9 years today a Massacre in Mullivaikkal (part 11)
7th May 2009
Photograph from US State Department report of “characteristic cluster bomb smoke cloud from shelling on May 7 in Mullivaikkal”.
More cluster bombs hit No Fire Zone
The Sri Lankan army launches cluster bombs inside the No Fire Zone, one of several such attacks in the last few months.
In the UN’s OISL report, witnesses “described the objects exploding in mid-air and releasing many smaller objects in the air before impacting the ground”.
“Cluster munitions release bomblets over a wide area above a target that explode on impact. However, indirect fire munitions may also be configured to explode into fragments overhead. OISL believes that given the persistent nature of the allegations of cluster munitions, further investigation needs to be carried out to determine whether or not they were used.”
Photographs leaked in 2016 appear to confirm the use of cluster bombs by the Sri Lankan government. The photographs showed demining teams excavating cluster munitions from Kilinochchi and Chalai in Mullaitivu, sites of heavy bombardment by Sri Lankan forces.
Deminers unearth a RBK-500 AO-2.5RT cluster bomb near Chalai. Photograph: The Guardian/Together Against Genocide
A former Mines Advisory Group (MAG) employee told the Guardian that cluster bombs had been found in a “densely civilian-populated area” in one of the ‘No Fire Zones’ near Puthukudiyiruppu.
Previously the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice released a series of witness stories from the final war zone, which included the testimony of a cluster bomb attack.
“The main bomb explodes in the air and splits into many pieces,” the witness said. “One kind of cluster bomb, used in Iranaipalai, produced colourful ribbons. Children were attracted and picked pieces up; as they handled the pieces they exploded.”
In a statement released weeks earlier, the Tamil National Alliance said,
“The use by the Sri Lankan State of internationally banned weapons, such as cluster bombs and chemical weapons, has been a characteristic feature of the current phase of the war being waged against the Tamil people.”
“The Tamil people in the island of Sri Lanka are clearly being subjected to Genocide.”
Also, see more in our feature: Leaked photos confirm cluster bomb use in Sri Lanka (19 Jun 2016)
LTTE commits to full support of ICRC
The LTTE released a letter from its Political Head Quarters, stating that it “reiterates its full commitment and support to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)”.
“We also wish to reiterate our organisation’s total commitment to the safety and security of the members of the ICRC in carrying out its humanitarian work and its other mandated activities,” it added. “Please take this letter as the necessary security guarantees from the LTTE for performing the work of the ICRC.”
“We are aware of the GOSL and its armed forces’ attempts at deliberately launching military manoeuvres in LTTE controlled areas to thwart the activities of the ICRC. We take this opportunity to express our deep appreciation of all the invaluable work done by the ICRC with regards to the immensely suffering Tamil civilian population due to the genocidal war waged against the Tamil people by the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL).”
Photographs: A crater from a shell attack on May 8th 2009.
Small scale ICRC evacuations continue
Meanwhile, the ICRC said that “heavy fighting is taking place near the medical assembly point at Mullavaikkal, which puts the lives of patients, medical workers and ICRC staff at great risk.”
495 Tamils were evacuated from the final conflict zone by boat to Trincomalee and Pulmoddai.
An ICRC evacuation taking place on April 2009.
Jacques de Maio, the ICRC head of operations for South Asia, in Geneva said, “not all the wounded could be evacuated today, and it is of the utmost importance that more evacuations take place over the coming days”.
“The food and medical supplies that have been delivered remain insufficient to cover the basic needs of the people there.”
Diaspora protests continue
British Tamil students protest in London in 2009.
Meanwhile, protests in capitals across the world by the Tamil diaspora continue. In London, a student protester Siva told TamilNet.
“The whole world is now well aware of the plight of the Tamils under the chauvinistic Sinhala-dominated Sri Lankan state. Hundreds of Tamils being massacred or starving to death each week, Sri Lanka’s slow genocide has is accelerating. Yet the continued inaction by some powerful states, while other states support Sri Lanka, is allowing this to continue.”
British Tamil students added,
“what is needed right now is action by the international community, not merely words of sympathy.”
6th May 2009
Photograph taken on May 6th 2009 inside the No Fire Zone.
Hospitals hit by Sri Lankan army
A US State Department report says that on the 6th of May,
A local source reported that the remaining hospital facilities were continually hit by SLA shelling, even though their locations had been carefully reported to the government.
Mano Ganesan, a current Sri Lankan government minister, also responded to a statement from the UNP’s Palitharanga Bandara who called for the continued use of heavy weapons, including inside the No Fire Zone, where tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were sheltering.
“News from Vanni show that heavy weapons are being used in the war on the ‘safe zone’ in Vanni,” he said.
“Why should Palitharanga Bandara urge the government to use heavy weapons on the ‘safe zone’? Is UNP unaware of the presence of innocent Tamils there? Why this racism against the Tamils? This is something utterly shameful. The UNP will lose its Tamil votes in the future polls.”
Photograph: A woman who was evacuated from the conflict zone, receives medical attention on May 6th 2009.
More deaths from starvation
Dozens of people are reported to have died from starvation in the preceding weeks, particularly the elderly.
The US State Department says that,
An organization’s sources expressed their belief that the GSL was deliberately preventing delivery of medicine to the NFZ and reported that ―over the last week, at least 20 people have died due to starvation and lack of medication
Deaths are occurring not just inside the No Fire Zone, but also at detention centres in Vavuniya, where on May 4th, ten elderly persons reportedly died.
5th May 2009
Photographs: Inside the final conflict zone, pictured on May 5th 2009.
Deaths from starvation add to crisis
As the Sri Lankan military continued its shelling of the No Fire Zone, the LTTE called on the international community to facilitate the delivery of urgent humanitarian aid.
Extracts from their press release follow:
Faced with imminent deaths by starvation directly attributable to the Sri Lankan regime’s deliberate denial of food and humanitarian assistance to the Tamil people, the Tamil Diaspora has initiated measures to deliver humanitarian aid direct to the Tamil people in the Vanni/Mullaitivu region. The LTTE calls on the international community to support these actions to deliver humanitarian aid.
We draw attention to the nine deaths by starvation in the last few days and the real fear that the death toll could rise exponentially in the coming days.
The situation of the Tamil people who are being subject to shelling and bombings has been made much worse by the deliberate withholding of food and medicine. The UN and the rest of the International Community has a moral obligation to support this initiative by the Tamil Diaspora.
Photographs: Above right – Inside the final conflict zone, pictured on May 5th 2009.
Above – People queue for food inside the final conflict zone, pictured May 5th 2009.
The Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation reported that of the estimated 2500MT of food that was needed per month, only 60MT was allowed through by the government for the whole of April.
It went on to add,
“Dead bodies are being taken by TRO volunteers for burial or cremation. Dead bodies have to be collected from shelters and bunkers. When dead bodies are brought to the hospitals or when the wounded people died in the hospital as the treatment failed they also have to be picked up.
A State Department report quoted sources as stating “various sections of Mullivaikkal were subject to air attack, artillery fire and cluster bombs”.
It added, “a source in the NFZ reported that there were no antibiotics available to treat illnesses”.
Prof Francis Boyle writes that “since the outset of this latest crisis in January, the GOSL has exterminated about 7000 Tamils in Vanni, certainly a “substantial part” of the Tamil population in Vanni and Sri Lanka.”
“If not stopped now, the GOSL’s toll of genocide against the Tamils could far exceed the recent horrors of Srebrenica.”
“A generation ago the world turned away from the Nazi genocide against the Jews–and lived to regret it. Humanity is at a similar crossroads today.”
4th May 2009
The bombing continues
A US State Department report noted a source inside the No Fire Zone as stating the Sri Lankan military was “engaged in daily shelling and bombing of the NFZ, killing an estimated minimum of 100 people per day”.
Several attacks on Mullivaikkal Hospital led to patients not being able to receive surgery or any other forms of treatment, the State Department report added.
Photographs: Above and right, civilians shelter from Sri Lankan military attacks pictured on May 4th 2009.
Hundreds of Tamils arrested
Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan military continued its roundup of Tamils across the island. In Amparai 160 Tamils were arrested by Special Task Force (STF) commandos and taken into police custody. In Colombo, the military arrested 6 further Tamils, whilst 76 Tamils held in detention centres in the Jaffna peninsula were taken by the military to the Thellippazhai ‘rehabilitation centre’.
TAG calls for ICC investigation
Tamils Against Genocide (TAG) wrote to then-Chief Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) Luis Moreno-Ocampo, urging him to investigate senior Sri Lankan military and political officials for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
Bruce Fein, counsel for TAG, wrote
I am writing to urge you to open investigations under the Rome Statute of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lankan Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Sri Lankan presidential adviser and Member of Parliament, Basil Rajapaksa, and Sri Lankan Army Commander Sarath Fonseka.
The quartet should be investigated for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide of Sri Lankan civilian Tamils unconnected with the conflict between the government and the LTTE.
The Government of Sri Lanka is unwilling to investigate itself.
Photograph supplied on 4th May 2009 inside Menik Farm, where hundreds of thousands of Tamils were to be detained by the Sri Lankan military.
3rd May 2009
Photographs: Above and below right – Tamil children with signs of acute malnourishment, pictured inside the final conflict zone.
‘Horrendous act of genocide’
The LTTE’s Political Head B Nadesan accused the Sri Lankan government for deliberately carrying out “horrendous act of genocide”, with their restriction on food, medicines and humanitarian access to Tamil civilians in the final conflict zone.
See more from TamilNet here.
The OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL) found that,
“Witness testimonies and other documentation refer to many dying of starvation, exhaustion or lack of medical care in addition to those killed by shelling and shooting”.
“It remains to be investigated how many people – particularly the most vulnerable such as the elderly and children – died as a result of lack of access to food and medical care.”
A medical professional was quoted by the OISL as describing the situation in the final conflict zone.
“One of the children who was 18 months old was suffering severe lethargy, she could not stand up or walk and had to be carried all the time. Even though we favoured the children with food, they showed signs of muscle wastage in their legs, they had distended stomachs and their ribs where showing through their skin where the normal layer of fat in a child of this age had disappeared.”
Another witness said,
“Everyone was starving. I could see the children were malnourished and the elderly were very weak.”
The OISL went on to state,
“A senior United Nations official said they were amongst the worst cases of malnutrition he had ever seen”.
The attacks continue
A US State Department report quotes a local source as reporting the Sri Lankan military, as part of a multi-barrel shell attack, launched over 40 shells were launched in the vicinity of civilians living in an area between the Mullivaikkal Pillayar temple and the sea.
Photographs taken on May 3rd 2009, in the aftermath of a Sri Lankan MBRL attack.
2nd May 2009
Hospital bombed twice
The aftermath of a Sri Lankan military attack on a hospital, which was hit twice on the morning of 2nd May 2009.
The only remaining hospital in Mullivaikkal was attacked twice by the Sri Lankan military on the morning of the 2nd of May 2009, with at least 64 people killed and a further 87 injured.
A US State Department report quoted a local source as stating the hospital was shelled twice, once at 9 a.m. and again at 10.30 a.m. The main outpatient department was hit as well as a bunker in the immediate vicinity to the hospital. Human Rights Watch later reported these attacks, noting that the second attack also resulted in dozens of casualties.
The OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka quoted a witness describing the scene:
“There were many bodies everywhere and I could still smell the smoke from the shells hanging in the air. The smell of blood and the screaming from the injured was overwhelming. There were many women and children dead.”
Human Rights Watch would go on to state that there were “at least 30 attacks on permanent and makeshift hospitals in the combat area since December 2008”.
Photographs: Above – The aftermath of a Sri Lankan military attack on a hospital, which was hit twice on the morning of 2nd May 2009.
LTTE calls once more for a ceasefire
The LTTE released a statement calling once more for a ceasefire to end the humanitarian crisis. Extracts of their statement below.
“May, I take this opportunity to draw attention to our unilateral announcement of a cease fire on 26th April and our position that only such a ceasefire can end the humanitarian crisis. We are ready to engage in the process to bring about a ceasefire and enter into negotiations for an enduring resolution to the conflict.”
We call for an international monitoring mechanism that can ascertain for itself the plight of civilians who have sought sanctuary in the areas under our control.”
“Given the political ideology that drives the Sri Lankan state, there is little reason to hope that it would, on its own accord, consider any accommodation with Tamil aspirations. Indeed this is the bitter lesson learnt by the Tamil people during the last 60 years following the departure of the British in 1948. We are convinced that this particular phase of the conflict is an attempt to eradicate a distinct Tamil identity. It is in the face of this situation that we seek the recognition and the support of the international community for our struggle. It is a struggle for democracy and an enduring peace based on our aspirations as a people. Should the Sri Lankan regime be permitted to continue with its ultimate objective of imposing a ‘final solution’ through military means, we have no doubt that it will destabilize the region.
See more from TamilNet here.
Protests in Tamil Nadu, Indian military vehicles attacked
Indians in Tamil Nadu protested against the Sri Lankan military’s offensive and attacked a convoy of military trucks they accused of transporting weapons to the Sri Lankan government.
Paramilitary operatives kill an 8-year-old girl in Batticaloa
Meanwhile, paramilitary cadres attached to the Pillaiyan and Karuna groups are accused of killing 8-year-old Thinusika Satheeskumar in Batticaloa, who was abducted whilst on her way home from school earlier in the week. Her body was found dumped in a well.
Tamil paramilitary groups aligned to the government continue to operate with impunity in the region, with the Sri Lankan military providing them continued protection.
1st May 2009
A night of heavy shelling
The No Fire Zone, photographed on 01 May 2009.
Approximately 200 civilians sheltering at Mullivaikkal were rushed to the hospital as the Sri Lankan military bombarded the area on the night of the 30th of April. Dozens were killed.
Earlier that week the LTTE said the Sri Lankan military had fired at least 5,600 shells in the space of 24 hours, killing hundreds.
See more from TamilNet here.
A father and daughter killed in shelling that took place on the night of 30th April 2009.
‘Victory without humanity can be no triumph’
Then British and French foreign ministers David Miliband and Bernard Kouchner wrote in The Times on the 30th of April 2009, after a visit to the island where they met with Mahinda Rajapaksa.
“The Government of Sri Lanka’s announcement of a cessation of heavy military combat is a welcome step towards the protection of civilians. Similar announcements have been made in the past. This one must be implemented and kept to. The UN had an agreement with the Government to send a mission into the conflict zone to help to assess and address civilian needs. That agreement has not been implemented. It must be.”
“Here the refusal to allow the UN, the aid agencies, and the media full and proper access is quite wrong.”
“The gravity of the situation means that the international community has a duty to respond and to do all that we can to halt the suffering.
As members of the UN Security Council we do not shy away from the responsibility of sovereign governments and the international community to protect civilians. Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, has joined us in describing the failure to protect civilians in Sri Lanka as truly shocking. Yesterday we took our plea direct to the Sri Lankan Government. In its moment of triumph it must show the humanity and self-interest to find a way to win the peace.”
See the full piece at The Times here.
Current Tamil National Alliance leader R Sampanthan met with the visiting delegation and informed them that at least 7,000 Tamils in Vanni have been killed and 14,000 injured in the last three months alone.
Meanwhile, Sinhala Buddhist monks in the south protested against the visiting ministers.
Government admits it bombed ‘No Fire Zone’
The Sri Lankan government meanwhile finally admitted that it had bombed the ‘No Fire Zone’ where it had instructed Tamil civilians to seek shelter.
Confronted with leaked satellite footage of the region, which showed extensive crater marks from Sri Lankan military shelling, Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona made the admission in an interview with Al Jazeera despite earlier government denials.
However, Sri Lanka’s president Mahinda Rajapaksa contradicted his foreign secretary by continuing to categorically deny that the military had attacked civilian areas with heavy weapons.
“If you are not willing to accept the fact that we are not using heavy weapons, I really can’t help it,” he said. “We are not using heavy weapons. When we say no, it means no. If we say we are doing something, we do it. We do exactly what we say, without confusion.”
See more from Al Jazeera at the time here.
IMF loan opposition
The International Monetary Fund is considering granting a $1.9 billion loan to Sri Lanka, despite massive opposition.
Tamils Against Genocide (TAG) had filed a lawsuit against the Secretary of Treasury and United States Executive Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) seeking a declaratory judgment that United States law prohibited voting in favour of the loan.
Diaspora protests continue
Tens of thousands of Tamil protesters from around the world continued their protests, calling on international governments to pressure Sri Lanka into an immediate ceasefire and for urgent international humanitarian assistance.