Posted on June 13th, 2021


The main charge against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC is that they deliberately killed thousands of civilians in the last phase of Eelam War IV. Rajiva Wijesinha was Secretary-General of the Sri Lankan Government Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP) from 2007–2009. In that capacity Rajiva had access to war data.

Rajiva found that very few allegations of civilian deaths were made to the Peace Secretariat until the end of January 2009, when for the first time there was allegations of hundreds killed. In 2008 when forces took Kilinochchi, the total civilian deaths according to Tamilnet was only 78.  It was only on Jan 26th 2009 that a massive number of civilian deaths were announced, just after the first No Fire Zone was declared.  UN Resident Coordinator Neil Buhne said he thought most of the firing in the NFZ came from LTTE, said Rajiva. 

Analysts observed that the government’s offensive in the Eastern   Province had succeeded without civilian casualties.  The army would have followed a similar policy in the North. Analysts noted that the international community has been closely watching the conduct of the war. Had there been any loss of civilian lives the     international    community would have definitely tried to stop the offensive.

The intelligentsia in Sri Lanka took a similar position. If the army had targeted civilians outside the conflict area, then we would have known, said Lalith de Mel, former head of Reckitt and Colman. There would have been some information.  But there was none. There can be no truth in this story. (Lalith” p 151-2)

Rajiva commented on the paucity of civilian casualties in the war. The reports of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission   indicated that there were hardly any civilian casualties. This is almost unique in the history of this type of military operation. Western nations are much less cautious, Rajiva observed. In Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004, the US army completely destroyed homes, schools, hospitals and killed civilians in droves, said analysts.

I have been able to establish that the armed forces have been concerned only with military targets. There certainly had not been wanton attacks on civilians, said Rajiva.  Air Force gave me full accounts of whatever they had targeted, and their record was impressive. In the period preceding the last phase there has been allegations of just 76 civilian deaths arising from over  air force 500 sorties     Air force had refused to take certain targets saying it would lead to civilian casualties. 

We took our targets in the air force when we were 100 percent certain   that they were solely LTTE targets, Air Force said. We abandoned over 150 targets where we could inflict massive destruction on LTTE as they were close to civilians. LTTE lasted two years and ten months only because the Air Force had gone out of their way to avoid civilian casualties. 

IDAG-S [1] in its book The Numbers Game”  , stated that high resolution satellite imagery  of the second and third No Fire Zones, showed that shells fired by the army, during the months of February to May, 2009  avoided  civilian settlements.

IDAG-S found that the aerial photographs of the   zone confirmed this. The Tamil civilian camp, their ‘tent city’, was vast and stretched for several hundreds of miles. The tents were so densely packed together that if the area had been attacked by army mortars, the resulting fires would have destroyed vast swathes of tents.  But the photographs show the tents practically untouched. The majority of the permanent structures in this zone were also intact.

[1] Independent  Diaspora Analyst Group, Sri Lanka . IDAG-S is a think tank of academics, professionals and analysts from  the Sri Lankan diaspora in Europe, North America and Australia. The lead author is an aerospace engineer who was able to bring a wide range of multidisciplinary skills to the task.

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