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‘War crimes’ committed in Sri Lanka

[Al Jazeera, Saturday, 9 May 2009 09:07 One Comment]

A leading humanitarian group has accused the Sri Lankan military of repeatedly attacking hospitals in the northern Vanni region during fighting with rebels.

In a statement on Friday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that the military commanders responsible for ordering the aerial and artillery attacks could be prosecuted for war crimes.


HRW said it had documented at least 30 artillery and air attacks on permanent and makeshift hospitals in the combat area since December 2008.

One of the deadliest attacks took place May 2, HRW said, when artillery shells struck Mullaivaikal hospital in the government-declared "no-fire zone," killing 68 people and wounding 87.


‘Breaking international law’
"Hospitals are supposed to be sanctuaries from shelling, not targets," Brad Adams, Asia director of HRW, said.


"While doctors and nurses struggle to save lives in overcrowded and underequipped facilities, Sri Lankan army attacks have hit one hospital after another."

The group has criticised both the Sri Lankan armed forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for breaking international law during fighting in recent months and for putting civilian lives at risk.

The Sri Lankan government has denied using heavy weapons in the war zone and says it is taking care not to harm civilians.

Meenakshi Ganguly, a senior researcher with HRW in Mumbai, told Al Jazeera: "There is a ‘safe zone’ that has been declared by the government, there are hospitals in that ‘safe zone’ – and those are the hospitals that have been struck.

"Both sides are responsible for violating international humanitarian law and the laws of war because a hospital, if considered a place where it is a safe sanctuary, should not be used in any kind of combat … they are repeatedly shelling hospitals in a safe zone," she said.

The ongoing fighting between the military and the LTTE has sparked international concerns over the plight of civilians trapped in rebel-held territory.


Thousands of people have fled the area but the UN has said that up to 50,000 civilians could still be trapped.

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One Comment »

  • fdimul said:

    There is no reason for LTTE to bomb hospitals.

    The Srilankan military which is indulging in these types of activities if left scot free then in other part of the world governments will use artilleries to bomb hospitals.