Human rights and terrorism in Sri Lanka

Declare the Sri Lankan Army and Police as Terrorist Organizations

Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, May 1998 (ID. 1998-05-01)
Click here for MAIN INDEX to archived articles (main page)
www.tamiltribune.com

OUTLINE

Executive Summary

1. Definition of Terrorism

1.1 General definition

1.2 Can an army or police commit terrorist acts?

1.3 Terrorism is terrorism irrespective of the mode or weapons used in the killing

1.4 State-sponsored terrorism

2. Sri Lankan Army and Police

2.1 Shelling and bombing of Hindu temples, Muslim mosques and Christian churches

2.2 Shelling and bombing of Tamil schools

2.3 Cold-blooded murders are terrorism too!

2.4 Torture-murders in police custody are terrorism too!

2.5 Rape-murders of Tamil women are terrorism too!

3. These are not Human Rights Violations; These are Acts of Terrorism

4. Count and Compare

5. In the Name of Justice and Fairness

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

First the author provides a general definition of terrorism. Then a subset of terrorism is defined, namely, state-sponsored, state-funded terrorism by army and police.

Next the author examines the activities of the Sri Lankan army and police under the definition of terrorism and establishes that they should be classified as terrorist groups. Reports of the many hundreds cold-blooded murders of Tamil civilians, as documented by Amnesty International and other foreign human rights organizations, are used to support his case. (In this article, the term "cold-blooded murder" is used to refer to murder by knives, hatchets and point-blank shooting as opposed to the killing of civilians by army shelling and air force bombing.)

Finally the author requests the nations around the world to impose sanctions against the Sri Lankan government in view of the numerous terrorist acts carried out by the Sri Lankan army and police. He argues that imposing sanctions against non-governmental groups only without similar sanctions against the Sri Lankan army, police and government is tantamount to unwittingly helping the Sri Lankan army, police and government continue their cold-blooded murders of Tamil civilians.

1. Definition of Terrorism

1.1 General definition

Any violent act by an individual or group that injures or kills non-combatants is a terrorist act. Those carrying out the act, knowing that their act would results in injuries or deaths of non-combatants, are terrorists.

1.2 Can an army or police commit terrorist acts?

Only groups fighting the government forces are usually characterized as terrorist groups. An army or police is seldom, if ever, called a terrorist group or their acts called terrorist acts even when they knowingly kill non-combatants. In the opinion of this writer, if the army or police of a country injures or kills non-combatants (civilians) knowingly and without cause then these acts are terrorist acts and the army and police are, in fact, terrorist groups.

Does it matter whether the person who shoots and kills non-combatants at point blank range or who sets off a remote controlled explosive device and thus kills non-combatants is a member of the army or a militant group fighting the army? This is a terrorist act irrespective. Whoever is responsible for killing civilians knowingly and without reasonable cause is a terrorist irrespective of whether he or she is a soldier or a "freedom fighter".

1.3 Terrorism is terrorism irrespective of the mode or weapons used in the killing

When someone plants a bomb and detonates it by a remote control and kills not only some soldiers but also civilians, it is called a terrorist act, and rightly so. However, when soldiers, on orders from their commanders, fire artillery and mortars on populated areas, knowing very well that there are civilians, and kills them, why is that not called a terrorist act? Just because expensive weaponry is used, is it less of a terrorist act than exploding a cheap bomb by remote control? It is one and the same. It is the killing of civilians knowingly and thus an act of terrorism.

When someone drives an explosives-laden car against a check post and kills the soldiers manning the post as well as some civilians, it is called a terrorist act, and rightly so. However, when an Air Force bomber drops tons of explosives on populated areas and kills hundreds of civilians in addition to some guerrillas, why is it not called a terrorist act? Just because the bomber belongs to the government and the order to bomb a populated area comes from top generals, is it any less of a terrorist act? It is the killing of civilians knowingly and thus an act of terrorism.

1.4 State-sponsored terrorism

The phrase "state-sponsored terrorism" is used occasionally to refer to a government killing civilians (non-combatants) in another country using its own agents or using some other group. Such governments are called terrorist governments and such countries are labeled terrorist states.

In the opinion of this writer, a government carrying out terrorist acts (that is, injuring and killing civilians not engaged in violent acts) within its own borders using its own army or police is also a terrorist state. Why should there be a difference whether the injuring and killing of non-combatants takes place within the government's own country or outside of the country? No government has the right to unnecessarily kill its own citizens not engaged violent activities.

2. Sri Lankan Army and Police

We defined terrorism and terrorists in Section 1. Let us assess the activities of the Sri Lankan army and police within that definition of terrorism.

2.1 Shelling and bombing of Hindu temples, Muslim mosques and Christian churches

In spite of Sri Lanka's complete denial of access to war zones to reporters (until the government removes damaging evidences and sanitizes the area), there is ample documentation by international relief agencies, human rights organizations and enterprising reporters (not in any way connected to the Tamils) of the many bombings of Hindu temples, Muslim mosques and Christian churches in Tamil areas by the Buddhist Sri Lankan government. A number of such bombings had been carried out when Tamil civilians have taken refuge in those places of worship, and many hundreds of Tamil civilians have thus been killed. (If we add civilian casualties in bombed houses, shops and other places, they add to thousands.)

When the Holy Tooth Relic Buddhist Temple was damaged and some Sinhalese civilians died in a terrorist bomb attack, leaders around the world condemned it, and rightly so. But there is no condemnation when scores of Hindu temples, Muslim mosques and Christian churches were reduced to rubble by Sri Lankan army shelling and Sri Lankan Air Force bombing. Why are they not called terrorist acts?

How does it matter whether the terrorist act was carried out by a car laden with explosives or tons of explosives dropped from a multi-million dollar air force plane? Does it make the destruction of Tamil religious places and the killing of Tamil civilians taking refuge there any more "respectable" because it was done from high above using sophisticated multi-million dollar planes?

Can all these acts of destruction of scores places of worships of the minority Tamils and the deaths of hundreds of Tamil civilians taking refuge there be attributed to targeting error? This writer does not think so. If it is only a few such incidents, we may attribute them to targeting error but that is not the case here. There are too many incidences to consider them accidental bombings and shelling. These are meant to terrorize the minority Tamil civilians. These aerial bombings and shelling are no different from a terrorist car bomb.

Here is a report by the International Committee of the Red Cross dated July 11, 1995.

"On July 9, 1995, many of the displaced Tamils sought shelter in churches and temples, including several hundred people who took refuge in the Church of St. Peter and Paul in Navaly. According to eye-witness accounts, this church and several adjacent buildings were hit by further air force strikes at 4.30 PM the same day. During the attack 165 people were killed and 150 wounded, including women and children.

That evening and into the night Sri Lanka Red Cross staff evacuated most of the wounded by ambulance to the Jaffna Teaching Hospital. Delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) present the next morning at the scene of the attack noted the widespread damage and measured the extent of the tragedy: many of the bodies had not yet been removed from the rubble.

Deeply concerned by the series of the violent acts that have claimed innocent civilians, the ICRC calls on the parties involved to respect civilian lives, property and places of refuge."

This was just one of many such bombings.

International relief agencies offered the Sri Lankan government a way to avoid civilian killings by air force bombing and army shelling. In 1995, they requested the Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga to declare a small area as "safe area" where Tamil civilians could take shelter. These areas will not be bombed or shelled by either side. President Kumaratunga flatly rejected this request. Putting this together with the shelling and bombing of so many civilian targets raises the question "Does the Sri Lankan government has any concern at all for Tamil civilians?"

List of civilian targets bombed and shelled and the resulting Tamil civilian deaths may be found in Amnesty International archives.

2.2 Shelling and bombing of Tamil schools

Not only non-Buddhist places of worship (Sinhalese are predominantly Buddhists) but also Tamil schools have been bombed and shelled causing the death of scores of Tamil children. When a few Sinhalese children were killed along with some police men during a terrorist bomb explosion at a Colombo street, the Sri Lankan government went on a publicity campaign of how Tamil terrorists are killing Sinhalese children. This writer surely condemns this terrorist bombing and the resultant death of Sinhalese children. But what about the Tamil school children (many, many times more) killed by the Sri Lankan Air Force bombing of Tamil schools? Are they not acts of state-funded terrorism? To emphasize the point, here is an account of the result of a Sri Lankan Air Force bombing.

"Twenty one school children were killed on the spot when Sri Lankan Pucara Planes bombed the Nagerkoil Central School in the Jaffna peninsula on September 22, 1996. Nearly 100 others were injured, most of them students in the same school. Elsewhere in the area, 15 other civilians were also killed in the course of the same bombing raids.

The bombing of the school happened at 12.50 P.M. during the school's lunch break. Several school children were gathered under a shade tree in the school compound. In the aftermath of the bombing, pieces of human flesh were strewn around the area including the tree branches, making identification impossible."

Here are the names and ages of those killed.

Dharmalingam Ushanthini 13

Markandu Nagalosani 10

Thamodtharan Sakunthala 12

Rasakumar Umakanthan 17

Punthavarasa Thushanthini 14

Ravindran Amirtha 10

Balachandran Rajitha 10

Sundaralingam Palanimalai 15

Kularasa Annamalai Tharsani 13

K. Varsini 12

Selvakulasingam Selvanithy 17

Krishnakumar Thavaseelan 13

Rajaratnam Kavitha 10

Nagamuthu Senthivel 15

Alphonse Amalaviji 14

Mahalingam Shanmugavadivel 16

T.Mahintha 10

T.Mathini 14

Navamani Vithuran 14

Selvam 16

Ragavan 16

Here is how 12-year old Tamil girl (Sathiaveni from Aruhuveli) described the death of a 2-year old baby by army shelling on March 16, 1996.

"The shells fell on our compound, we ran further away and laid down on the ground to take cover. I spotted my aunt's daughter 2-year old baby (Kalpana) standing away from us unaware of the terrific danger she was in. I got up and started running towards her desperately to grab her to safety when a shell fell very close to her and exploded. When the smoke cleared we looked for her and found that she was dead. I was trembling. My hand was cut by a sharpnel from another shell that fell close by."

Are these bombing and shelling, two of many such incidents documented by Amnesty International, acts of terrorism?

2.3 Cold-blooded murders are terrorism too!

The Sri Lankan government may excuse the killing of minority Tamil civilians during army shelling and Air Force bombing as unavoidable casualties. As ridiculous as it may be, let us look at the cold-blooded murder of Tamil women and children at point plank shootings by the Sri Lankan army and police on several occasions. Hundreds of Tamils civilians were thus murdered in cold blood and are documented by Amnesty International and other unbiased agencies.

Here is one such massacre.

"On February 11, 1996, Sri Lankan soldiers entered the village of Kumarapuram around 6:00 PM and murdered 30 Tamil civilians in cold blood. These are not civilian casualties in cross fire but deliberate, premeditated murder. Two women, including a teenage girl, was first raped and then murdered. One murder victim was a pregnant woman. Her womb was ripped open by a machete and the unborn fetus wrenched out and hacked. Those murdered include children; the youngest victim was just 3 years old."

Amnesty International's report on this massacre provides the following details:

The Sri Lankan armed forces arrived in army

trucks at the Tamil village of Kumarapuram in the

Kiliveddi area of the Trincomalee district, on Sunday

(February 11,1996), ordered the villagers to gather in a particular spot and massacred them with knives,

machetes, and swords.

Bodies recovered include 2 bodies of sexually assaulted young women. The details of the Tamil people who were massacred at Kumarapuram are now available. They are as follows (name, gender and age):

Subiah Savirajah (male 76)

Kinnan Kovinthan (male 72)

Sivakkolunthu Sinnadurai (male 56)

Vadivelu Nadarajah (male 22)

Sundaralingam Luxmy (female 30)

Arunasalam Kamaladevy (female 35)

Alahuthurai Parames (female 30)

Subramaniam Pakkiyam (female 30)

Arumaithurai Vallipillai (female 28)

Selladurai Pakkiyam (female 28)

Anandan Annamah (female 26)

Thurairajah Karunakaran (young boy 15)

Arumaidurai Santhyaluxmy (young girl 15)

Kanakarajah Subashinirajah (young boy 15)

Vinayakamoorthy Suthahara (young boy 14)

Ramajeyam Kamaleswar (young girl 13)

Thangavel Kala (young girl 12)

Shanmuganathan Nizandan (young boy 11)

Sundaralingam Prabaharan (young boy 11)

Amirthalingam Rasanighandi (young girl 10)

Theepan Patiny (young girl 09)

Sivapakiyam Thiraiyampan (infant girl 06)

Pakkkiyarajah Vasanthini (infant girl 06)

Sundaralingam Subasini (infant girl 03)

Is this massacre not an act of state terrorism against the minority Tamil population? (NOTE: First the army denied any involvement and blamed an unidentified group. Then, confronted with overwhelming evidence, it admitted to the army's involvement. However, to our knowledge, not a single soldier was punished.) There are many such civilian murders by Sri Lankan army and police, all documented by international agencies like Amnesty International.

2.4 Torture-murders in police custody are terrorism too!

Over the years hundreds of Tamil youths picked up by Sri Lankan police under mere suspicion without any evidence and without an arrest warrant were tortured and murdered in detention. Their bodies were disposed off in rivers and lakes. We will give just one example.

"In 1995, the elite Special Task Force (STF) commandos picked up some Tamil youths in Colombo at random and took them to their headquarters. There the commandos applied a plastic tourniquet to the necks of these Tamil youths and steadily tightened them until they died. Their bodies were thrown into nearby rivers and lakes. Days later some of the bodies were found."

Is it not an act of terrorism? (NOTE: Not a single person was punished for these murders because the government prosecutors dragged their feet on prosecution. Many of those allegedly involved in these murders are still in the Special Task Force.)

No Tamil is immune from these detention murders, not even Christian priests. A letter signed by the Rev. Dwain Epps, coordinator of public affairs for the World Council of Churches (WCC), provides details of a case.

"Mr Arulpalan, a church minister and a Tamil, was visiting a church farm at Shalomnagar, Murippu on August 27 with two parish workers, a 45- year-old man and his 17-year-old son, to collect palm leaves for a roofing project. He was detained by security forces. Prompt inquiries by church officials as to his whereabouts received no satisfactory response. On September 9, with the help of the International Red Cross, his dead body was found near the farm."

Is it not an act of police terrorism? (NOTE: No one was punished for this murder.)

2.5 Rape-murders of Tamil women are terrorism too!

Rape of Tamil women and girls by Sri Lankan soldiers and police is rather widespread in Tamil areas under army control. Many rapes go unreported because of fear of reprisal. In April 1998, a woman in Vadamarachi reporting the rape of another woman by Sri Lankan soldiers was murdered (burnt alive) just hours before she was to appear before a police inquiry.

Here is the information from Amnesty International documents on a rape-murder case.

"On November 7, 1996 Kirushanthy Kumaraswamy (age 17) was arrested on her way home from school at the Kaithady army check point. Her mother, Rasamma Kumaraswamy, became anxious when her daughter did not return from school and went to the checkpoint with Kirushanthy's brother, Piranapan, and a neighbor Kirupaharan. They were also arrested by the soldiers at the checkpoint. At 10 p.m. that night, the soldiers strangled and murdered Kirushanthy's mother, brother and neighbor and buried their bodies in shallow graves in the Hindu Chemmani Cemetery. At 11 p.m. 11 soldiers gang raped Kirushanthy and then murdered her. Her body was buried in the same cemetery. The four bodies were discovered on the 24th October 1996."

Is it not an act of Sri Lankan army terrorism? (Note: Because of an outcry from international human rights organizations, government filed a case against several soldiers (a rare occurrence) but the two soldiers accused of murder "escaped" from police custody).

Here is another rape case.

"On November 17, 1996, Sri Lankan soldiers abducted a 10 year old Tamil girl, Thenuka Selvarajah, when she was on her way to school and gang raped her at the Puttur V.C. camp. The school principal complained at the main Atchuvely army camp. He was forcibly removed from the premises and no investigation was made on the rape."

Here are two rape-murder cases.

"On May 17, 1997, Koneswary Murugesapillai, a 35-year old mother of four children, was gang raped by five Sri Lankan policemen in the Batticaloa-Amparai border area. After the rape, the five policemen inserted a grenade into this helpless woman's vagina and exploded it, thus murdering her so brutally. In the same area, another Tamil mother, 49-year old Thanganayaki, was gang raped by policemen in October 1997. Then the policemen butchered her vagina and she died horribly."

Are these rape-murders not terrorist acts by the Sri Lankan police? (NOTE: A case was filed in the Koneswary rape-murder but the prosecution stalled because a senior police official would not come to the court to testify. No case was filed in the Thanganayaki rape-murder.)

South China Morning Post correspondent in Sri Lanka estimated that about 150 Tamil women were raped by Sri Lankan army and police during the year 1996 alone. (Remember, many rapes go unreported for fear of reprisal by soldiers or police.) Not a single soldier or police was punished to date for those rapes. Number of rape-murders during 1996 is 11. Each one is a terrorist act by Sri Lankan army or police personnel.

3. These are not Human Rights Violations; These are Acts of Terrorism

When a group of soldiers enter a village, gather the unarmed villagers (including women, children and babies) and murder them in cold blood with knives and hatchets (as it happened in Kumarapuram; see Section 2.3), newspapers call it "human rights violation". Let us not call these cold-blooded murders by some vague, "diluted" term like human rights violation, let us call them what they really are; these are acts of terrorism against the minority Tamil population. Well meaning governments show diplomatic displeasure at these "human rights violations". Instead, let them condemn them as state-sponsored acts of terrorism and treat them as any other terrorist act.

To me a human rights violation is the illegal detention of an innocent person or the mistreatment (say, poor food, poor sanitary conditions, etc.) of a prisoner. Don't categorize the cold-blooded murders of Tamil civilians in Kumarapuram by the Sri Lankan army as a human rights violation; it is much more than that; it is state-sponsored terrorism against the minority Tamil population.

When a Tamil mother is gang raped by Sri Lankan police and then murdered by inserting and exploding a grenade in her vagina (see Section 2.5), it is called a human rights violation. It is any less of a terrorist act than a terrorist exploding a bomb and killing a woman? No, it is as much an act of terrorism by the Sri Lankan army against the minority Tamils?

Remember, these are not a few isolated acts. There are hundreds and hundreds of terrorist acts against the minority Tamils by the Sri Lankan army and police. Don't take my word for it. Look into the archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Amnesty International and other such organizations. To our knowledge, not a single soldier or police is punished for these despicable acts of terrorism. Why? May be the following quote from a mainline Sri Lankan newspaper would shed some light. This editorial appeared when there was an outcry from international human rights agencies following the brutal rape-murder of Kirushanthy Kumaraswamy by Sri Lankan soldiers and the murder of her mother, brother and a neighbor when they went to inquire about her. Here is the quote:

"There should be no cause for bitterness and anger against the security forces... That would swiftly undermine the on-going "hearts and minds'' battle." Ceylon Daily News Editorial (November 6, 1996)

How else can we explain that not a single soldier or police is punished in spite of the thousands of murders, rapes and tortures documented by unbiased foreign human rights organizations. When an incidence generates lots of publicity, government would go through a charade of prosecuting but these prosecutions never reach a conclusion. Several tactics are used to sabotage the investigation. Government prosecutors will not come to the court on trial dates again and again until the court dismisses the case. Key government witnesses, such as senior police officials, will not come to court. Civilian witnesses are shown lineups in which the suspects are not included; so the suspect could not be identified and case closed. Key accused persons are allowed to escape. These are some of the tactics used to sabotage even the very few cases filed against soldiers and police.

4. Count and Compare

The Sri Lankan government is on a worldwide campaign to brand the Tamil fighters (namely, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam [LTTE]) as a terrorist organization and gain support for the government's ongoing effort to subdue the minority Tamil population once and forever. Unfortunately even some well-meaning governments seem to believe the Sri Lankan propaganda because they are not fully aware of the terrorist actions by the Sri Lankan army and police (as discussed in Section 2 and 3). All this writer is asking the nations around the world as well as the United Nations is to weigh the terrorist acts by both sides (Tamil fighters [LTTE] and the Sri Lankan army/police) and act against all the terrorist acts according to their magnitude, irrespective of whether the acts were committed by LTTE or the Sri Lankan army/police.

Let us count the terrorist acts on both sides. To be on the conservative side, let us consider for purposes of this article that all acts of terrorism the Sri Lankan government accuses the LTTE of are true. Then let us count the terrorist acts by the Sri Lankan army and police. To be even more conservative, for purposes of this article, we will not include Tamil civilian casualties due to army shelling and air force bombing. We will consider only Tamil civilian casualties falling under the following categories discussed in Sections 2.3, 2.4 and 2.5:

1) Cold-blooded murders of civilians (deaths due to army shelling and air force bombing not included)

2) Torture-murders of Tamils in police custody

3) Rape-murders of Tamil women and teenagers

The number of Tamil civilian deaths due to these deliberate acts (of terrorism) by the Sri Lankan army and police are available by going through cases documented by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International.

This little comparison shows that the Sri Lankan army and police are responsible for the vast majority of terrorist acts in Sri Lanka. (This comparison may be made for any year during the past two decades, and we will reach the same conclusion.)

5. In the Name of Justice and Fairness

There is absolutely no doubt, on the basis of documented evidence by international human rights organizations (not by Tamil sources), that the Sri Lankan army and police have murdered in cold blood many hundreds of Tamil civilians every year during the past decade (adding to thousands of civilian murders over the years). This number is many, many times the number of Sinhalese civilians killed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) even if we are take every accusation made by the Sri Lankan government is correct. [NOTE: If we include Tamil civilian casualties due to Sri Lankan air force bombing and army shelling they run into tens of thousands (yes, tens of thousands)].

Under these circumstances imposing anti-terrorist sanctions against the LTTE without imposing identical sanctions on the Sri Lankan army, police and government amounts to unwittingly helping the Sri Lankan army, police and government continue with their terrorist murders, tortures and rapes against the minority Tamil civilian population. So we request the nations around the world to take action against the Sri Lankan government because of the terrorist acts of its army and police. We plead to the nations around the world to stop all aid to Sri Lanka. Stop selling weapons, ammunitions and all types of equipment used by the Sri Lankan army and police. Stop all types of training to the Sri Lankan army and police. Impose strict economic sanctions against Sri Lanka. This is the only fair thing to do; this is the only just thing to do. We request this in the name of fairness and justice!

RELATED ARTICLE

More Articles on Srilanka and Tamil Eelam

F----    1998-a1d

 

Your comments on this article or any other matter relating to Tamil are welcome

(e-mail to: tamiltribuneatasia.com Please replace "at" with the @ sign.)

Copyright Ó 2009 by TAMIL TRIBUNE. All rights reserved.

http://www.tamiltribune.com