‘Deaths were un­avoid­able’

Southasia - - -

The Sri Lankan govern­ment last month ac­knowl­edged for the first time that there were civil­ian ca­su­al­ties in the fi­nal phase of the civil war against the Tamil Tiger rebels but termed them as un­avoid­able.

A De­fense Min­istry re­port said, “…it was im­pos­si­ble to avoid civil­ian deaths de­spite its best ef­forts, given the mag­ni­tude of the fight­ing and ruth­less­ness of the op­po­nent.” The govern­ment had so far main­tained that non­com­bat­ants were not among the war dead be­cause it ad­hered to a zero civil­ian ca­su­alty pol­icy.

The re­port an­a­lyzed the events of the war and de­nied al­le­ga­tions of hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions and pris­oner ex­e­cu­tions by Sri Lankan troops dur­ing the hos­til­i­ties. “The govern­ment of Sri Lanka made ev­ery ef­fort to pro­tect civil­ians in the con­flict zone through the cre­ation of safe cor­ri­dors and no-fire zones by ad­her­ing to a zero civil­ian ca­su­alty pol­icy that had been con­veyed to all troops through re­peated train­ing and oper­a­tional or­ders,” the re­port said. The re­port, how­ever did not say how many civil­ians may have been killed.

The re­port came against the back­drop of a UN panel reporting ear­lier this year that said it had found cred­i­ble al­le­ga­tions of se­ri­ous hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions in­volv­ing both the govern­ment troops and Tamil Tiger rebels, some of which could amount to war crimes. It called for an independent in­ter­na­tional in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Sri Lanka’s pow­er­ful De­fense Sec­re­tary Gotab­haya Ra­japaksa ac­cused the de­feated Tamil Tigers and mem­bers of a strong Tamil ex­pa­tri­ate com­mu­nity of spread­ing the al­le­ga­tions to dis­credit the coun­try.

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