Human rights violations and Tamil children of Srilankan war

Save the Tamil Children of Sri Lanka

Joyce Muthuraj

TAMIL TRIBUNE, December 1997 (ID. 1997-12-02)
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OUTLINE

Abbreviations

1. Introduction

2. Safe Areas for Tamil Children

3. Starving and Sick Tamil Children

4. Rapes of Teenage Tamil Girls

5. Cold Blooded Murders of Tamil Children

6. A Final Note

An Update 

ABBREVIATIONS

LTTE - Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam

1. Introduction

In recent months the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister, Mr. Lakshman Kadirgamar, has been going around the world and telling foreign leaders and dignitaries that Tamil children are being forcibly conscripted by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). There are, in fact, some independent reports of conscription of  teenagers by the LTTE. We do not approve of forced conscription of minors. We urge that it be stopped immediately.

While we commend the Sri Lankan foreign minister's concern for the welfare of Tamil children, we wonder why he is not doing anything to protect Tamil children in areas controlled by the Sri Lankan army. Is his concern genuine or is it crocodile tears to get foreign financial and military aid to win the war?

Next time the Sri Lankan foreign minister expresses concern and asks for military and financial help, he may be asked to answer some of the following questions about the treatment of Tamil children by the Sri Lankan army and police.

2. Safe Areas for Tamil Children

1A. During the height of the war in 1995, as civilian casualties were mounting, international relief agencies requested the Sri Lankan government to provide a small safe area for Tamil civilians where they can be safe from aerial bombings and artillery bombardments from either side. Why did President Chandrika Kumaratunga refuse to provide such a safe area? If such a safe area had been provided, how many young lives would have been saved? (One hundred? Five hundred? One thousand? Several thousands?) How many children would be walking today, instead of limping with one leg or crawling with no legs at all? Now that the Sri Lankan foreign minister is expressing concern for Tamil children to world leaders, would he reveal if he tried to persuade President Kumaratunge to provide such a safe area? If so, what reasons did the President give him for her refusal? Is the foreign minister happy with the refusal and resultant death and maiming of so many Tamil children?

1B. Why does the Sri Lankan Air Force bomb and the Sri Lankan army shell temples and churches in which Tamil civilians (including scores of children) take shelter? If it is one or two incidents, we can call them missed targets. That's not the case here. If it was by mistake, it is natural to admit and take corrective action. Why did the Sri Lankan government call the International Red Cross as biased towards the LTTE and threaten to close down its relief operations when the International Red Cross reported the bombing of a church in which well over a hundred civilians, including dozens of children died and more were injured? Now that the Sri Lankan foreign minister is expressing concern for Tamil children, did the foreign minister object to calling the International Red Cross biased?

3. Starving and Sick Tamil Children

2. When Tamil civilians were fleeing the advancing Sri Lankan army in tens of thousands in 1995, and were in need of food, medicine and shelter, why did the Sri Lankan government refuse to allow any international relief agency to provide aid to them? Was it some type of collective punishment to Tamil civilians? If not, will Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar enumerate the reason? (The refugees were not in the war area. They had already fled the area.) How many Tamil refugee children died of starvation, malnutrition and lack of medicine because of Sri Lankan government's refusal to allow international relief agencies to help them? How many Tamil mothers gave birth during that period, half- starving, without any medical help and without a tent or shelter over their heads? How many mothers died in that process? How many babies died in that process? How many newborns died within days because of your government's refusal to allow international relief agencies to help the Tamil refugees? Now that the Sri Lankan foreign minister is expressing concern for Tamil children to world leaders, did the foreign minister object to President Kumaratunga the blocking of international relief agencies from helping the Tamil refugee children and infants and let these innocent young lives suffer or die of semi-starvation and lack of medicine? What was President Kumaratunga's reason for blocking help to refugee children though there were widespread reports at that time of the sufferings of these young ones? Was the foreign minister satisfied with the President's explanation in view of the untold sufferings and deaths of Tamil refugee children and infants? www.tamiltribune.com

4. Rapes of Teenage Tamil Girls

3. How many incidents of rapes of Tamil women by Sri Lankan soldiers and police were reported to the Sri Lankan government after he became the Sri Lankan foreign minister? How many of these incidents were teenage Tamil girls? How many of these raped women were murdered after the rape? How many soldiers and police were charged with these crimes? (Is it less than 5%?) Why only very few incidents, those that received international attention, resulted in filing charges? Can the Sri Lankan foreign minister explain why other incidents were just swept under the rug by the government? Is it true that those reporting rapes (rape victims' relatives) are sometimes tortured and murdered in cold blood within army barracks? Can the foreign minister deny that many of the rapes take place in army barracks? Can this happen without the knowledge of army officers? Can the Sri Lankan foreign minister cite one case, just one case that was filed because an army officer reported the rape or murder? The very few rapes that resulted in filing charges were the result of REPEATED requests by international relief agencies. The army's way of handling the situation is to restrict the international human rights agencies to enter Tamil areas under army control. Now that the Sri Lankan foreign minister is expressing concern about Tamil children to world leader, did he ever ask the Sri Lankan President to take action on each and every reported case of rape of Tamil teenage girls? Did President Kumaratunga refuse to do so? What was her explanation for the increasing number of teenage rapes and no action by the government?

5. Cold Blooded Murders of Tamil Children

4A. Not counting Tamil children killed by Sri Lankan Air Force bombings and army shelling, how many Tamil children were killed in cold-blood by Sri Lankan soldiers and police by point blank shootings or by using knives and hatchets? How many cases were brought to the government's attention and in how many cases any action was taken? Is it less than 1%? Will the Sri Lankan foreign minister provide a list of such massacres reported by international human rights organizations and identify governmental action in each incidence, such as cases filed against the alleged murderers, disposition of the case, number of convictions and punishment? To our knowledge, not a single soldier or police is punished.

4B. There is a saying in Tamil that "you need to sample only one grain of rice in a cooking pot to check if the pot of rice is done". So we will take just one specific massacre and put a few questions about it to the Srilankan foreign minister. Kumarapuram massacre of February 1996 in which 24 civilians were murdered in retaliation for an LTTE attack in the area (not in the village itself) in which two soldiers died. Does the Sri Lankan foreign minister know the age of the youngest victim (is it age 3?) How many below the age 10 were murdered (is it 4?) How many below age 15 were murdered (is it 13?) Was a teenage girl raped and then murdered? Was a pregnant woman hacked to death? Did the army issue a statement that the army had nothing to do with the massacre and that it was the work of some unknown murderers? Did the army admit later that some soldiers were responsible, only after international human rights agencies and a top Tamil politician who support President Kumaratunga got involved? Did some survivors of the massacre tell that they could identify some of the murderers? Did the army immediately transfer some soldiers from the nearby army camp to another location? What was the purpose of the transfer? Was it to obstruct justice? Would the Sri Lankan foreign minister provide a list of soldiers convicted and what their punishments were for the murder of 24 Tamil civilians? (To our knowledge, no one was punished.) Given the Sri Lankan foreign minister's concern for Tamil children, as expressed in recent months to foreign leaders, did he ask President Kumaratunga why no one was punished for the murder of 24 Tamil civilians, including 13 under the age of 15, 4 under the age of 10 and one 3 year old? What was the President's explanation? Is the foreign minister satisfied with that explanation?

6. A Final Note

I have not given any statistics about the number of Tamil children killed by Air Force bombings and army shelling, number of Tamil children murdered by soldiers and police in cold blood, and number of Tamil teenage girls raped (some murdered after the rape), because the Sri Lankan foreign minister will dispute my numbers. Those interested in such statistics may refer to the Urgent Action Appeals (UAA) issued by Amnesty International and other incontrovertible agencies. Please note that the Sri Lankan army severely limits the entry of Amnesty International and other agencies into Tamil areas under its control. So the numbers from Amnesty International and other agencies is only a fraction of the actual numbers.

In view of the outrages against Tamil children by Sri Lankan army and police and Sri Lankan government's inaction to punish or prevent such incidents, Sri Lankan foreign minister expressing concern for Tamil children to world leaders would be a laughing matter. But we cannot laugh. Our eyes are filled with tears and we are weeping for the Tamil children of Sri Lanka.

Please save the Tamil children of Sri Lanka.

UPDATE (January 1999): 

The following news item that appeared after the original publication of the article sheds more light on the subject.

At the "Roundtable on Human Rights Developments in Sri Lanka", conducted by the United States Congressional Human Rights Caucus, in Washington, D.C. on December 11, 1998, Ms. Colleen Malone of the Asia Pacific Center for Justice and Peace (a Human Rights Group) stated that the Sri Lankan army forces Tamil children as young as 9 years to work at army camps against their wish and that of their parents.

Did the Sri Lankan foreign minister, who sheds crocodile tears for Tamil children during his visits to foreign capitals, raise the matter with the President of Sri Lanka, who is also the minister of defense? If so, why is the practice continuing? Why did the foreign minister not resign from the government protesting the "forced labor" of Tamil children as young as 9 years by the Sri Lankan army?

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