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UN Says it Failed to Protect Sri Lankans During Civil War (Photos)

By Alex Johnston
Epoch Times Staff
Created: November 13, 2012 Last Updated: November 15, 2012
Related articles: World » South Asia
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Disabled Sri Lnkan military officers join war victory parade commemorating the third anniversary of the end of the civil war on May 19, 2012 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)

Disabled Sri Lnkan military officers join war victory parade commemorating the third anniversary of the end of the civil war on May 19, 2012 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)

An internal United Nations report that was viewed by the BBC says that the U.N. failed to protect civilians during Sri Lanka’s bloody, quarter-century-long civil war against Tamil separatists.

“Many senior U.N. staff did not perceive the prevention of killing of civilians as their responsibility—and agency and department heads at [the U.N. headquarters] were not instructing them otherwise,” the report states.

A Sri Lankan soldier displays a mine during a clearing operation in the northern town of Kokavil on April 8, 2011. (Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images)

A Sri Lankan soldier displays a mine during a clearing operation in the northern town of Kokavil on April 8, 2011. (Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images)

The report has not been released to the public. It says there existed “a sustained and institutionalized reluctance” among staff members in Sri Lanka “to stand up for the rights of people they were mandated to assist.”

The report is the result of an investigation into the final few months of the conflict that ended in May 2009. Some estimate as many as 40,000 people were killed in the final five months.

Sri Lankans read through names of fallen soldiers on a memorial for those who died in the decades-long conflict against the Tamil Tigers. (Lakruwan Wanniarachchi/AFP/GettyImages)

Sri Lankans read through names of fallen soldiers on a memorial for those who died in the decades-long conflict against the Tamil Tigers. (Lakruwan Wanniarachchi/AFP/GettyImages)

Sri Lankan Children light lantens in memory for fallen soldiers during National War Hero's Day in Colombo on May 19, 2012. (LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI/AFP/Getty Images)

Sri Lankan Children light lantens in memory for fallen soldiers during National War Hero's Day in Colombo on May 19, 2012. (LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI/AFP/Getty Images)

The Tamil Tigers, officially known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, was considered a terrorist group by the United States and other governments.

The group espoused a Marxist-Leninist ideology and was responsible for ethnic cleansing, massacres, and a spate of suicide bombings at a time when the practice was relatively uncommon.

A Sri Lankan de-miner attached to the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action operates a remote controlled de-mining machine in scrubland close to Mannar. (Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images)

A Sri Lankan de-miner attached to the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action operates a remote controlled de-mining machine in scrubland close to Mannar. (Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images)

“Events in Sri Lanka mark a grave failure of the U.N.,” the report states, describing the U.N. response to the humanitarian situation as the result of a “systemic failure.” 

The report says the U.N. should meet higher standards when protecting vulnerable populations and responding to humanitarian crises.

Families of Sri Lankan disabled soldiers light oil lamps during a demonstration in Colombo on March 22, 2012. (Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images)

Families of Sri Lankan disabled soldiers light oil lamps during a demonstration in Colombo on March 22, 2012. (Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images)

Sri Lankan Buddhist monks protest in Colombo on March 19, 2012 as ongoing UN Human Rights Council sessions go on in Geneva over its alleged war crimes while fighting Tamil rebels in 2009. (Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images)

Sri Lankan Buddhist monks protest in Colombo on March 19, 2012 as ongoing UN Human Rights Council sessions go on in Geneva over its alleged war crimes while fighting Tamil rebels in 2009. (Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images)

The report questions the decision to withdraw U.N. staff from Sri Lanka in September 2008, simply because the Sri Lankan government warned the U.N. that it may not be able to provide adequate security for them.

Benjamin Dix, a humanitarian aid worker in Sri Lanka at the time, told the BBC that he disagreed with the pullout. He says that pulling out the U.N. team “basically abandon[ed] the civilian population with no protection or witness.”

Perhaps most importantly, the report also says that the U.N. failed to inform the world about what was happening in the country, despite the bloodshed.

A Sri Lankan soldier conducts a mine clearing operation. (Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images)

A Sri Lankan soldier conducts a mine clearing operation. (Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images)

Sri Lankan military personnel take part in a joint nine-day training exercise in the northern town of Mannar on November 24, 2010. (Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images)

Sri Lankan military personnel take part in a joint nine-day training exercise in the northern town of Mannar on November 24, 2010. (Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images)

In early 2009, the U.N. said that around 200,000 civilians were “pushed” into a tiny, five-square-mile piece of land in northern Sri Lanka due to fighting between the government and rebels.

It said that the Tamil Tigers were preventing civilians from leaving the small pocket of land, and violence prevented humanitarian workers from operating. 

“We begged them, we pleaded with them not to leave the area. They did not listen to us,” said a Tamil schoolteacher now seeking asylum in Britain, who spoke with the BBC. The teacher did not want to be named. “If they had stayed there, and listened to us, many more people would be alive today.”

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A Sri Lankan amputee runs at an athletic event for disabled soldiers in Colombo on September 23, 2010. (Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images)

A Sri Lankan amputee runs at an athletic event for disabled soldiers in Colombo on September 23, 2010. (Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images)




   

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