The final phase of the Sri Lankan army’s assault on the last strongholds of the Tamil Tigers led to more than 20,000 Tamil civilians being massacred, according to an investigation by the Times newspaper.
Most were killed by the government in shelling of the so-called 'no fire' zones. United Nations (UN) documents suggest that 1,000 were being killed every day at the height of the assault. The Sri Lankan government is sticking by its claim that all civilian casualties were shot by the Tamil Tigers – the rebel movement that had been fighting for an independent Tamil state.
But military experts believe that while some civilians were killed by shelling or mortar fire from Tiger positions, the vast majority of deaths were the result of the army offensive.
One aid worker said that the government specifically targeted the make shift hospitals in the war zone. A UN worker said the government was trying to create a 'war without witnesses'.
Last week the Sri Lankan government defeated an attempt to open an enquiry into war crimes at the United Nations Human Rights Council. It won the vote by a substantial margin. Those opposing the investigation included India, China, Russia and Pakistan.
Though the vote occurred before the latest atrocity reports emerged, it has allowed the government to claim that it is innocent of human rights abuses.
A Socialist Worker pamphlet, Sri Lanka: The struggle for Tamil freedom, by Ken Olende and Yuri Prasad, is available from Bookmarks, the socialist bookshop. Price £1.50.
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