LLRC Report On Sri Lanka’s War (Highlights)


Went thru the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’s report (PDF). It’s actually quite interesting. I skipped the parts on the ceasefire and jumped straight to the end of the war.

LTTE’s Use Of Human Shields

It was basically a strategic necessity, but near the end of the war the LTTE’s actions were to herd civilians around them and essentially play chicken with the Sri Lankan military, hoping that the international community would bail them out. This is the strategy their international wing(s) are continuing now, using the deaths they effectively caused to put pressure on the GoSL. It’s extremely cynical and evil even. If anything was a war crime, this was it.

A civilian who had been displaced with his family since August 2006 stated that the LTTE always mingled with the people even in the NFZs. Civilians therefore had tried to escape and move out of the NFZs into safe areas during the night. He further explained that when this happened, the LTTE fired and then the Army returned fire to the place where the LTTE firing came from.

While it’s important to remember that the LTTE were the bad guys, it’s also important to remember that ‘proportionality’ means nada if you’re the one being bombed.

‘we cannot digest and we cannot forget the untold sufferings that we have experienced during the last stages. The Government announced a security area. The first security area was declared at Udayakattu by the Government. So we went there; we got caught there and we went through a lot of difficulties in that area. We started getting displaced from place to place. Whenever the Government announces certain areas we went to take shelter there and we went through difficulties. And we cannot forget the people who died in that security area. I could have taken a photograph but the situation was not that conducive to take photographs. We were trying to save our lives.’

Civilian Casualties

The military is admitting that civilian casualties did occur (code for ‘we did kill innocent people’), something that Mahinda Rajapaksa falsely and callously denied.

4.112 During the Commission’s sittings in Mullaittivu the Commission was briefed by a Military Official on the final phase of the conflict. He stated that in the midst of battle, civilians were trying to cross over to Army lines and the LTTE were firing at them to prevent the civilians from crossing over. The Army too had returned fire, using small arms and during the exchanges of fire, civilians were caught in the cross fire and casualties did occur.

Hospital Shelling

They’re also admitting that hospitals were shelled, because the LTTE had set up artillery nearby.

4.128 A Government official who was interviewed by the Commission stated that on 3rd February 2009, shells had fallen on the PTK hospital where he was receiving treatment. He further stated that he had been taken in for a dressing and as soon as he was brought out a shell had landed on the theatre and the entire theatre had been
damaged. He added that all who could run away had fled screaming.

Food And Supply Shortages

After listing how the government did all it could to supply affected areas (I think they did do a lot), they admitted that the situation was still pretty hellish. The LTTE was siphoning off supplies that did come, and the supplies couldn’t possibly be enough.

4.179 A Government Doctor who had served in the Wanni until the final days of the conflict during the course of his representations to the Commission stated that the hospital staff with a few medical people went to Puthumatthalan and Mullaivaikkal. He further elaborated:

‘ …thinking in retrospect I cannot help concluding that we all managed to survive under deplorable conditions, unfit even for animals, fear, suffering, loss of life or limbs and the surrounding areas littered with dead bodies and carcasses of dying animals was all that the poor people had to bear with. Many did not have access to a square meal a day and most importantly and pathetically water was a hard to get commodity for many. Absent were toilets and even the most conservative women folk had to go in the open…’

Civilian Detentions

With the usual covering intro (Army did what they could, LTTE was mixing cynically), the commission also highlights a wrong. Perhaps a necessary one, but this a big thing, admitting uncomfortable realities.

4.227 The Commission on its visits to the detention centres heard from detainees that, due to the conditions not being conducive at the time of surrender, to obtain all the details of their involvement with the LTTE, they were languishing in detention/rehabilitation centres, even though at the time of surrender they had not been with the LTTE.

Essentially, innocent people were detained. They justify, but there is a small justice in simply acknowledging reality.

The White Flag surrendering people being killed issue is largely denied. What’s more interesting is that they report multiple cases of disappearances.

4.227 The Commission on its visits to the detention centres heard from detainees that, due to the conditions not being conducive at the time of surrender, to obtain all the details of their involvement with the LTTE, they were languishing in detention/rehabilitation centres, even though at the time of surrender they had not been with the LTTE.

Violence Was Proportional

From the reports they jump a bit to the conclusion, that the violence and civilian suffering was proportional. In essence, was it worth it in terms of the military objective. I have to agree. The military objective was ending a 30 year war that could have crippled the country for another 30, until Prabhakaran died of Diabetes. So yes I think it was proportional, though emotionally that’s still a messed up thing to say.

4.283 Having reached the above conclusions, it is also incumbent on the Commission to consider the question, while there was no deliberate targeting of civilians by the Security Forces, whether the action of the Security Forces of returning fire into the NFZs was excessive in the context of the Principle of Proportionality. Given the complexity of the situation that presented itself as described above, the Commission after most careful consideration of all aspects, is of the view that the Security Forces were confronted with an unprecedented situation when no other choice was possible and all “feasible precautions” that were practicable in the circumstances had been taken.

Accountability

The real issues in all the hype have been A) why can’t the government admit that civilians were killed and B) why can’t they take responsibility. I think the report goes very far towards A, and addresses B. Not to the satisfaction of people who want Mahinda and Gotabhaya in jail, but many of those people who I think didn’t want Sri Lanka to win the war, which is ultimately a positive outcome. I simply think a punitive commission is a waste of time and bad for the nation. Accountability, however, is a good thing and supports a better future for us all. Anyways, the report acknowledges wrongs and calls for rectification (to the limited extent that is mortally possible).

4.286 … the material nevertheless points towards possible implications of the Security Forces for the resulting death or injury to civilians, even though this may not have been with an intent to cause harm. In these circumstances the Commission stresses that there is a duty on the part of the State to ascertain more fully, the circumstances under which such incidents could have occurred, and if such investigations disclose wrongful conduct, to prosecute and punish the wrong doers. Consideration should also be given to providing appropriate redress to the next of kin of those killed and those injured as a humanitarian gesture that would help the victims to come to terms with personal tragedy, both in relation to the incidents referred to above and any other incidents which further investigations may reveal.

So

I think this is rather long and I’ve stopped here. The report is really not dull and I recommend reading it for yourself (http://t.co/GdEsLD9q). At the least, this LLRC report has way more information than the UN Report, which is essentially a reading of TamilNet. There’s actually a lot of meat and direct testimony in what the LLRC has produced. I went to a bunch of sessions and I thought the conclusion was pre-determined and that they were kissing up to Gotabhaya rather shamelessly. The final report, however, has surprised me. For me the biggest issues have been admitting death and supporting life. I think the report addresses both well.

Honestly, the best war is one that never starts. It’s better if a bunch of uniformed troops line up, kill each other in a field and go home. Beyond that, war is just differing degrees of bad. The just war that commentators often demand (no civilian casualties) is not even present in international law, because it’s not real. War is really bad. I think the only good war is one that ends. This war did end, after 30 years, and that is a relative good. And it happened. Now we can talk about it with some honesty. I think this is a start.

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8 Comments »

2011-12-16 20:10:18

[...] UPDATE: wrote up some proper highlights here: http://indi.ca/2011/12/llrc-report-on-sri-lankas-war-highlights/ [...]

 
Patriot
2011-12-18 14:56:30

It’s fantastic that the GOSL bowed to international pressure and was forced to make the LLRC report public. It proves once again that non-violent activism does work. With the release of the report, the GOSL can no longer say that a domestic mechanism is ongoing. That mechanism is over, it has handed over it’s report, which has been made public, and it clearly and unambigously abosolves the military of any wrong doing.

What’s especially noteworthy was the acceptance in the report that the GOSL declared No Fire Zones during the height of the war. It uses the term NFZ repeatedly, and even accepts as fact, that the SLA dropped fliers to civilians requesting them to go into the NFZ, thus making a solemn promise that if they heeded the GOSL’s instructions they would find safety. What’s even more shocking is that the LLRC report also agrees that this solemn promise made to the Tamil civilians was deliberately violated by the GOSL by shelling into the NFZ. What’s even worse is that the LLRC actually agrees with GOSL claim that the civillians were held hostage by the LTTE and could not leave. Thus the innocence of the Tamil civilians is unquestioned and unchallenged. They followed the instructions of their government and proceeded into the NFZ as instructed. At that point they were prevented from leaving by a ruthless terrorist group that even shot at the civilians when they tried to leave. The remarkable solution implemented by their own government, the GOSL, for this desperate situation, was to deliberately fire into it’s own NFZ, killing many men, women and childred for no crime or fault of their own. Therefore, the LLRC report despite is conclusion, is prima facie documentation of a crime against humanity. Extraordinary. Because of the LLRC report, the following are now facts that have complete acceptance both within SL and by the UN, Diaspora groups and the IC at large

1) The GOSL declared a NFZ (No Fire Zone) and instructed civilians to move to these areas.
2) The Tamil civilians obeyed the GOSL instructions and proceeded into the NFZ.
3) The Tamil civilians could not leave the NFZ because the LTTE would not let them.
4) The GOSL instructed it’s army to fire into the NFZ while Tamil civillians were still present in them.

Thus, the LLRC report will make it impossible for any country to support the GOSL in international fora. International intervention is now imminent. It is inescapable. Let’s try to make the most of it, and more importantly, hope that the souls of the slaughtered civilians forgive us for our crimes.

2011-12-19 13:50:49

Patriot, you missed a couple of points in your 4-point list. It should read:

1) The GOSL declared a NFZ (No Fire Zone) and instructed civilians to move to these areas.
2) The Tamil civilians obeyed the GOSL instructions and proceeded into the NFZ.
3) The LTTE followed the civilians into the NFZ.
4) The LTTE opened fire on the SL Army from within the NFZ.
5) The GOSL instructed it’s Army to fire upon the Tigers in the NFZ while Tamil civilians were still present in them.
6) The Tamil civilians could not leave the NFZ because the LTTE would not let them.

Let’s have the whole truth, eh?

And since (as Kalana Senaratne points out — http://groundviews.org/2011/12/18/the-llrc-report-a-critical-reading/ ) the LLRC Report isn’t the whitewash the anti-SL bloc expected, all the GoSL needs to do is agree to the recommendations and start the process. So in fact what will be impossible is for countries to oppose the GoSL without looking simply vindictive and unaccommodating.

The souls of the dead isn’t the issue; it’s the souls of the undead in the Diaspora that is the concern.

 
 
2011-12-18 17:42:13

Um, not really. In every war civilians are killed, a war crime is if they’re purposefully targeted or if the cost isn’t proportional to the ends.

In this case they’re saying that the violence was proportional to the ends, ending a 30 year war. Which, sadly, I think it was.

 
2011-12-28 12:00:35

[...] which nonetheless took the huge steps of admitting that civilians died and that abuses did occur (Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission Highlights). The argument therein was that these losses were proportional to a broader aim – ending the [...]

 
2011-12-29 17:47:37

[...] which nonetheless took the huge steps of admitting that civilians died and that abuses did occur (Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission Highlights). The argument therein was that these losses were proportional to a broader aim – ending the war [...]

 
2012-01-15 21:23:01

[...] Tamil National Alliance has published their response to Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Report. They are predictably not too happy – they think that 1) the commission was flawed 2) that [...]

 
2012-02-27 23:08:51

[...] think the government should implement its own LLRC report, and I commend them for acknowledging that around 8-9,000 civilians actually died in the war, [...]

 
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