COLOMBO: The US State Department said on Wednesday that the Sri Lankan government should hold an “independent, transparent and impartial inquiry” into the question as to why it announced a series of No Fire Zones (NFZs) even though it knew that the LTTE would move into these places along with the civilians and fire on the Lankan army, forcing the latter to respond and inflict civilian casualties.
The State Department’s report on Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights in Lanka, which was submitted to the Congress on April 4, noted that the Lankan government’s own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) had also raised the question as to why the government created additional NFZs after becoming cognizant that the LTTE would exploit such zones to launch attacks, to which the government would respond, putting civilians at risk. “More needs to be done to investigate why the government decided to create subsequent NFZs,” the US report said.
To make the inquiry truly effective, the report called for an “adequate witness protection” system and stressed the need to protect the investigators from governmental interference.
Seeking fresh investigations into issues which the LRRC had slurred over, the US report wanted Colombo to go into a charge made by the UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts (POE) in 2010 that the Lankan army had shelled even marked hospitals. The report described this as a “grave breach” of International Humanitarian Law.
Referring to the LLRC’s dismissal of the allegation that surrendering LTTE leaders were shot dead, the report said that the State Department had not taken a position on the incident, but since there was a discrepancy between the findings of the POE and the LLRC on this incident, it merited further investigation.
The US report sought a probe into the allegation that Lankan troops had indulged in sexual and gender-based violence, an issue which was sidelined by the LLRC. The continued prevalence of illegal detentions and enforced disappearances was another area which called for further investigations, it added.
Meanwhile, the Lankan government has ordered fresh police investigations into the killing of 16 Tamil and one Muslim staff of the French NGO Action Contre la Faim (ACF) in Muttur in Trincomalee district on the night of August 4-5, 2006; and the killing of five Tamil high school students on the beach at Trincomalee on January 2, 2006. The charge is that Lankan security forces had willfully killed the young men.