Action Alert Archive
Death toll mounts in Sri Lanka amidst international silence
May 4, 2006
We are gravely concerned for the safety of tens of thousands of civilians affected by the Sri Lankan Air force bombings last week, and for those affected by the ongoing violence against the Tamil minority.
On April 25 and April 26, the Sri Lankan armed forces fired hundreds of bombs into civilian areas south of Trincomalee Bay, causing 40,000 people to flee their homes in desperation and fear.
These attacks are a clear violation of international humanitarian law and just war theory, including that enshrined in the 1968 United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2444, and in the United Nations Protocol II to 1949 Geneva Convention, which prohibits launching attacks against civilian populations. Protocol II explicitly states, "Acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited."
The Santhosam Children's Home, which shelters over 40 orphans, suffered a direct hit by a Kfir bomber and experienced extensive damage. A transit camp for tsunami-victims, run with the assistance of UNICEF, was shelled. Access to these areas to provide medical assistance to casualties and relief to the internally-displaced people has been denied by the Sri Lankan military, exacerbating the existing humanitarian crisis.
The Scandinavian peace monitors condemned these acts as a "clear violation of the ceasefire agreement."
In addition to these recent bombings, there have been reports of a rampage of communal violence unleashed against the Tamils in the Eastern region over the last few weeks. Local human rights groups documented the slayings of over 72 Tamil civilians in episodes of gross violence.
Residents have reported escalating attacks by the Sri Lankan Army's Deep Penetration Unit. Tuesday saw attacks by Army personnel on Tamil farmers, killing one 50-year old female farmer and gravely wounding another woman and a 60-year old man. The same day, a Jaffna daily newspaper that is sympathetic towards the rebel group was attacked, resulting in the slayings of two journalists. The Sri Lanka Free Media Movement considered this part of an "onslaught against freedom of expression."
The internationally-respected Nonviolent Peace Force experienced attacks on their own vehicles and personnel by Sinhala mobs, saying "the whole event took place 30 feet (10 meters) from a police/army checkpoint and the forces present made no attempt to intervene."
This state-sanctioned violence against the Tamil minority should be unequivocally condemned to prevent the Sri Lankan government from acting similarly in the future.
Please use your influence to protect innocent civilians from the terrors of war, in accordance with Geneva Protocol II. We urge you to condemn the Sri Lankan government's aerial bombings and emphasize to them that targeting civilians in war is a war crime.
The mission of People for Equality and Relief in Lanka (PEARL) is to end the systemic human rights abuses against the Tamil population in Sri Lanka, and promote equality, rights and justice on the island. PEARL is 501(c)3 non-profit organization led by human rights activists concerned about the situation in Sri Lanka.