War without Witness
Media Release – .04.2009
Are the Sri Lankan forces using Chemical Weapons?
The Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations (AFTA), the peak body representing the Tamil Australians and New Zealanders, would like to bring to the attention of the Australian and New Zealand Governments, Human Rights and Aid Agencies, the general public and the media about the possible use of chemical weapons by the Sri Lankan security forces in their genocidal attacks on the Tamil people in Sri Lanka.
In a report on the 6th of April in the official website of the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence
http://www.defence.lk/new.asp?fname=20090406_01 , there is a detail account of the last battle where 420 LTTE fighters were claimed to have been killed.
Photographic evidence for this victory has been given in this report. A close examination of the photographs of the supposedly dead LTTE cadres reveals that there are no signs of usual gun fire wounds on their bodies. The faces and the exposed limbs of these dead appear as if the bodies have been pulled out of a burnt out house. The only wounds on these bodies are pealed out skin. The released photographs are enough for viewers with forensic expertise to ascertain the use of chemical weapons in this instance.
In August 2001, Sri Lankan media claimed that the Sri Lanka Army has acquired an infantry weapon with a chemical warhead whose use has been shunned internationally except by Russia due to the risk to civilians. The weapon – along with other fuel air mixture weapons – has been used by Russian troops in Chechnya, where human rights groups have long criticised the indiscriminate nature of the weapon which has resulted in heavy civilian casualties and horrific injuries. Now LTTE sources claim that Sri Lankan forces extensively used chemical weapons on LTTE combatants at Puthukkudiyiruppu during the weekend, quoting Lawrence, a senior commander of the LTTE, who personally encountered the attack and escaped.
Sri Lankan commanders claim now that the rest of the LTTE cadres are hiding among the civilians in the 17 sq km narrow land strip along the eastern coast, supposed to have been declared a “safe zone” by the Sri Lankan government. According to UN estimates, more than 150,000 civilians are caught up in this area for several weeks now and the Sri Lankan security forces claim that it is a matter of days before they rescue these civilians from the LTTE.
The Sri Lanka had dropped cluster and phosphorous bombs in the past and continues to use multi-barrel artillery shells on its ‘own’ citizens resulting in over 3000 civilians dead and over 10,000 injured since 20 January 2009. If Sri Lankan forces have now used chemical weapons in the latest battle, they have violated all the international conventions governing the conduct of wars. Now there is the danger of the Sri Lankan forces using the same tactic in their stated attempt to ‘finish’ the LTTE who are reported to have moved into the ‘safety zone’ amongst civilians, a Rwandan style massacre of civilians will be inevitable.
On behalf of the Tamil Australians and New Zealanders, AFTA appeals to the international media to investigate this matter and give due exposure the heinous crimes committed by Sri Lanka against the Tamil people.
AFTA calls on the governments of Australia and New Zealand and the international community at large to pressure Sri Lanka to ensure they conform to international conventions on warfare and the humanitarian law governing armed conflicts and agree to an immediate ceasefire, allow humanitarian access to the civilians under siege and negotiate with the LTTE, a political solution addressing the right to self-determination of the Tamil people.
Sydney: Dr. Victor Rajakulendran 0402 484 209
Melbourne: Mr. Mahen Mahendrarajah 0401 993 712
Canberra: Dr. Raga Ragavan 0402 387 920
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