Friday, September 09, 2011

US, India watched Sri Lanka's killing fields: Wikileaks

JDS Features

The United States and India were closely, but simply watching via satellite when Sri Lankan government troops were massacring several thousands of Tamil civilians within the no-fire-zone using long-range heavy weapons and aerial attacks during the final months of the war, a latest release of the Wikileaks cables has revealed.

In a diplomatic cable note to the Secretary of State with a copy to the White House, Charge d'Affaires of the US embassy James R. Moore, has stated that he has shared the satellite images showing the situation inside the no-fire-zone with President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona just two weeks before Colombo’s declaration of military victory over Tamil Tigers.

President Rajapaksa, in turn, has informed the US diplomat that India too was providing the satellite assistance to the Sri Lankan military.

“In a May 5 meeting with President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona, Charge provided satellite images taken since April 27 of new shelling damage within the Government-designated ‘safe zone’,” Mr. Moore has said in his note on May 5, 2009, adding that he did this ‘privately’ on the sidelines of President Rajapaksa’s meeting with the Co-Chair Ambassadors in Colombo.

Competitive Satellite assistance

Although President Rajapaksa had maintained that government forces “have not been shelling into the “safe zone” since his April 27 statement announcing the end of heavy artillery and aerial bombing in this area”, Mr. Moore informed the President and the Foreign Secretary that he had been instructed to share those satellite images taken “before and after” his announcement on April 27 on “the apparent shelling damage in the safe zone”.

Claiming that President Rajapaksa, at the beginning of the preceding meeting with Co-Chair Ambassadors, has asked him for an assessment of the current situation, noting wryly, “you are probably better informed than I am”, Mr. Moore has said in the cable note that Rajapaksa has been “known to call individual battlefield commanders in the past to ask for frank assessments when he feels out of touch with ground realities”.

“The President remarked at lunch before this meeting that India had satellites and was monitoring the ground situation in Sri Lanka. It will now be equally clear to the Sri Lankan government that we are watching, too,” the Wikileaks has quoted Mr. Moore as saying in the diplomatic cable note.

Civilians killed in thousands

“Referring to widely-circulated but unofficial UN estimates of thousands of civilian deaths and injuries since late January” (which have elicited strongly-worded refutations by Government officials), Mr. Moore has said in the note that the US “is not in position independently to verify numbers of civilian casualties, but that it is clear there have been many”.

According to Mr. Moore, President Rajapaksa has also then claimed that government forces “would not shell civilian areas, confiding that the Army has
Deep Penetration Units (DPU) within the safe zone who are attempting to organize people to breach the LTTE earth berms and allow civilians to escape”.

By this, the President Rajapaksa, who is also the Defence Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, has specifically confirmed that the military hit squads were in fact operating well inside the government designated no-fire-zone, where hundreds of thousands of people were holed up.

International duplicity exposed

The latest release of the Wikileaks has barefacedly exposed the political and diplomatic duplicity of some of the key power centres of the world’s order.

It is now beyond any reasonable doubt that these powerful countries had been watching and sharing information with satellite images obtained during the final stage of the war with the very perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity, while issuing mere statements demanding the warring parties to respect human rights and international humanitarian laws.

Wikileaks reinforces UN panel report

Ironically, these are the same countries which are demanding an independent inquiry into the “alleged human rights violations” in Sri Lanka during the final months of the war, as if the information and high-resolution satellite images they already have in their possession are insufficient to bring the war criminals before international court of justice.

This was obviously what the UN Expert Panel report, which appears to be gathering dust in the highest office of the UN, highlighted when it said that “the United Nations political organs and bodies failed to take actions that might have protected civilians” getting killed daily in thousands.

“Although the senior international officials advocated in public and in private with the government that it protects civilians and stop the shelling of hospitals and United Nations and ICRC locations, in the Panel’s view, the public use of casualty figures would have strengthened the call for the protection of civilians while those events in the Wanni were unfolding,” UN Expert Panel report, released in March 2011, categorically said.

The UN report, also known as Darusman report, notably said that the accountability for serious violation of international humanitarian or human rights law “is not a matter of choice or policy” of a government, but that “it is a duty under domestic and international law”.


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