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Sri Lankan Tamils want president Rajapaksa tried as a ‘war criminal’

#SRILANKA: Gotabaya Rajapaksa has been sworn in as Sri Lanka’s new president. The island’s minority Tamils say the retired army colonel – dubbed “The Terminator” by his own family, should be tried as a war criminal for the massacre of 40,000 Tamil civilians in 2009.

Mullivaikkal Genocide Remembrance Day on May 18, named after the Sri Lankan village that was the site of cataclysmic violence, is a day to remember those who died in the Sri Lankan conflict. Mullivaikkal commemoration events have been taking place around the world this month.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide and the 10th year since the Tamil genocide in Sri Lanka. While the 1994 Rwandan genocide has become part of the world’s collective memory, the 2009 Tamil genocide has not.

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The history of the Sri Lankan genocide

The protracted civil war between the national government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was coming to a catastrophic end. The goal of an independent state for the minority Tamils was slipping away.

 Dozens of surrendering Tamils, including senior Tiger political leaders and their families, had been shot dead by soldiers. (Photo:AP)

Throughout the conflict, both sides failed to respect human rights and international humanitarian law. Unlawful killings and enforced disappearances carried out by the Sri Lankan security forces were daily occurrences. The LTTE was condemned for its suicide bombings and forcible recruitment of child soldiers.

For most of the 2000s, the LTTE was operating as a de facto state in the north and east. By early 2009, military losses had gradually crushed the LTTE’s civil administration of these areas.

The LTTE and an estimated 330,000 Tamil civilians were trapped in a small piece of land on the northeast coast in the Mullaithivu District. The government ordered the UN to evacuate their last few international workers from the region while international media were excluded and local journalists silenced.

Meanwhile, India seemed troubled due Rajapaksa’s relations with China.

Throughout the conflict, both sides failed to respect human rights and international humanitarian law. Unlawful killings and enforced disappearances carried out by the Sri Lankan security forces were daily occurrences. The LTTE was condemned for its suicide bombings and forcible recruitment of child soldiers.

For most of the 2000s, the LTTE was operating as a de facto state in the north and east. By early 2009, military losses had gradually crushed the LTTE’s civil administration of these areas.

The LTTE and an estimated 330,000 Tamil civilians were trapped in a small piece of land on the northeast coast in the Mullaithivu District. The government ordered the UN to evacuate their last few international workers from the region while international media were excluded and local journalists silenced.

Carnage unfolded

Transatlantic cellphone photos and a few video clips had begun circulating with images of the unfolding carnage. Hospitals on the front lines were systematically shelled, as were food distribution lines and even Red Cross ships attempting to evacuate the wounded.

Within a few months, a brutal siege of the officially declared “safe zone” and the indiscriminate shelling of Tamil civilians concentrated there brought the war to an end. The Sri Lankan government celebrated its successful “humanitarian rescue operation.” In fact, it was genocide.

By August 2009, Britain’s Channel 4 News was broadcasting gruesome footage of summary executions and rape perpetrated by Sri Lankan soldiers. Dozens of surrendering Tamils, including senior Tiger political leaders and their families, had been shot dead by soldiers as they walked out of the safe zone hoisting white flags.

In 2012, the UN Secretary General estimated that 40,000 civilians were killed over the final five months of the conflict. The exact number, as in many conflict situations, remains contested and is likely higher.

Once the conflict ended, hundreds of thousands of Tamils were interned in squalid camps in the northern Vanni region. Even today, thousands of Tamils remain displaced in their own country.


About Indianspice Staff Reporter

Report and write stories for Indianspice.co.za. It is our ambitious goal to cover issues/events/news concerning South Africa and the diaspora.

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