"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home > Tamils - a Trans State Nation  > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Indictment against Sri Lanka > Genocide'83 > Sri Lanka's Genocidal War '95 to '01 : Introduction & Index > Sri Lanka's Genocidal War '95 to 01- the Record Speaks >  Sri Lanka's Undeclared War on Eelam Tamils in the Shadow of a Ceasefire - 02 todate > Disappearances & Extra Judicial Killings > Rape & Murder  > Torture  > Sri Lanka's War Crimes > Censorship, Disinformation & Murder of Journalists > Patterns of  Impunity  > Sri Lanka Accused at United Nations > Rajiv Gandhi's War Crimes

INDICTMENT AGAINST SRI LANKA

CONTENTS OF
THIS SECTION

Last updated
27/05/07

Bishop of Jaffna, Thomas Savundranayagam, 10 July 1995
Pope John Paul, Time Magazine, Humanitarian Law Project
Condemnation by 21 Non Governmental Organisations at UN Sub Commission
International Red Cross expresses concern at Navali bombing
President Kumaratunga covers up Navali massacre

Navali and the Tamil Minister -  Rajan Sriskandarajah

Navaly massacre of 147 Tamil civilians remembered - Nine Years Later in 2004

Sri Lanka's Genocidal War - '95 to '01

Navali Massacre: St.Peters Church in Navaly bombed with refugees inside

Having dropped leaflets asking the people to move to places of worship the Sri Lanka air force there after attacked the places of worship where Tamil civilians had sought refuge.

St.Peters Church and St.Peters School in Navaly at a great distance away from the line of battle and where hundreds had sought shelter was deliberately bombed on 9 July 1995. On the day after the attack, 56 bodies were retrieved from the debris, many of whom were women and children. The death toll in this incident later increased to 120. 13 babies died in their mother's arms. Rescue workers reported torn limbs and pieces of human flesh strewn over the area.

"Thirteen babies were among the 65 dead found under the rubble of a Catholic church bombed by the Sri Lankan air force, an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) official said on Tuesday. ICRC field coordinator Dominique Henry said at least one bomb hit St Peter's Church at Navali, north of Jaffna town, on Sunday, the day the armed forces launched their ``Operation Leap Forward'' against Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The military, which said it was not aware of any church being bombed, had dropped leaflets warning civilians in the rebel-held peninsula to seek refuge in temples and churches to minimise the chance of death or injury in air strikes… `This is really a violation of humanitarian law if a civilian area has been deliberately targeted,'' Henry said, adding that he had no information on whether the attack was deliberate or an accident. (Reuter 11 July 1995)



Bishop of Jaffna, Thomas Savundranayagam, 10 July 1995

In a letter dated 10 July 1995, the Bishop of Jaffna, Thomas Savundranayagam called upon President Chandrika Kumaratunga to stop these attacks on churches, temples and schools. He pointed out that at the time of bombing, displaced Tamil civilians had sought shelter in these places of worship. He wrote:

"Your Excellency,

St.Peters Church, Navaly

Please allow me to bring the following sad incident to your kind attention.

I very much regret to report to you the tragic killings of innocent civilian refugees who had gathered at the above Church on the instruction of your Defence Ministry.

A 'Pukkara' Air Craft had dropped a cluster of many bombs on this crowd of refugees who had taken shelter in the church resulting in the death of over 65 civilians including women and children and over 150 were seriously injured sustaining the loss of limbs.

Besides many were rendered homeless as many houses were razed to the ground and others heavily damaged, including our church and priest's house. All the people in this village have fled to safer areas as refugees.

Therefore we very earnestly appeal to Your Excellency to kindly instruct your forces to desist from bombing, strafing, artillery rocked attacks on civilian targets like Kovils, Churches, Schools and Hospitals."


Pope John Paul, Time Magazine, Humanitarian Law Project

"Pope John Paul said on Wednesday he was suffering along with the families of people killed when air force bombs hit a church in Sri Lanka. The Red Cross said 65 people died on Sunday when the bombs hit a Catholic church in Navali, north of Jaffna, and many more had died or fled their homes in the last three days of fighting between Tamil guerrillas and the Sri Lankan army. "I want to express my deep-felt sharing in the suffering of so many people involved in the ethnic conflict that is tearing Sri Lanka apart," he told pilgrims and tourists at his weekly general audience. "I share the grief of those who lost their loved ones in the bombing of the church and school of Navali," he added. The Pope, who visited Sri Lanka earlier this year, also called for negotiation to end the fighting. (Vatican City, July 12 Reuter Report)

"After hundreds of civilians heed the Sri Lankan army's advice to seek refuge in St.Peter's church at Navali, an airforce plane bombs the building killing more than 120 people... Operation Leap Forward began at dawn on July 9 and the military warned civilians to clear the south west of its base at Palaly, recommending churches and temples as shelters. At 4.30 p.m. an Argentine made Pucara fighter flew toward the Navali church, 3 km outside the combat zone, and bombed the sanctuary and adjacent courtyard."

"Most of the people huddled inside were women and children, many of whom were killed immediately. Others had limbs blown off. Survivors were brought by tractor to the town of Jaffna 6 km away, but the Jaffna Teaching Hospital and its lone surgeon weren't prepared. They soon ran out of bandages, antibiotics and beds. "The treatment was crude", said Subramaniam Jebanesan, the Protestant Bishop of Jaffna, who rushed to the hospital to help. "Limbs that could have been saved had to be amputated". (Time Magazine 31 July 1995)

"St.Peters Church in Navaly and the adjoining St.Peter's School where hundreds had sought shelter were badly gutted. 56 bodies were retrieved from the debris, many of whom were women and children. The final death toll in Navaly was about 120. Rescue workers have reported that torn limbs and pieces of human flesh were strewn over the area." (Press Release by Humanitarian Law Project, International Educational Development, 12 July 1995)


Condemnation by 21 Non Governmental Organisations at UN Sub Commission

"The Sri Lanka government, initially denied the bombing of the St.Peters Church. Then it criticised the ICRC representative for reporting the incident to the world media without consulting the Government. Later the government promised to hold an inquiry into the incident…The aerial bombardment of civilian population centres and places of worship follow a pattern set by the Sri Lanka armed forces over the past several years and President Kumaratunga's belated promise to investigate the recent violations, must ring hollow in the ears of the Tamil people whose kith and kin have lost their lives or their limbs in the bomb outrage." (Joint written statement submitted at the 47th Sessions of the UN Sub Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities on 9 August 1995, by International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations and World Federation of Democratic Youth, non governmental organisations in consultative status (category I), African Association of Education for Development, American Association of Jurists, Indigenous World Association, International Association against Torture, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, International Federation of Human Rights, International Indian Treaty Council, International Islamic Federation of Student Organisations, International League for Human Rights, Pax Romana and World Society of Victimology, non governmental organisations in consultative status (category II) and Centre Europe-Tiers Monde, International Association of Educators for World Peace, International Educational Development, International Federation of Free Journalists, International Movement against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism, Liberation and Movement against Racism, For Friendship Among Peoples and Regional Council on Human Rights in Asia, non governmental organisations on the roster.)


International Red Cross expresses concern at Navali bombing

The International Red Cross issued a Statement on 11 July 1995 on the Navali massacre:

" On 9 July the Sri Lankan armed forces launched a large scale military offensive against the positions of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) north of the city of Jaffna. The operation involving intensive artillery shelling and air strikes, immediately forced tens of thousands of civilians to leave the area. Many of the displaced sought shelter in churches and temples, including several hundred people who took refuge in the Church of St.Peter and Paul in Navaly.

"According to eye witness accounts, this church and several adjacent buildings were hit by further air force strikes at 4.30 p.m. the same day. During the attack 65 people were killed and 150 wounded, including women and children. That evening and into the night Sri Lanka Red Cross staff evacuated most of the wounded by ambulance to the Jaffna Teaching Hospital. Delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) present the next morning at the scene of the attack noted the widespread damage and measured the extent of the tragedy. Many of the bodies had not yet been removed from the rubble."

"Deeply concerned by the series of violent acts that have claimed innocent victims, the ICRC call on the parties involved to respect civilian lives, property and places of refuge. It also urges them to respect the protected zone around the Jaffna Teaching Hospital and to refrain from attacking any other medical facilities."

In a later report dated 18 August 1995, Marco Altherr, head of the ICRC delegation to Sri Lanka added:

"It is not quite sure how many bombs fell, as only one hit the ground (a crater), the others hitting concrete, but six is a fair estimate. The church itself was not directly hit, but damaged by the blasts and shrapnel. More than 1000 people were gathered in the compound, busy to prepare food for dinner and accommodation for the night. These people were hit by bombs 3,1 and 5 but more specially by bomb 4 which was the only one to hit the ground. Mr.Altherr also sent the testimonies of some civilians. This is what they said:

"Pragasam Rajendran (M) 73 years - was just at the entrance of his house which is adjacent to the church premises. Had seen the plane. His wife Nageswary stayed next to him and saw 'the bombs rolling in the air like pamphlets'. He had started shouting and alerted the others to lie down. As the wife laid down, she heard the first explosion and continuously some more.'

Anthony Manuelpillai (M) 73 years - who came to the church premises to fetch water from the well had seen the plane at a very low altitude and saw the bombs falling 'like rolling papers'.

Jeganathan Jeyakumar (M) 17 years - was at a junction which is nearly 100 yards from the church premises. He had seen clusters of white objects moving towards him. As the plane passed over him blaring, he said he lied down and heard a series of explosions around the church area.

Antonythas Arulammah (F) 40 years - who was near the school building inside the church premises had seen the plane dropping something without diving downwards. She said she lied down after someone nearby alerted her for falling bombs.

Velupillai Arulammah (M) 59 years - he saw the plane dropping bombs while he was cooking meals for the displaced people inside the church compound.

George Theva (F) 45 years - was standing on the road outside the church premises. She had seen the plane dropping some objects like 'big watermelon'.

Father James (M) - was at St.Anthony's Church, Manipay during the incident. He saw one plane and about 6 bombs falling one after another."


President Kumaratunga covers up Navali massacre

Sri Lanka initially denied knowledge of the bombing. Later, Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar blamed the Red Cross for 'not informing the Sri Lanka government before issuing a statement'! Subsequently, Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister promised to hold an inquiry. But, later still, President Kumaratunga denied responsibility and with a callous disregard for the victims of the attack, declared that inquiries as to the Navaly attack should be addressed to the Red Cross because it was they who seem to know about the attack.

"A dispute between the ICRC and the government over recent statements is to be resolved through talks, ICRC delegation chief Marco Altherr said. The controversy rose when Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar accused the ICRC of not informing the government before issuing a statement on the attack on bombing of St.Peter's Church at Navali. 'The accusations came as a shock to us. We would like to meet government officials and clarify matters. This is important' Mr.Altherr said. 'Our duty is to work for the welfare of civilians and victims in war torn areas. Be it the Government or the LTTE, we condemn any acts against civilians and try to bring peace' he added. Mr.Altherr said such accusations could hamper the humanitarian work of the ICRC. 'It is important to discuss the matter and have a good understanding. Otherwise it is not possible for us to carry on with our work' he said." (Sinhala owned Sri Lanka Sunday Times, 16 July 1995)

"President Kumaratunga said it was probably the work of the LTTE who were firing mortar shells in that direction. 'The ICRC says all kinds of things," she said. 'There was fighting three kilometers northwest of Navali, so it was unlikely any action by the security forces would have affected the church or its environs.' (Reuter, 4 August, 1995)

On the 4th August, the President, addressing a press conference, said that the Navaly church was intact and she was awaiting a message from the Bishop of Jaffna. Rt. Rev. Thomas Soundranayagam responded with the following letter on the 7th August 1995.

"Your Excellency,

I am writing to Your Excellency regarding a news item which appeared in Daily News of 05.08.95 about the aerial bombing incident on the 9th of July 1995 in the Church premises at Navaly. Your Excellency had said that you were awaiting a fax message from me on the above incident.

On the 10th of July itself I wrote a letter and on the 11th I had requested the UNHCR office to transmit it to you. I am surprised that it had not reached your office up to now. In the meantime I had sent also a copy of it to the Papal Representative in Sri Lanka and to the President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka. This letter also was released in the Colombo press.

I had written this letter after ascertaining the facts from the Parish Priest. Our immediate concern was the killing of the people who had taken refuge in the Church and its premises. I had mentioned that the Church and Priest's House were also damaged owing to the blast of the cluster of bombs released from the Pukkara air craft on the 9th of July at about 4.45 p.m.

Subsequently I myself visited the site of the incident and I found the roof of the church damaged all the doors and windows wrenched from the frames and strewn about, and the floor was littered with broken glass pieces. I also found blood stains on the floor and blood stained clothes still lying about.

By this time the death count had risen to 117 and so also the number of injured persons. I am enclosing a copy of the original letter addressed to you on the 10th of July, just after the incident.

The war in the peninsula is still continuing and the innocent civilians are living in fear because of the aerial bombings and artillery shelling. This is a futile battle and it will only increase the death of innocent civilians and help to alienate the people from the government. Hence I am appealing to you not to have resort to military solution and to resume the peace- negotiation once again. While appreciating your efforts at solving the Ethnic problem, we appeal to you to stop the war which could give us the opportunity to reflect and discuss your peace proposal. We assure you of our co-operation in your efforts to find a lasting solution to our problem. May God bless you."


Navali and the Tamil Minister

  •  Rajan Sriskandarajah - Tamil Infonet 1995 Fall

"Aiyo", cried a mother whose child was wounded in the air-raid. "Please take my child to the hospital" she begged a cyclist, who looked around first, and then decided to help. "She was alive just a few minutes ago," cried a man cradling the dead body of his pretty young wife. "She just came to help the refugees, and now she is dead," cried a brother. Wails and cries such as these were heard (and recorded on video) on July 9th, soon after the Sinhala Airforce decided to drop, not one but nine bombs, on the Navaly St. Peter's Church, housing refugees in Tamil Eelam.

Only a few hours earlier, the Sinhala Airforce had dropped leaflets asking civilians to take shelter in churches and temples. The poor, unsuspecting Tamil civilians had complied. This was preceded by a massive propaganda effort initiated in Colombo, to justify the newest Sinhala army offensive on Tamil Eelam, code-named "Operation Leap Forward." Proclamations were made that this was a sacrificial effort made by the Sinhala people, to "liberate the Tamils from the clutches of the LTTE."

The fact that most Tamils fled, in the hundreds of thousands (300,000 people, to be precise), from the so called Liberating Sinhala Forces didn't matter. The fact that not one able bodied Tamil, remained in his/her home to be rescued by Chandrika's army didn't matter either. The Sinhala army was leaping forward anyway, to "save the Tamils."

The biggest culprit in this macabre episode was a Tamil - who declared himself to be one at the UN - Mr. Lakshman Kadirgamar, the Foreign Minister of the Sinhala State of Sri Lanka.

When the Church in Navaly was bombed this Tamil Minister of the Sinhala Sri Lanka became agitated. He became upset and irate - but ironically, not because of the tragedy experienced by the innocent refugees, but because the International Red Cross had leaked the news of the church bombing. The innocent children who were killed or maimed by his Sinhala masters didn't matter to him. The families that were torn asunder so tragically by his masters' forces, were of no concern at all. All that mattered to him was that his masters' image was tarnished; and, he had worked so hard to build it up!

He ranted and raved at the Red Cross. He was joined by the racist monk Rahula Walpola and his ilk, who demanded that the ICRC be expelled. The Red Cross, which happens to be the only international relief organisation in Tamil Eelam got worried, and its chief in Colombo, Marco Altherr, actually apologised to the minister - A Galilean apology, no doubt! Mr. Altherr must have muttered something under his breath, like the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei, who in AD 1633 apologised for having said that the earth is round!

The frogs in the Sri Lankan well celebrated. The Sinhala media, unashamedly published the ravings of this minister. The Island headlines read - Foreign Minister Raps ICRC. There was no condemnation of the airforce for this dastardly deed. There was no rush to aid the poor victims - more of whom died due to lack of medical attention, created by the newly imposed embargo.

President Chandrika, however, got busy phoning the Archbishop in Colombo, first to disclaim, and then to promise a leisurely investigation, which is yet to be conducted. She then patted her Tamil Foreign Minister on his back for a job well done, and sent him abroad for further damage control and news management.

The message to the airforce pilots was very clear - "do what you want to do, we will defend you." Guess what? Another of those pilots decided that some school children in a remote village were an easy target. No Tigers around, to shoot his plane down; bomb them! On Sep. 22, he bombed Nagar Kovil Maha Vidyalayam killing 23 children on the spot, during their lunch break. In repeated sorties, neighbours who rushed to help the injured children were also killed.

Regardless, the Tamil Minister of the Sinhala Sri Lanka Government made his rounds in Australia, U.K., Canada and the US, advising Sinhala Ambassadors and Sinhala organisations on how to conduct propaganda. His mission was also to counter Tamil groups in these countries. The Sangam office bearers were contacted individually to meet with the Minister. The Ilankai Tamil Sangam, USA, responded, politely of course, as to why a meeting wasn't possible with a minister whose hands are tainted with Tamil blood!

 

...continued...

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