Deafening Indian silence on war crimes document

Saturday, 18 June 2011 00:06 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

New Indian Express, Chennai: Two days after a British TV channel telecast its documentary ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’ which had shocking visuals of the final days of Eelam war IV, India’s political class is yet to offer any sound-bites. In contrast, the British Government has given Sri Lanka till the end of the year to launch a “credible investigation” into the allegations of war crimes.

From September 2008 when the last UN workers left Kilinochchi, the Channel 4 documentary pieces together a damning narrative, based on videos shot on mobile phone cameras and eyewitness accounts, that shows the Lankan Army systematically shelled Tamil civilians, especially medical points within the No Fire Zone (NFZ).

It includes an eyewitness account of gang rape by soldiers. While pointing out LTTE atrocities, the film takes the stance that the Tigers’ acts did not justify the Government’s actions.

One key eyewitness is Vany Kumar, a British Sri Lankan Tamil, who had been visiting family when fighting intensified. The biomedical technician helped doctors in the shifting temporary medical centres. She speaks of regular shelling of the makeshift medical centres beginning with an attack on 26 January 2009. At this time, there were an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 people in the NFZ.

The documentary includes mobile camera footage of the aftermath of a shelling in the Puthukudiyiruppu Hospital where at least 15 were killed. One patient says her legs were injured in the shelling. Vany says shellings were followed by army fire that mowed down anyone standing.

Eyewitnesses add the Army would shell a location, wait for 10 minutes for people to reach the injured, before shelling again, ensuring maximum casualties. An eyewitness says they were forced to leave the injured till the shelling ended by which time they would have bled to death.

When the NFZ moved to Mullivaikal, the International Committee of Red Cross workers visited the hospital to take GPS coordinates that could be provided to the Army to avoid shelling. But soon after, the hospital was shelled, Vany believes, deliberately. Gordon Weiss, then UN spokesperson for Sri Lanka, believes there were at least 65 targeted attacks on medical centres.

By May 2009, with about 130,000 people still in the NFZ that had shrunk to one sq mile, the new hospital was severely short of medical equipment. Vany says a six-year-old who survived the shelling of a food queue had to have his leg and arm amputated without anaesthesia.

On 12 May, the doctors were forced to shut down the hospital leaving behind the wounded. Those “rescued” by the Army were not safe though. An eyewitness who escaped with her daughter, says she and her daughter were stripped and gang raped. The younger victims were taken away. “I heard screaming and then shots,” she says, “I did not see them again.”

The second section of the film includes videos shot by Lankan soldiers on mobile phones.

These videos include the execution of a bound naked man, to the sound of giggling in the background. In another instance, they refer to trapped and bound LTTE fighters as “State property.”

During the execution of three bound individuals, of which one appears to be a woman, a man says, “is there no one with the b***s to kill a terrorist?”

The documentary says videos of naked female corpses indicate women, in this case, Tamil Tigers, had been sexually assaulted. Soldiers are seen posing with corpses. While dragging naked female corpses into a trailer, comments like, “This one has the best figure,” are heard.