Army Court submits report on war casualties

A Court of Inquiry, appointed by the Commander of the Army Lieutenant General Jagath Jayasuriya to inquire into the observations made by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) in its report on alleged civilian casualties during the final phase of the war, handed over its findings to the army today.

The five-member Court of Inquiry was appointed on 2 January 2012 by virtue of the powers vested in the Army Commander, the army media unit said.

President of the Court of Inquiry Major General Chrishantha De Silva handed over the Court of Inquiry  Report to the Commander of the Army Lieutenant General JagathJayasuriya at the Army Headquarters.

Considering the evidence presented before it,the Court has concluded that the Army High Command had addressed their minds to International Humanitarian Law (IHL) well in advance as far back as 1990 and all troops have been educated to observe the standard procedures that are followed to prevent civilian casualties.

The report said that evidence has conclusively established that the humanitarian operation was conducted strictly in accordance with the “ZeroCivilian Casualty” directive made by President Mahinda Rajapaksha and commanders at all times obeyed the said directive and the directives from the higher headquarters with regard to No Fire Zones (NFZs) and even where the LTTE terrorists had fired from NFZs, commanders refrained from firing at such NFZs. It has also been revealed that artillery commanders had added 500 m to the boundaries of  NFZs given by higher headquarters thereby extending the boundaries of NFZs by 500 m.

“Evidence revealed that at all stages of the Humanitarian Operation, the Sri Lanka Army behaved as a well-disciplined military force observing the IHL and law of war and they took all the precautions to avoid civilian casualties and all those who came under the control of the Sri Lanka Army, including surrendered/captured LTTE cadres, were treated humanely observing the IHL to the letter. On the contrary, shocking details of war crimes committed by LTTE terrorists such as using of civilian as Human Shields, summary executions of civilians who attempted to escape to army lines, forced conscription of children for combat purposes were revealed at the inquiry. The court noted that the international community had failed in their duty to stop the war crimes committed by the LTTE terrorists,” Army spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya said.

From the testimony presented, the Court concluded that the instances of shelling referred to in the LLRC Report were not caused by the Sri Lanka Army and civilian casualties might have occurred due to unlawful acts by the LTTE. These acts include targeting civilians fleeing to the safety of Army held areas and likely routes of escape, dropping of artillery rounds fired by ill-trained LTTE gunners on to civilian concentrations, employment of sub-standard artillery guns and incompatible and sub-standard artillery rounds obtained from illegal sources by the LTTE, forced conscription of civilians including children and old people  by LTTE for combat purposes, thus exposing them to danger.

The Army Court will now proceed to investigate the 2nd part of their mandate which covers the Channel 4 allegation on summary executions of captured LTTE cadres. The Commander of the Army will study the Court of Inquiry Report and hand over the Report along with his observations to Secretary Defencein due course.  (COLOMBO GAZETTE)