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Human shields a War Crime in combat: HRW

  • Warring parties obliged to let civilians flee, seek humanitarian aid

  • Stresses on need to improve civilian protection in war zone

By Easwaran Rutnam

The International human rights advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has drawn concerns over the warring parties resorting to war crimes by using civilians as human shields, having investigated at least one instance where the LTTE effectively used displaced persons to deter enemy attack.

In an e-mail interview with the Daily Mirror, conducted prior to Wednesdays incident in Vakarai, where similar allegations were made, Asian Director, HRW, Brad Adams said that the recent fighting showed the LTTE was hindering civilians from leaving conflict areas.

“The most extreme case – combatants intentionally hiding behind civilians to deter enemy attack — is called “human shielding” and is a war crime. HRW investigated at least one instance of that, when the LTTE effectively used displaced persons in a Muslim school in Mutur, as human shields,” Mr. Adams told the Daily Mirror.

The HRW director stressed that under international HR law, civilians have the right to freedom of movement and to live anywhere they wish and as such, the LTTE should never deny anyone the right to move out of a conflict area.

“It is certainly a major problem in LTTE-controlled areas. During armed conflicts, warring parties have an obligation to allow civilians to flee from areas where there is fighting or, leave to seek humanitarian assistance. In the recent fighting, we saw the LTTE hindering civilians from leaving Mutur and other areas,” Mr. Adams added.

HRW also said that the deaths of civilians, has been an all too frequent occurrence in Sri Lanka, since the resumption of major fighting this year, adding that whenever a serious incident occurs, the reaction is invariably to blame the other side.

“We see this with the November 2 bombing in Kilinochchi, that reportedly left five civilians dead and damaged a hospital — the Government must do more to explain its actions, than blame the Tigers. What is needed generally, and what HRW addressed in our September report, “Improving Civilian Protection in Sri Lanka”, is for both sides to take concrete steps to ensure that these kinds of horrific incidents do not happen again,” Mr Adams said.

He reiterated the need for the deployment of a UN monitoring mission in Sri Lanka and called on the Co-Chairs and the international community for their public support to such a monitoring mission and for the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE to endorse it. -Daily Mirror


November 10, 2006 - Posted by | Media Journalism, News and politics, South Asia

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