4,164 from January to 6 April. Major General Holmes in his expert military report of March 2015 concurs with 7,000 to 8,000. The Sri Lankan Government’s census department issued an in-depth census leading to the conclusion that 7,000 to 8,000 were missing. Lord Naseby says he also consulted some ‘mostly left-leaning’ university academics. Their figure too was very similar. All the people I have cited stated that there was no policy to kill civilians – in fact the opposite, added Naseby.

Lord Naseby then said, “I hope and pray that as a result of this debate, the UK will recognize the truth that no one in the Sri Lankan government ever wanted to kill Tamil civilians. Furthermore, the UK must now get the UN and the UNHCR in Geneva to accept a civilian casualty level of 7,000 to 8,000, not 40,000. The west and in particular the US and UK must remove the threat of war crimes and foreign judges that hang over Sri Lanka. UK must recognize that this was a war against terrorism. We in the UK should reflect on the sacrifices of thousands of young Sri Lankan soldiers who died to create peace in that country.”

President Sirisena wrote Lord Naseby a letter of appreciation, which took 19 days to reach Naseby. The letter was also tabled in Parliament. Beyond that Sirisena took no interest in the matter.  Parliament was also not interested. Naseby’s observations were  not discussed at the cabinet meeting.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, when asked by Island,  dismissed  the Naseby assertions. Engaging in debates over the number of civilian dead is a meaningless exercise, said the Ministry,  except for a feel good factor for the individuals concerned.  Those engaged in this “meaningless exercise”  did not do so to feel good,  replied critics. They did it because they were concerned about the  spuriously concocted numbers,

Island spoke to several persons to obtain their views on the Naseby claim. International Committee of the Red Cross , Sri Lanka office said that they would not inquire into Lord Naseby’s claims.’ We are a humanitarian organization not an investigative agency’,. British High Commissioner in Colombo James Dauris said that we must not get distracted by numbers, because figures can get in the way of the truth. Erik Solheim refused to comment. Mark Salter said the  evidence on which Naseby bases his allegations must become publicly available first before any comments could be made. Channel 4 News presenter, Jon Snow, who had repeatedly accused Sri Lanka of massacring 40,000 civilians during the Vanni offensive did not respond, though the Channel acknowledged receiving  Island request.

Global Tamil Forum spokesperson, Suren Surendiran, dismissed Lord Naseby’s statements. Naseby is just one of 800 Lords in the House of Lords, he said. Further, Lord Naseby does not represent the Foreign and Commonwealth  Office or the British Government’s policy on Sri Lanka. Britain was one of the main sponsors of the Geneva Resolutions and Britain still insists that the resolutions must be fully implemented, said Surendiran.

Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice has strongly condemned Lord Naseby for throwing his weight behind Sri Lanka. The NGO said that Naseby did not send them the full dispatches, as  requested so they cannot comment on them. But the death figures given by Gash are not new, they are the same UN figures mentioned in the Darusman Report. But Darusman Panel, with  the benefit of hindsight, witness testimony, and access to a far broader range of information  give the better   figure of 40,000. An internal UN report of  2012  said 70,000 people are missing.  Therefore the  dead  count will probably lie between 40,000 and 70,000.   The full statement  of the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice is given  at the end of this essay as an Appendix.

Lord Naseby however continued his efforts. He met President Sirisena, in April 2018 when President Sirisena was in London to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.  It is clear that this visit took place at Naseby’s request not Sirisena’s . Lord Naseby assured the President of his continued support to Sri Lanka. Lord Naseby has told President Sirisena said that Sri Lanka’s post-war reconciliation process was much better than those of other countries.  UN and the European countries had not been properly briefed about the war in Sri Lanka.  President Sirisena does not seem to have said anything in return.

Since Britain was not taking any action on his declaration, Naseby went directly to the UN. Lord Naseby forwarded a full set of papers consisting of the Hansard transcript of the debate he initiated in the House of Lords , all copies of the heavily redacted pages of British Defense Attaché Lt. Col Gash’s dispatches, his interpretation of the un-redacted parts and the substantial corroborative evidence from many other sources,  to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, the Human Rights team at the UNHRC in Geneva,  including High Commissioner, Prince Zeid Ra’ad AI Hussein and the nine UN Special Procedures mandate holders along with a personal letter stating his intention of further pursuing the matter. Lord Naseby’s office had sent a copy of his statement to the Island newspaper as well. I have  included this as an appendix to this essay.

The Yahapalana government of Sri Lanka has not wanted to   pursue the matter at the UN. Yahapalana government did not refer to Lord Naseby’s disclosure at the Universal Periodic review at the HRC in December 2017   or at the 37th Geneva sessions of 2018. However, Sarath Weerasekera observed that the UN and UNHRC hadn’t so far disputed Lord Naseby’s assertion.

In the wake of Lord Naseby’s representations to the UN, Sri Lanka should have immediately called for a thorough reappraisal of  the Geneva Resolution 30/1, co-sponsored by Sri Lanka, commented Shamindra Ferdinando.. UN must now take into consideration (1) Gash reports that dealt with the January-May 2009 situation in the Vanni region (2) Amnesty International report titled ‘When will they get justice? (Sept 2011), Evaluation of Norwegian peace efforts (Sept 2011), (3) minutes of the Consultative Committee on Humanitarian Assistance (CCHA) comprising government officials as well as top level diplomats.  (4) But the most important report that should be compared with the Darusman Report is the confidential UN document on the Vanni war prepared during Aug 2008 to May 13, 2009.

UN should now call for a thorough review of all available information gathered since the conclusion of the war in May 2009, In addition to the reports and documents mentioned above, the UN can also examine the entire set of US diplomatic cables leaked by Wiki leaks that had dealt with the Vanni situation and if necessary compare it with Gash missives, concluded Shamindra. ( continued)

APPENDIX 1.

Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice has strongly condemned Lord Naseby for throwing his weight behind Sri Lanka. The following is the full text of the statement issued by Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice:

UK Government, and other members of the international community, should abandon their long-standing and hard-fought push for accountability in Sri Lanka.  Over half a decade of work for the creation of a mechanism that would bring to justice the perpetrators of war crimes and mass atrocities had, the member suggested, been based on a misapprehension.; the Peer also claimed to have unearthed ground-breaking new information, from a reliable source, that ought to demolish the very foundations of the call for justice – specifically, figures from a UK military official placing the total number of estimated civilian casualties during the final stages of the war at a mere fraction of the most widely accepted range of 40,000-70,000, as well as statements suggesting that members of the Sri Lankan armed forces be exonerated of criminal wrong-doing.

statement issued by Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice: Unfortunately, an email invitation to Lord Naseby to share the full dispatches with us was not taken up, so we are left only with those quotes from the dispatches selected by him during his speech[1]. We address them in turn below.

Most significantly, the Defence Attaché is quoted by Lord Naseby as stating, on 26th April 2009, that the total number of civilians killed between 1st February and 26th April stood at 6,432. The Defence Attache’s figure is presented by Naseby as new and distinct from other estimates of civilian casualties to date. However, it is not.  In fact, as evidenced by this Guardian report from 2009, it is merely a snapshot of figures compiled over a much broader time-frame by the UN Country Team in Sri Lanka, which placed the total number of civilians killed between August 2008 and 13th May 2009 at 7,721. This estimate has been in the public domain at least since 2011, when it was cited by a Panel of Experts appointed by the UN Secretary-General to look into the final stages of war.

The Panel of Experts, with both the benefit of hindsight, and access to a far broader range of information and witness testimony not available to the UN Country Team during the final stages of the war, went on to state that “multiple sources of information indicate that a range of up to 40,000 civilian deaths cannot be ruled out at this stage”. A further internal UN report in 2012 highlighted credible information “indicating that over 70,000 people are unaccounted for”.These later UN estimates, which together indicate that that the range of civilian deaths probably lies somewhere in the range of 40,000-70,000, remain the most credible to date we lack the totality of the dispatches needed to properly contextualise and evaluate the statements,

For example, on cluster bombs, the October 2015 report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (‘OISL’) cited multiple witnesses, including medical professionals, as testifying to their use, and on that basis stated that “further investigation needs to be carried out.” That call gained renewed intensity in 2016 after images of cluster munitions unearthed in the so-called ‘No Fire Zones’ were leaked by a former employee of the Halo Trust, a de-mining organisation

Similarly, on internally displaced persons, the contrary evidence presented by subsequent UN investigations with regards to their mistreatment, and indeed targeting, is overwhelming. To take but one of many examples, the OISL report describes the repeated shelling between 21-22 April 2009 of a church compound and medical facility packed with over 1,000 sheltering IDPs. A humanitarian worker described the aftermath of the attacks: “it was a terrible sight: There were body parts blown everywhere. I even saw hands hanging on the trees. I saw human body parts all over the vehicles.” The report goes on to describe in detail the government’s systematic denial of life-saving food and medical supplies from those fleeing the conflict zone, in clear breach of international humanitarian law.

APPENDIX 2.

The following is the full text of Lord Naseby’s statement received by The Island:”The resolution 30/1 entitled ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka’ emphasized the need for truth-seeking, among others, as an important element in the overall quest to promote reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka. The UK government was one of the initiators and a co-sponsor of the resolution. The despatches by Col Anton Gash, the former defence attaché of the British High Commission, constitutes an important element in the process of truth-seeking and should be of interest to all those who genuinely seek a clear picture of what happened during the final stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka. It is therefore disappointing that the British High Commission fails to acknowledge the importance of the despatches of its own former defence attaché and the insight that is provided by his communications with the British Government.  .

“While not expressly stated so in the resolution, those who have closely followed events in Sri Lanka after the end of the conflict would agree that the basis for the successive resolutions on Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council stemmed from the allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity (and in some quarters ‘genocide’) said to have been committed by the Sri Lankan armed forces and the LTTE. Especially, the Report of the UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, commonly known as the ‘Darusman Report’, alleged that ‘a number of credible sources have estimated that there could have been as many as 40,000 civilian deaths’ (para 137), mostly as a result of indiscriminate shelling by the Sri Lankan military. Therefore, the number of civilians killed forms a very important element in truth-seeking especially when the difference is over 30,000. .

“While Lord Naseby does not take issue with those advocating reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka including the need to investigate any allegations of human rights violations, Lord Naseby does take issue with those in authority be they the UK government or any other Government as well as the UN and particularly the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Human Rights Council in Geneva if they appear to be ignoring the above context behind the resolution as well as circumvent the significance of the insight provided by Col. Anton Gash which corroborate a large number of other sources that confirm a casualty figure of around 7,000-8,000 (of which about 20% were LTTE cadres who are said to have thrown away their uniforms resulting in Tamil civilian casualties of about 6,500). .

“Lord Naseby is concerned that the principles of natural justice are possibly being disregarded as the Gash Despatches reveal that British authorities knew that the estimates propagated by the Darusman Report were based on flawed information. The FCO had this information at their disposal to disprove some of the Darusman Report’s contentions, especially to counter that the estimated casualty figures could not have been as high as 40,000. Almost every western media report to this day, continues to quote this high estimate of 40,000 for war casualties, without questioning its reliability, whilst failing to mention the numerous other independent assessments, from sources who were present on the ground in Sri Lanka during 2009, that consistently point to an estimated death toll in the region of 7,000 – 8,000. In its search for the truth, it would seem morally improper that UK should have allowed the Darusman Report to have been used without contention and facilitated subsequent resolutions on Sri Lanka to have been formulated using estimates that starkly contradicted Britain’s own evidence. After not disclosing its own military attaché’s evidence to the Human Rights Commission, the FCO then took the unhelpful step of attempting to suppress this information when Lord Naseby sought a Freedom of Information request. Britain’s motives in playing a prominent role in seeking and encouraging UNHRC Resolutions on Sri Lanka since 2009 that sought to establish the truth regarding allegations of Human Rights violations, whilst at the same time effectively prohibiting its own relevant information from being considered by the Human Rights Commission, may need to be called into question. Lord Naseby fought for the full disclosure of the Gash Despatches, yet this was not finally granted as the Information Commission Tribunal sided with the FCO, which insisted on heavy redactions being maintained. Nevertheless the redacted Gash Despatches do provide an invaluable insight. .

“Lord Naseby acknowledges that the death of any civilians is deeply regrettable however, it is noted that this was an armed conflict between a democratically elected government and a terrorist outfit, the Tamil Tigers, who were proscribed by leading nations including most of those supporting the resolution. It is inevitable that armed conflicts create casualties, made worse in this case by 300,000 Tamil civilians being herded into a war zone against their will by the Tamil Tigers. In effect, this was a mass hostage situation and the Sri Lankan armed forces took action to release the Tamil civilians. Despite this evidence, the casualties remained remarkably low. Moreover, there is nothing from the UK’s own defence specialist, who was allowed access to the theatres of the conflict in 2009, which indicates that Sri Lanka’s security forces were directed by their government to break the principles of conducting operations in a way that was beyond the bounds of military necessity, nor that Sri Lanka’s armed forces did not take due diligence to avoid civilian casualties by conducting their operations with regard for distinction and proportionality. The British government should acknowledge the evidence of their own military attaché whilst continuing to wholeheartedly support the UN Resolution in collaboration with Sri Lanka to secure a long term sustainable peace for all communities on the island. .

“Therefore, Lord Naseby wishes to reiterate that the context is vital to any possible war crime prosecution that may arise and 40,000 or more civilian deaths could be tantamount to genocide and/or crimes against humanity if proven that it was part of government policy to do so. However, a casualty figure of 6,500 is a totally different scale beyond the scope of such atrocities, while acknowledging that there may have been certain individual incidents that may perhaps constitute to be a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

“It should be noted that at no stage has Lord Naseby attempted to claim that the Gash Despatches show that the civilian casualties were “trivial” or that these matters should not be investigated. On the contrary, in common with most observers and other nations who supported the resolution, Lord Naseby urges Sri Lanka’s authorities to honour their commitments to the UN Human Rights Council by conducting credible investigations and where there are incidents that their security forces may have committed alleged violations, then the appropriate due processes of justice should follow. .

“It is against this background that Lord Naseby last week forwarded a full set of papers consisting of: the Hansard transcript of the debate he initiated in the House of Lords on October 12th, the entire copies of the heavily redacted pages of Col Gash’s despatches, in itself only available after nearly 3 years of persistent challenging of the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, his interpretation of the un-redacted parts and the substantial corroborative evidence from many other sources. These were all sent to the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres; the Human Rights team at the UNHRC in Geneva, namely the High Commissioner, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and the nine UN Special Procedures mandate holders, each of whom have visited Sri Lanka in their official capacity. They all received a personal letter from Lord Naseby outlining the key issue of the hugely misleading figure in the Darusman Report of 40,000 Tamil civilians killed whereas the truth is about 6,500 and seeking their support for a correction. .

“Lord Naseby makes it quite clear that he shall pursue every organisation and the persons involved to ensure that the Darusman Report figure on civilian casualties is publicly amended to reflect that the truth about an estimated 6,500 Tamil civilians who died at the end of the Sri Lanka conflict. Truth must and will win out however inconvenient that may be to the authorities.

One Response to “‘WAR CRIMES’ AND EELAM WAR IV (Part 1)”

  1. Ananda-USA Says:

    Indian court sentences two LTTE supporters for attempting to revive the terrorist outfit in Sri Lanka

    Apr 28, Ramanathapuram: An Indian court has convicted two local supporters of Sri Lanka’s vanquished terrorist outfit, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for attempting to revive the militant organization proscribed in India.

    The district court has convicted two suspects, who had procured cyanide capsules in a bid to revive the terrorist outfit, under the provisions of Unlawful activities (prevention) Act, 1967 and awarded them 10 years imprisonment, The Hindu reported.

    Principal District Judge A. Kayalvizhi convicted the accused K. Krishnakumar (42) and his accomplice V. Subashkaran (41) in the three-year-old case as the prosecution – the Q branch police had proved the case that the duo had indulged in unlawful activities in the State in a bid to revive LTTE.

    The judge awarded sentences ranging from six months to 10 years and said the sentences would go concurrently. She also imposed fine of INR 45,500 each.

    Krishnakumar attempted to clandestinely sail to Sri Lanka after procuring 600 grams of cyanide powder and 75 cyanide capsules on July 20, 2015, when the police intercepted his car at Uchipuli and arrested him.

    He was also found in his possession, four Global Positioning System (GPS) sets and seven mobile phones and Indian and Sri Lankan currency notes and Indian and Sri Lankan driving licenses.

    They pleaded not guilty when the judge sought their views after convicting them.

    The judge also convicted R. Rajendran (47), a Sri Lankan Tamil, cited as third accused in the case under the Unlawful Activities (prevention) Act and awarded him 10 years imprisonment. However, the court offered to clarify on the sentence when his counsel K. Thirumurugan pointed out that he was not facing charge under the Act. Otherwise, the accused was awarded five years imprisonment under the Passports Act.

    The Judge also convicted R. Sasikumar (31), a local Tamil and driver, under section 120 (b), IPC and awarded six months imprisonment. Senior counsel N. Somasundaram, who appeared for the prosecution, said a separate charge sheet had been filed in respect of the fifth accused in the case and the sixth accused was absconding.

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