|Amnesty International forgets that suicide bombers kill people|
|Tuesday, 10 February 2009|
The Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process in Sri Lanka regrets the disregard shown for human life in the press release issued by Amnesty International regarding the suicide bombing that took the lives of 28 Sri Lankans.
The release seems to be largely the work of Yolanda Foster, now described as AI’s Sri Lanka expert. Ms Foster’s expertise derives from a stint in Colombo as one of the satellites revolving around the International Centre for Ethnic Studies, which was recently in the forefront of presenting Sri Lanka as a country ripe for exercise of Gareth Evans’ Responsibility to Protect. Though the old warhorse Evans himself has now decided to retire, Yolanda seems inclined still to flog the R2P in Sri Lanka horse to life again.
Hence her stress, even when a suicide bomber kills female as well as male soldiers and civilian women and children, on problems that might be created by the Sri Lankan forces. So the headline stresses the fact that ‘Suicide bombing breaches international law’ and goes on to say, as though that were the problem, not the actual murders, that ‘such tactics violate the international legal prohibition on perfidious attacks and expose civilians to increased danger’.
After that little excursus, Yolanda really goes into action. Suicide bombing means in her book that ‘Blurring the distinction between civilians and combatants means that thousands of ordinary people, desperate to flee the conflict area, are at greater risk of reprisals and getting caught in crossfire.’
Since clearly the Tigers have shown (in a way that must be obvious to everyone through this suicide bombing, if it were not obvious before) that they do not particularly care if civilians are killed, this particular statement of Yolanda’s is obviously intended, with its mention too of reprisals, to draw attention to what the Sri Lankan forces might do.
Then AI engages in its usual ambiguity about the bombing itself. Though the LTTE have a history of using suicide bombers, AI notes that they ‘have not assumed responsibility for the attack today.’ Despite this, Yolanda goes into finger wagging mode and asserts that "The Tamil Tigers must immediately and publicly disavow the use of tactics such as suicide bombers disguised as civilians”. Incidentally, if this were not sufficient evidence of the world of delusions in which the woman lives, it should be noted that the first paragraph of the release uses that splendid Amnesty word ‘reportedly’ to say that the suicide bomber was ‘reportedly dressed as a civilian’, i.e. it is conceivable that she was in full military uniform (or possibly Salvation Army dress) when she joined the queue of thousands of civilians fleeing the conflict zone.
Ad then, after her clarion call to the Tigers to disavow ‘the use of tactics such as suicide bombers disguised as civilians’ (as though it would be alright if they were dressed as the army or the Salvation Army), Yolanda then lays emphasis on her real area of concern. The para is worth quoting in full - "It is important to remember that the use of such attacks by one party to an armed conflict does not excuse unlawful attacks in response. This perfidious assault should not be used as an excuse by the Sri Lankan military to abuse displaced civilians who should still be treated in accordance with international law," Yolanda Foster said. "The Sri Lankan security forces must still make sure that their actions are directed against military targets and not civilians."
That word ’still’ implies that Yolanda understands that the security forces do direct their actions against military targets, but Yolanda’s shaky command of the English language means that that sentence is at best a Freudian slip in her relentless targeting of the Sri Lankan forces. She ends by asserting, as though it was unquestionable, that both parties evince disregard for international humanitarian law" and it is ‘the civilians who pay the price’.
The fact that there has been no evidence whatsoever for claiming that Sri Lankan forces violate such law (given that the Amnesty diatribe about cluster bombs turned out to be based on a mistaken long distance UN verbal identification that was subsequently withdrawn) is ignored in this blatant attempt to attack the Sri Lankan forces after the LTTE employs a suicide bomber.
It should also be noted that soldiers too should benefit from international law, and it is sad that Yolanda simply disregards the soldiers, including female soldiers, who were killed by the suicide bomber. Sri Lanka has been assisting the civilians escaping from the clutches of the LTTE in increasing numbers, despite the efforts of Yolanda and her ilk to claim that abuse awaited them in government controlled territory. They are coming in ever larger numbers, and the soldiers, in the midst of desperate assaults by the LTTE, are coping admirably. At the time the suicide bomb exploded, the Ministry of Resettlement was, as requested by the forces at the checkpoints, working overtime to ensure a supply of water for the civilians crossing over. The checking was being performed with total regard for the dignity of those coming over, female soldiers checking on the women and children.
It was in the midst of such commitment that the suicide bomber struck. Yolanda may well believe, as we all do, that the lives of civilians should be sacrosanct, but her abject failure to spare a thought for the soldiers killed so unexpectedly in the midst of humanitarian work is also horrifying.
Prof Rajiva Wijesinha
Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process
|Last Updated ( Friday, 09 October 2009 )|
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