The use of Cluster Munitions in Sri Lanka

November 23, 2018 Asia , HUMAN RIGHTS , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

Reuters photo



Kumarathasan Rasingam



Sri Lanka is the 103rd country to join the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions. Sri Lanka acceded to the Convention on March 01, 2018.


Under the Convention, Sri Lanka is required to show transparency and report annually in a public document on use, stockpiling, clearance and destruction. These obligations include issuing an immediate and effective warning to civilians living in cluster munitions contaminated areas. Instead the Sri Lankan Army has to date tried to hide discoveries of cluster munitions and has not informed or consulted local communities as required by the Convention.


It was very surprising and raised the eyebrows of the civilized world and human rights activists as to how Sri Lanka was awarded the Presidency on the Convention of Cluster Munitions.


As the new President of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, Sri Lanka must explain why de-miners have found cluster remnants in the 2009 war zone.


Yasmin Sooka, Executive Director International Truth and Justice Project – Sri Lanka said: “All the evidence points to Government Forces using cluster munitions in 2009 against densely populated areas that they unilaterally declared safe zone for hundredths of thousands of Tamil civilians.” She also said “Fudging your own past use is simply not an option as President of the body championing the campaign to eliminate the banned weapons.”


The Guardian on June 20, 2016 published the following information: “Images that appear to confirm the use of cluster bombs in the end stages of Sri Lanka’s civil war have been uncovered as new testimony emerged suggesting the country’s armed forces may have deployed the munitions against civilians.”


The denial of the use of cluster munitions and the destruction of forensic evidence over the past several years illustrated exactly why it is critical the international investigators and forensic experts be included in any future war crimes prosecution mechanism.


The International Truth and Justice Project on its press release of 28th September titled ‘President of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, Sri Lanka must come clean on past use’ stated “In Sri Lanka’s case they have driven many de-miners and UN staff out of the country and effectively silenced the witnesses. There are also many victims among recent refugees outside Sri Lanka in countries like Switzerland; their geographic dislocation should not diminish their rights as victims,” said Ms. Sooka. “The Convention requires Sri Lanka to undertake a victim survey which should include victims abroad subject to internationally recognised witness protection provisions.”


Witness155 saw them used in Vishwamadu: “The artillery of the Security Forces would shoot the cluster munitions. However, there would not be a huge noise at this point. There would be a huge noise when the cluster bomb exploded. The main cluster munition would explode high in the air and then small bomblets would flower out from it. I personally witnessed this. When the bomblets started flowering out they would sound like heavy rain. The bomblets would all explode separately over a fairly large area. When the bomblets fell and exploded they would hurt and kill people. Some bomblets would fall to the ground, but not explode. The bomblets from the cluster munitions were bell-shaped and very attractively packaged. The bomblets had a red ribbon on them, which made children mistake the unexploded bomblets for a toy. Sometimes, children would see the bomblets and try to play with them. On one occasion in Vallipunam, I personally witnessed a little girl pick up a bomblet and get injured. The little girl died and two or three children nearby were injured.”


A 2011 report by the UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts cited allegations that the Sri Lankan Army used cluster munitions, especially around Puthukkudiyiruppu (PTK) town and in the second “No Fire Zone”. It also described witness accounts that referred to large explosions, followed by numerous smaller explosions consistent with the sound of cluster bombs.


The UN Expert Panel Report on Accountability in Sri Lanka also presented the allegation of the Sri Lankan Army using cluster bomb munitions, white phosphorous or other chemical substances against civilians during the war. Since the panel was not able to reach to any conclusion regarding their credibility, it recommended further investigation into this allegation. The Sri Lankan Government refused to conduct any such investigation and on the contrary, regularly tries to silence anybody who wants to initiate any independent investigation into this matter.


According to the wife of Prageeth Ekneligoda, the political columnist and cartoonist who has been missing since 24 January, 2010, the main reason for his disappearance is an investigation he carried out on the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Sri Lanka forces in 2008.


War Without Witness [WWW] Reports: Sri Lankan Government uses Chemical Weapons in Vanni (Northern part of Sri Lanka) Warfront. Initial results of Independent investigations conducted by “War Without Witness” confirms that Sri Lankan Government uses Chemical Weapons in Vanni (Northern Part of Sri Lanka) war front both on civilians and its enemy combatants. Two victims were examined by a qualified independent doctor in Vanni ‘Safe Zone’ on 5th April and the initial results have been peer-reviewed by an experienced doctor in United Kingdom. Since the Government of Sri Lanka has banned access for all the Independent monitors, Humanitarian Workers including UN and the media, the combat zone is being isolated from the outside world; War Without Witness regrets that a comprehensive forensic/chemical analysis report could not be produced at this point of time. Reports:Sri Lankan ‘Soldier’ Claims Chemical Attack on Tamil Civilians. In the video, a Sri Lankan soldier claims LTTE cadres trapped on the beach were eliminated with the use of chemicals.


NewsX accesses chilling visual evidence of death and of destruction in Sri Lanka. The video report revealed a chilling account of a Sri Lankan soldier confessing to war crimes. The Sinhala Buddhist government of Sri Lanka has waged a long war against the Tamil culture.


While the fighting ceased with the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009, the abuse of the population did not end.


Sri Lanka has denied its role in the Genocide of Tamils for five years, now they are in Geneva in front of the United Nations Human Rights Council answering a long list of egregious crimes against humanity, almost all of which were perpetrated upon the Tamil people, who are Hindus, Christians and Muslims.


The United Nations state that roughly 40,000 Tamils died, but other sources place the number of dead and disappeared at 160,000.


The Sri Lankan soldiers says the army used chemical weapons on trapped civilians at the end of the country’s civil war. Soldiers boast of burning skin of Tamilians with a substance similar to white phosphorous. White phosphorous is forbidden from use on civilian populations under international law.


It is still far from certain that Sri Lanka will face proper punishment for its flagrant use of banned cluster munitions on unarmed civilians as confirmed by International Experts and Reports, viewing the lethargic and delayed process of justice and accountability for crimes, crimes against humanity etc. committed by the Sri Lanka’s Security Forces, as confirmed by various United Nations and UNHRC Reports.





Kumarathasan Rasingam

Kumarathasan Rasingam

Kumarathasan Rasingam, a Human Rights activist and former President of the Tamil Canadian Elders for Human Rights Organization, migrated to Canada from Sri Lanka in April 2011.

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