Sri Lanka war crimes under U.S. spotlight
26 February 2009
The uncontradicted testimony of Dr. Anna Neistat, Human Rights Watch, in Tuesday's U.S. Foreign Relations Subcommittee Hearings of Sri Lanka concluded that the "Sri Lankan Armed Forces are guilty of war crimes, including the indiscriminate shelling of areas packed with displaced Tamil civilians and of hospitals; the use of imprecise multi-barrel rocket launchers; acute or complete restrictions on humanitarian aid; the operation of militarily controlled “concentration camps” for Tamil civilians without freedom of movement or communications or adequate medical or other assistance," said Bruce Fein, in a letter sent to the Subcommittee following the Hearings.
"[D]etentions at the camps without a proper accounting of persons held there, which raises the suspicion of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. (No independent observers are allowed to monitor the screening process for camp detainees); and, the denial to displaced persons of access to humanitarian agencies," HRW statement said.
"The uncontradicted testimonies of former U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey J. Lunstead and Mr. Bob Dietz of the Committee to Protect Journalists established a recurring pattern of GOSL’s violence against media critics or others who disappear in white vans or are otherwise slain or injured; and, unvarying impunity for anyone who perpetrates the crimes. Ambassador Lunstead testified that President Mahinda Rajapaksa could stop the criminality if he wished," the letter said referring to the statements delivered by Ambassador Lunstead, and Bob Dietz of CPJ.
Pointing to Ambassador Lunstead's testimony that "Tamil detainees in the concentration camps were selected solely because they are Tamils, not because of complicity with the LTTE or criminality," Fein said that the detainees are "victims of ethnic-religious persecution by the Sinhalese Buddhist government."
"A natural inference to be drawn from Ambassador Lunstead’s observation is that the 2,000 Tamil civilians who have perished and thousands more who have been severely injured in the GOSL’s bogus “safe zones” in the past months were targeted because of their ethnicity or religion," Fein said in his letter to Sen.Casey, adding, this "makes out a prima facie case of genocide under the United States Genocide Accountability Act of 2007 (GAA), i.e., an attempt to destroy a Tamil group in whole or in substantial part specifically because of ethnicity or religion through extrajudicial killings, serious bodily injury, or the creation of conditions of life intended to result in the physical destruction of the target group."
The parallel between Sri Lanka’s “safe zones” for Tamils and Serbia’s “safe zone” for Bosnian Muslim males at Srebrenica that culminated in genocide is irresistible, Fein further said in his letter.