“In evaluating the Sri Lanka experience in the context of allegations of violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), the Commission is satisfied that the military strategy that was adopted to secure the LTTE held areas was one that was carefully conceived, in which the protection of the civilian population was given the highest priority.
The Commission also notes in this regard that the movement of the Security Forces in conducting their operations was deliberately slow during the final stages of the conflict, thereby evidencing a carefully worked out strategy of avoiding civilian casualties or minimizing them,” the report stated in its Principal Observations and Recommendations.
Final LLRC Report :
Among the conclusions of the Commission is that “On consideration of all facts and circumstances before it, the Commission concludes that the Security Forces had not deliberately targeted the civilians in the NFZs, although civilian casualties had in fact occurred in the cause of crossfire. Further, the LTTE targeting and killing of civilians who attempted to flee the conflict into safe areas, the threat posed by landmines and resultant death and injuries to civilians, and the perils inherent in crossing the Nanthi Kadal Lagoon, had all collectively contributed to civilian casualties. It would also be reasonable to conclude that there appears to have been a bona fide expectation that and attack on LTTE gun positions would make a relevant and proportional contribution to the objective of the military attack involved.”
“Having reached the above conclusions, it is also incumbent on the Commission to consider the question, while there was no deliberate targeting of civilians by the Security Forces, whether the action of the Security Forces of returning fire into the NFZs was excessive in the context of the Principal of Proportionality. Given the complexity of the situation that presented itself as described above, the Commission after most careful consideration of all aspects, is of the view that the Security Forces were confronted with an unprecedented situation when no other choice was possible and all “feasible precautions” that were practicable in the circumstances had been taken,” it further said.
The report also states the process of reconciliation requires a full acknowledgement of the tragedy of the conflict and a collective act of contrition by the political leaders and civil society, of both Sinhala and Tamil communities. The conflict could have been avoided had the southern political leaders of the two main political parties acted in the national interest and forged a consensus between them to offer an acceptable solution to the Tamil people. The Tamil political leaders were equally responsible for this conflict which could have been avoided had the Tamil leaders refrain from promoting an armed campaign towards secession, acquiescing in the violence and terrorist methods used by the LTTE against both the Sinhala and Tamil people, and failing to come out strongly and fearlessly against the LLTE, and their atrocities practices.
In May 2010, President Rajapaksa appointed the eight-member Commission to report on the lessons to be learnt from the events in the period, Feb 2002 to May 2009, their attendant concerns and to recommend measures to ensure that there will be no recurrence of such a situation.
The LLRC held its first sittings on August 11, 2010. In November 2010, the President extended its mandate till May 15, 2011.
The Commission had regular public hearings in Colombo and in the former conflict affected areas of Vavuniya, Batticaloa and Kilinochchi. This included field visits to meet people directly affected by the conflict. It has received over 1,000 oral submissions and over 5,000 written submissions.
The government appointed an Inter-Agency Advisory Committee (IIAC) headed by the Attorney General of Sri Lanka to facilitate the implementation of the recommendations made by the LLRC during its inquiry.
The LLRC had made recommendations on action to be taken with regard to detention of suspects, land issues, law and order, administrative and language issues and socio-economic and livelihood issues.
Following recommendations by the Commission a special committee was appointed in January 2011, to study the cases of detained LTTE suspects and expedite legal action where necessary.
Implementing reconciliation measures suggested by the IIAC the government is gradually releasing lands occupied by the military as High Security Zones (HSZs) in the country, especially in the North.
The Sri Lanka Army officially handed over Subash Hotel on Victoria Road in Jaffna town in which the 52 Division Headquarters was established since December 1995, to its owner in March this year.
256 houses surrounding the Palaly HSZ have already been returned to civilians and another 2392 houses have been identified for civilian occupation in more than 2500 hectares of the land that was set apart for HSZs.
The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission comprised Mr. Chitta Ranjan de Silva PC (Chair), Mr. Chandirapal Chanmugam , Prof. Karunaratne Hangawatte, M. T. M. Bafiq, Mr. Maxwell Paranagama, Mr. HMGS Palihakkara, Dr. Amrith Rohan Perera PC and Mrs Mano Ramanathan.
Courtesy : President’s Media Unit