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Jun-04-2012 13:39printcomments

War Crimes against Sri Lankan Soldiers Swept Under the Carpet

No one has uttered a word about the possibility of war crimes perpetrated by the Sri Lankan forces against its own soldiers.

File Photo:- Body bags in Libya
File Photo:- Body bags in Libya

(LONDON Sri Lanka Guardian) - Much has been spoken about and campaigned against on the war crimes perpetrated by the government forces and the LTTE. But war crimes committed on the dead Sri Lankan soldiers by the state has never touched the conscience of the war victims, war crimes campaigners and the media yet.

Article 16, second paragraph, of the 1949 Geneva Convention IV provides: ‘As far as military considerations allow, each Party to the conflict shall facilitate the steps taken … to protect [the killed] against … ill-treatment.’ Though this specific Article not only applies to the manner in which dead bodies of the LTTE men including that of its leader Velupillai Pirabakaran were dealt with, the ghastly manner in which the wholly Sinhala Sri Lanka soldiers killed by the LTTE were inhumanely disposed off by the government forces that never reach the stage of war crimes argument in the campaigns so far.

Neither UN Secretary General’s advisory committee in their report nor the United Nations Human Rights Council uttered a word about the possibility of war crimes perpetrated by the Sri Lankan forces against its own soldiers. Even the President’s own Lesson Learnt and Reconciliation Commission had the opportunity to consider the matter to reference the violence in its report. During the course of the war, Sri Lanka Guardian reported that bodies of the dead Sri Lankan soldiers, wrapped in black bags, were dumped in the mid sea to prevent feelings rising high in the south if and when the bodies are returned.

The large number of Persons Missing in Action in the list of war dead must lead to further investigations into the hiding of the facts about the whereabouts of these dead soldiers. The scale of the Persons Missing Action in a narrow territory of fighting in progress raises alarm bells but the government of Sri Lanka is able enjoy unprecedented impunity in its blank cheque approach of writing off many dead soldiers as Persons Missing in Action. With the ever hyphened war victory parades and militaristic crusade to suppress any dissents, uproar or demands; the government of Mahinda Rajapakse has not come under any scrutiny on this very sordid issue of disposing the bodies of the soldiers without any trace.

According to confidential information, the scale of the disposal of dead bodies of the Sri Lankan soldiers is many hundreds. It is claimed in anonymity that bodies were wrapped in black polythene bags and taken away in helicopters and then dumped in the mid sea.

Geneva Convention IV further states:
Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian
Persons in Time of War, Geneva, 12 August 1949, Article 16,
second para.

Additional Protocol I

Article 34(1) of the 1977 Additional Protocol I provides: “The remains of persons who have died for reasons related to occupation or in detention resulting from occupation or hostilities … shall be respected”.
Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August
1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of
International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), Geneva, 8 June
1977, Article 34(1). Article 34 was adopted by consensus.
CDDH, Official Records, Vol. VI, CDDH/SR.37, 24 May 1977,
p. 71.

Additional Protocol II

Article 4 of the 1977 Additional Protocol II provides:

1. All persons who do not take a direct part or who have ceased to take part in hostilities, whether or not their liberty has been restricted, are entitled to respect for their person [and] honour …

2. Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing, the following acts against the persons referred to in paragraph I are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever:

(e) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment …

The UN Commission on Human Rights states:

In a resolution adopted in 2005 on human rights and forensic science, the UN Commission on Human Rights underlined ‘the importance of dignified handling of human remains, including their proper management and disposal, as well as of respect for the needs of families’.

Through there are many citations, a quotable Turku Declaration of Minimum Humanitarian Standards adopted by an expert meeting convened by the Institute for Human Rights of Åbo Akademi University in Turku/Åbo, Finland in 1990, states: ‘Every possible measure shall be taken, without delay … to prevent [the dead] being despoiled.’

Denial spree Sri Lankan government is not under pressure from the dead soldiers families or from those who are campaigning for justice on war crimes in Sri Lanka on this single most ghastly act of disposition of the bodies of the warring soldiers.

The list of the persons missing in action and unaccounted for must come under full investigations and individual circumstances of death and disposition of their bodies must be established as part of the investigations into the war crimes perpetrated in the war.

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