Posted on February 14th, 2013

Vicahra Bandara


It is likely that the war crimes accusation of civilian killings will come up during Human Rights Council Meeting in March. It is seen that the pro LTTE website Tamil Net has in its archives a complete record of civilian ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-killingsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ during the war. It is noted that the maximum number of civilian deaths reported by the TamilNet from January to May 2009 is 7398. This figure tallies with the figure of 6858 in the special Census of deaths due to non natural causes inƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  the Northern Province during the last stages ofƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  the war. The figures quoted by the UN Panel report and the Petrie report are based on rumors. The use of artillery by the SLA could not be verified by the analysis of satellite images by a study commissioned by the Human Rights Watch and the Amnesty International.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

According to an AFP Report of Jan 28, 2013, the visiting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State James Moore ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”has stated that the United States has decided to sponsor a procedural resolution (against Sri Lanka) at the March 2013 sessions of the UNHRC in a bid to force Sri Lanka to deliver on promises to probe its troops for war crimes.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚

The main allegation of war crimes committed by SL troops is the killing of Tamil civilians. In the Panel of Expert Report (POE) commissioned by Ban Ki Moon, the first of the five core categories of serious violations committed by the Government of Sri Lanka is the killing of civilians by widespread shelling.

There has been a wide disparity and an intense debate on the actual numbers of Tamil civilian deaths during the last stages of the conflict. At Paragraph 134 of the POE Report a figure of 7721 killed from August 2008 to 13 May 2009. is quoted from a UN document never released.

However, at Paragraph 137 the Panel claims in not too clear terms that ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”multiple sources of information indicate that a range of up to 40,000 civilian deaths cannot be ruled outƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚. Although the Panel indicates of a range (without a minimum) this figure has now become the norm.

Gordon Weiss, a former UN official has claimed that up to 40,000 civilians may have been killed in the final stages of the war. Weiss does not reveal the sources of his information. The UN system in Sri Lanka did not have any reliable internal information gathering system on the events in the war front. The recently published Internal Review Panel report on Sri Lanka (Petrie Report) concedes at Para 50.that ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-neither the UNCT nor UNHQ sought to ensure that the UN was adequately monitoring and reporting on the situation. Existing protection monitoring processes, such as on general ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-protectionƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ or on children in armed conflict, had a number of limitations. They were variously: (I) ill-adapted to gather and report on human rights and humanitarian law violations within a relevant time frame; (ii) too narrow in their mandated-focus to capture the full situation; (iii) primarily focused on social assistance protection; (iv) co-opted by State authorities; or (v) not supported by UNCT leadership.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚

The Petrie report claims that in February 2009 a Crisis Operations Group (COG) was formed with representatives from several organizations and that the COG designed a rigorous methodology for collecting and verifying information on civilian casualties using multiple independent sources for each reported death or injury, leading to a conservative list of civilian casualties.

According to the Petrie report the COG received specific reports of 17,810 people killed and 36,905 injured from January to May 2009. Reports were received from numerous sources including the regional directors of the health services of Killinochchi and Mullaithivu; medical officers assigned to the PTK hospital; additional government agents from Mullaithivu; eyewitness reports from UN and international NGO national staff; satellite imagery and analysis obtained from UNOSAT; medical staff in receiving military and civilian health facilities at Mannar, Vavuniya, Trincomalee, and Pullmadile; and clergy, education department staff and community leaders. ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚¦Out of the total number of reports of 17,810 killed that the COG received, COG was able to verify only 7,737 killed.

This shows that the UN information was based mainly on biased and highly exaggerated rumors.

The Times of London claimed that 20,000 Tamils had been killed at the hands of the Sri Lankan Army in the final days of the conflict making a bizarre calculation of 1000 deaths a day up to May 19 although it is on record that there were no civilians in the final no fire zone after May 15.( Muralideran Reddy- Frontline ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…”Volume 26, IssueƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  12, June 06-19 2009. ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…- ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ),

Gareth Evans co-chairs the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect claims that at least 10,000 civilians ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” possibly as many as 40,000 ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” died in the carnage.

Channel 4 has insisted that up to 40,000 were killed in the final stages of the war.

Recently (Thursday, February 07, 2013, Sunday Leader) Prof S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole has claimed that 70,000 Tamils were killed in Mullivaikal only.

The worst flight of imagination on civilian deaths is that of Catholic Bishop of Mannaar, Rt. Rev. Dr. Rayappu Joseph who demands a clarification regarding what happened to 146,679 people, which is the discrepancy between the numbers of people who came to government controlled areas between October 2008 ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” May 2009 (282,280), and the population reported to be in Vanni (429,059) in early October 2008.

However the Government Agent Mrs. Imelda Sukumar in her evidence before the LLRC that people from Kilinochchi District, people of uncleared area from Mannar District, and people of uncleared area from Vavuniay District and people of Mulativu District were altogether 350,000.

The Petrie Report at Para 127 states that at the end of Feb the UN reported to the govt. that there were 227,618 persons in the LTTE controlled area based on Satellite images.

An ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”authoritativeƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ figure of 10,000 deaths (reported by Tamil Net-[TamilNet, Wednesday, 20 May 2009, 04:20 GMT] ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ was given by Professor Francis Boyle who has been a long time and active supporter of the Eelam project. As the legal adviser to the LTTE Diaspora he would have been privy to inside information of the actual situation in the NFS. The date of the statement i.e. 20th May 2009 is also significant. He may not have had the time to inflate the figure which he did later in a few months to go up to 50,000. Even the figure of 10,000 could be considered an overstatement.

The above diverse estimates of civilian killings are given to show that the number of civilian deaths is based on rumors and the degree of ill will towards the government.

The only physical check of the number of deathsƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  in the Northern Province was done through a ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ special census carried out by the Department of Census and Statistics, which revealed that the total number of deaths from non-natural causes during the period from January-May 2009 ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ in the Northern Province in 2009 (January ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” June) is 8,649. Total number of non-natural deaths falls even further, and becomes 6,858 when 454 of these deaths attributed to accidents, suicides, and homicides unrelated to war are excluded.

Tamil Net is considered as a pro LTTE website which boasted of having their agents even in the battle field. In their Website, the Tamil Net meticulously and continuously reported every single death/killing of ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”Tamil civiliansƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚. According to Wikipedia ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Tamil Net is relied upon as a credible news source by journalists, civil society and the diplomatic community both within Sri Lanka and globally. Experts in the field argue TamilNet’s accuracy of its reporting has “rarely been successfully challenged that such charges ring hollow”. According to V. Sambandan, Sri Lanka Special Correspondent for the prominent Indian English Daily The Hindu, “facts and figures are double sourced, checked and are considered 100% credible”

The POE report atƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Para 134 concedes that figures on civilian deaths emanating from Tamil Net were dismissed as they were perceived as biased. This would mean that Tamil Net figures are normally exaggerated. Therefore it can be safely concluded that the figures given by Tamil Net could be considered as the maximum number of civilian deaths.

It is significant that the Tamil Net has not reported the deaths of LTTE combatants although they report the killing of government soldiers. In arriving at an honest estimate of civilian deaths caused by the SLA it is essential that firstly a clear definition of a civilian be established. An LTTE cadre in civilian dress is not a civilian. Any person engaged in the offence or defense of a military action is considered a combatant. It is well known that LTTE cadres changed into civilian clothes when they intermingled with civilians to carry out attacks on the SLA or in order to avoid identification. The 11,000 odd LTTE cadres which surrendered with civilians to the Army in the final stages of the war were not in LTTE uniform.

The following is a typical example of the wide discrepancy between the findings of the highly distorted POE report and the TamilNet report from the ground.

At sections 84 and 85 POE report give a histrionic description of the shelling of a UN Hub and a distribution center on the 24th and 25th of January 2009. At section 87 POE report claims that the Udayaakkadu Hospital was hit by several shells and during the two days of 24th and 25th hundreds of civilians were killed due to shelling. The report continues to state that during the night of the 25th, the area around the UN Hub continued to be pounded by shells.

The TamilNet reports on these two days are given below.

[TamilNet, Saturday, 24 January 2009, 14:00 GMT]
12 civilians killed, 87 wounded, SLA continues artillery attack on ‘safety zone’

Sri Lanka Army (SLA) continued artillery shelling on Udaiyaarkaddu on Saturday killing at least 7 civilians. At least 87 civilians have been wounded in the indiscriminate shelling up to 5:25 p.m. Shells exploded inside the hospital premises of Udaiyaarkaddu. At least 60 shells exploded behind the hospital premises (Udaiyaarkaddu school) around 3:45 p.m. Four civilians were killed on the spot.

[TamilNet, Sunday, 25 January 2009, 19:13 GMT]
SLA shelling kills 22 civilians, wounds 60, targets humanitarian supply centre

Sri Lanka Army (SLA) has continued artillery shelling on densely populated ‘safety zone,’ in Chuthanthirapuram, Udaiyaarkaddu and Thearaavil in Visuvamadu throughout Sunday, at least twice attacking the vicinity of the supply centre, located at Chuthanthirapuram playground, the only centre in Vanni where humanitarian supplies brought in by the UN World Food Programme are distributed.

The discrepancies are as follows:

  1. The Tamilnet does not mention about a UN Hub but only about a distribution center of the World Food Program.
  2. While the POE report claims that the Udaiyaarkaddu hospital which was clearly marked was hit by several shells, the Tamil Net identifies the hospital as the Udaiyaarkaddu school and reports that the shells exploded inside the hospital premises and behind the hospital premises. (not inside the hospital)
  3. The POE report claims that during the two days of 24th and 25th hundreds of civilians were killed due to shelling.

The TamilNet count of deaths by shelling on these two days is only 34.

It must be noted that while the TamilNet information was in the public domain from the day of reporting, the so called ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-credible evidenceƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ used by the UN Panel is locked up as confidential for 20 years.

Attached is a list of daily reports of the Tamil Net from 1 January to 15 May where civilian deaths are reported. The archives of the Tamil Net can be accessed on their website

Monthly summary of deaths reported in the Tamil Net from January to mid May 2009 is as follows: (Daily record is available in the attached file)

January 628

February 519

MarchƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  1349

April ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 828

MayƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  2601

TotalƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  5925

When estimates rather than actual body count are taken into account the total figure increases to 7398.

These figures tally with the figure of 6858 in the physical census of deaths in the Northern Province carried out by the Department of Census and Statistics.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Grave Count

Human Rights Watch and the Amnesty International made an effort to establish a mass killing of civilians by making a count of grave sites and locating artillery sites the analysis of satellite images. They commissioned the prestigious AAAS Science and Human Rights Program of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in the month of May 2009, immediately after the end of the war. To derive this information, AAAS analyzed multiple high- resolution satellite images of the CZS collected by publicly accessible commercial satellites. Scenes collected from different commercial satellites from May 9, 2005 (prior to the current period of conflict), March 23, 2009, April 19, May 6 and May 10, 2009, prior to and after reportedly intense fighting in the CZS. Finally, a scene on May 24, was analyzed to determine post-conflict conditions. A set of photographs taken during a helicopter over flight of the CZS by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on May 22 was also used to aid imagery analysis.

In their report they identify three apparent gravesites visible within the Civilian Safety Zone (CZS), one in the southern area and two in the northern and when reviewed, a total of 1,346 likely graves were estimated to be in the imagery by May 24, 2009. The majority of the graves were present by May 6, with little change after that except in the southernmost graveyard. The southernmost site grew an estimated 28% between May 6 and May 10, and grew another 20% between May 10 and May 24. The report does not make a distinction on whether the graves are that of civilians or LTTE cadres.

The UN Panel of Experts report seems to conclude that the alleged civilian deaths occurred as a result of widespread artillery shelling. The Panel at Annexe 3 produces 10 images (3.7 to 3.16) of Artillery Battery Adjustments. Here again the most reliable evidence of shelling, use of artillery can be gleaned from the technical report by AAAS.

Shelling and Craters

The report notes that between May 6 and May 10, 2009, thousands of IDP structures were removed from the CSZ and overall the area appears to have been swept relatively clean (Figure Three). This is less indicative of the entire area being razed by shelling. Analysis found 65 craters throughout the May 10 image which were not present on May 6 – many in the immediate area of the removed IDP structures.

Unlike the UN Panel report which repeats the manthra of finding ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-credible evidenceƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ the AAAS report qualifies their statement as followsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚

Crater analysis from satellite imagery is problematic, and site visits are needed to confirm presence and origin of the identified possible craters. Anthropogenic features and natural phenomena can often resemble craters. Throughout this region of Sri Lanka are innumerable ground features which might be watering holes for livestock, and which are also often similar in appearance to craters.

Possible Artillery and Mortar Positions

The report states that the entirety of the CZS and a swath of surrounding territory, extending northwest, west, and southwest from the CZS for approximately nine kilometers, were reviewed for possible indications of artillery and mortar positions. The report notes that numerous features outside of the CZS were identified that bear resemblance to mortar positions and 17 possible mortar locations were identified in the area surrounding. The report notes that no mortar tubes are visible in the imagery, preventing conclusive identification of the sites as mortar positions and that none of the sites reviewed showed indications they were occupied by heavy artillery pieces, which are generally readily identifiable in such imagery unless camouflaged.

A very significant finding of the AAAS report is that from the satellite picture of the CSZ showing the craters it can also be noted that they are more at the periphery of the Zone and not in the center where the density of shelters was high. The only conclusion of this revelation is that the objective of the shelling was to prevent the civilians from getting out of the CSZ which the LTTE was desperately attempting. If the shelling was from the SLA the maximum damage could have been achieved by aiming at the center where there was a concentration of more refugee shelters.

The AAAS report is accessible on the websiteƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚


  1. Lorenzo Says:

    Who are the WORST terrorists?

    1. “The worst flight of imagination on civilian deaths is that of Catholic Bishop of Mannaar, Rt. Rev. Dr. Rayappu Joseph who demands a clarification regarding what happened to 146,679 people, which is the discrepancy between the numbers of people who came to government controlled areas between October 2008 – May 2009 (282,280), and the population reported to be in Vanni (429,059) in early October 2008.”

    2. “Recently (Thursday, February 07, 2013, Sunday Leader) Prof S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole has claimed that 70,000 Tamils were killed in Mullivaikal only.”

    Their ESTIMATES are far higher than even Tamilnut!!!!


    But don’t expect UNHRC will listen to REASON. They will NOT.

  2. A. Sooriarachi Says:

    About the fluctuating number of deaths:
    The UNSG (not UN) Panel of Experts report let the cat out of the bag, proving it to be a preconceived report, when it stated that the witnesses would be protected for 20 years and on a subsequent date they qualified that even after 20 years, their names may not be released. Ofcourse they can’t release any names as there are no witnesses to such a death toll that did not happen. However, the UNSG POE rely heavily on the 40,000 imagined figure of Gordon Weiss who was only a junior UN officer in the Colombo Office and who had absolutely no mechanism to monitor any deaths in the war zone and even his first figure of around 7000 deaths, before he left Colombo office, was rejected by the UN itself as unsubstantiated. The Times of London 20,000 figure is not worth even discussing, as it was such a stupid way to estimate deaths in a conflict zone. Prof Ratnajeevan Hoole’s crazy figure of 70,000, with no evidence or reasoning to back up this claim, is the icing on the Gordon Weiss cake of 40,000, baked for the enjoyment of Tamil separatists and other propogandists. Since the demise of Prabakaran, I have noticed Prof Hoole is in the habit of making similar alarming comments discrediting the sinhalese and the Govt. I hope I am wrong.

  3. Sirih Says:

    In defence ministry we created GIS and mapped every home with the civilian population starting in South and comprehensive mapping in North and East.. Then we use 2011/2012 census data in these areas using ground level collecting data by personal .
    We compare this with previous data and around 6600 anomaly is what we have. We haven’t broken down this 6K figure since some are gone abroad, relocated and possibly missing.
    If any authorise report needed, SL govt. should use this data since it is irrefutable..
    Defence media group talented and dedicated, and we give them resources and training but govt. as a whole lack central media division. This is a great concern since every govt. minister wants to score points and some time we get into international ridicule due these morons speaking rubbish. On some occasions I have mail them directly and ask to refrain making any comments since these comments create more problems for us.
    Any major organisations public media is control from one central point and President need to get his presidential media division up to proper standards.

  4. Nanda Says:

    Number of civilians died in TAMIL WAR = 6000
    Number of Aboriginal People killed by Sudda = 1000000
    Nuber of japanese killed by atomic bomb = 700000
    Nuber of Germans killed by allieed forces = 2000000
    Nuber of people killed due to UN neglidence in Africa = 30000000.
    Nuber of Sexual offences against women in Pillay’s South Africa = 70000 (per year) = 700000 in last 10 years

    UNHRC Tamil Pillay is finghting to punish rajakapakse for attemped murder of 6000.

  5. vichara2 Says:

    The problem is so far no government agency has so far used the unbiased information in the TamilNet or the AAAS Report to counter the fabricated data in the UNSG Panel Report or the new Petrie Report.

  6. S de Silva Says:

    Well the numbers claimed by Amnesty etc, etc is all a bloody canard just to bring down the reputation of SL and an attempt to get MR etc before the International Criminal Court. But, in a way all this serves us right for not taking timely libel action against Amnesty, CH4 etc for repeating this lie ‘ad-nauseam’. The ‘excuse’ given is that we have to conserve our resources to look after our people and not waste it on litigation. But this inaction can consume more of our meager resources in the long term. The only way the propaganda merchants can be made to shut up is a hefty court order for damages for Libel If we do that once they will all shut up and if we do not all the bogus allegations will go on forever. For the SLA to have invisibly disposed 100,000 bodies (say) with no trace was beyond even Hitler!! – S de Silva – London

  7. Lorenzo Says:

    Tamil Madu losers protesting is NOT something to be taken seriously!!

    “The Tamil Nadu state recorded 15,746 demonstrations in 2011, an average of 44 a day, more than any other state in the country. Uttarakhand was a distant second, with 8,610 protests, according to figures from the home ministry’s Bureau of Police Research and Development.”

    – indian news.

  8. SenaD Says:

    S de Silva,

    “The only way the propaganda merchants can be made to shut up is a hefty court order for damages for Libel”

    Litigation could be counter productive in that the issue will be given even more publicity with no guarantee of success in addition to the loss of the limited resources.

  9. S de Silva Says:

    Sena D – Yes, you are right we may end up from the frying pan into the fire. But only if we are so utterly incompetent that legally, despite all the evidence in our favour, we are unable to satisfy Court to prove that the numbers are a gross exaggertion based on the verified census statistics and the absence of physical evidence as to how such a vast number of bodies were disposed of in a matter of months without any physical trace. Of course, on the contrary if the GoSL is that imcompetent, as you say, we indeed deserve to be beaten!! – SDeS

  10. Vis8 Says:

    Channel 4 and its cronies are screaming about some new “horrific pictures” about prabhakarans son being shot. Not a single soldier is in any one of the pics or videos. In one picture on the internet, feet of people wearing rubber slippers and ordinary shoes are displayed. Did our soldiers wear rubber slippers???? no, the terrorists did. These photos are probably from an ltte bunker.

    ….and, the western world continues to shed crocodile tears for these terrorists’ money.

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