INDICTMENT AGAINST SRI LANKA
SRI LANKA BOMBS JAFFNA HOSPITAL
AND TAMIL CIVILIANS - 1990
"... You must
understand that in a war, civilians get killed. We are fighting a war..." - Sri
Lanka Defence Minister Ranjan Wijeratne, 24 August 1990, reported in Sri Lanka Island
"...The Government does not, has not, and will not wage war against the Tamil
people..." - Sri Lanka President Ranasinghe Premadasa, Press Release, 3 January
Aerial bombardment of Tamil civil population
Sri Lankan government has begun bombing and machine gunning civilians in Jaffna and other
cities in the Tamil dominated north after its failure to contain the rebels from the
ground. The attacks began before dawn on Monday, a day of intensive fighting. Bombers and
Bell helicopter gunships flew sorties of and on throught the day until 9 p.m. The
government forces have been sporadically bombing the outskirts of the city for several
days but Monday was the first time the centre was the target
The Sri Lankan media which is heavily government controlled, has endlessly repeated the
official line that only the rebels, and not the Tamil people, are the targets... One Red
Cross hospital reported treating 85 bombing casualties... I arrived in Jaffna on Monday
afternoon... A few minutes later, we saw three aeroplanes dive deeply and within seconds,
we heard loud explosions from about two miles away. When we judged it safe we drove to the
centre of Jaffna ...
The days bombing had destroyed dozens of shops, part of the old market and much of the
city's bus station. Bombs had fallen only yards away from the Jaffna Hospital... The
hospital which was miraculously undamaged had been empty for days anyway, its patients
evacuated to the outskirts where they are suppposed to be safe. On Monday, howver, an
orphanage for girls was bombed there...
In the heart of Jaffna, vultures and crows flapped around the ruins. "The Sri
Lankan government talks about respecting human rights" said one man outside his
wrecked shop, "But they are massacring innocent people"...
The government is apparently using 70lb and 100lb bombs. We also saw the case of a
'barrel-bomb' which resembles an oil tank packed with explosive and napalm....
The reasons for the government's bombing of its own cities are unclear... If the
intention is turn people against the Tigers for attracting such danger, it is
failing..." (Christopher Lockwood, reporting in the Independent, 28 June 1990)
|"As the bullets came cracking down from the Sri Lankan air force
helicopter, the villagers of Omantai pressed together against the walls of their houses,
silent during the firing, joking nervously during the brief respites. Like some monstrous
sewing machine the gunfire went up and down the road, louder and longer than anyone
Omantai is a Tamil village, 165 miles north of Colombo and about
eight miles behind Tamil Tiger lines. There were no Tigers in the town when the helicopter
attacked, hovering at 2000 feet to stay out of range of any Tiger machine guns. The
helicopter let off hundreds of rounds into the middle of the civilian population..."
McCarthy reporting in the Times, 29 June 1990)
"...in recent months the Sri Lankan government in pursuance of the armed conflict
against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam has engaged in aerial bombardments of the
Tamil civilian population and hundreds of Tamils have disappeared from those areas within
the control of the Sri Lankan army. The Sri Lankan army is also engaged in arbitrary
killings of Tamil, Sinhalese and Muslim civilians. Tamils have been forcibly evacuated
from their villages and the Sri Lankan government plans to relocate the entire Tamil
civilian of one million from their homes in the Jaffna peninsula to refugee camps.'
Joint Statement of Seventeen Non Governmental Organisations at the 42nd Sessions of the UN
Sub Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities at Geneva,
"...In one week, Jaffna was subjected to what its inhabitants called 'shit bomb'
attacks. Jaffna smelt like a drain and the city's frightened inhabitants suspected they
were being subjected to some sort of crude experiment in biological warfare..."
Torment of Jaffna, London Independent Magazine, 3 November 1990
"Sri Lankans are just killing
civilians at random" - Daily Telegraph Report
"Barrel bombs - 210 litre cast iron barrels packed with explosives, rubber and saw
dust - rain down on residential areas with the most devastating effect; each bomb can
destroy 20 houses. By its haphazard bombing of civilian targets in the Northern
peninsula of Jaffna, the airforce is imposing an unofficial blockade which is bringing
some parts to starvation. Helicopters, equipped with rockets and machine guns hover day
and night over Jaffna city and the surrounding towns and villages, ready to strafe any
moving civilians or vehicles...
The hospital has also been bombed and three weeks ago, a helicopter fired into the
operating theatre, killing a doctor... It is hard to sleep as the night sky is lit up with
explosions, and the vibrations from bombs can be felt four miles away. The city centre has
been flattened, with Jaffna railway and bus stations, shops, hotels and homes desolated...
After one nights bombing I visited areas which had been hit. Six people had been killed, a
row of houses was reduced to rubble and the smell of burning flesh hung in the air.
Clothes, family photographs and furniture were scattered among the ruins. 'We ran into the
bunkers when we heard the bombers coming' said a resident '...The Sri Lankans are just
killing civilians at random... In an effort to dent civilian morale, they have also
been showering the area with human and animal excrement." - The London Daily
Telegraph, 13 September 1990
|"Defence Minister told me
it was a pity I had not been shot" - Deanna Hodgin, Insight
''Because I'm a journalist, some ethicists would tell me I have no place in writing.
But because I've recently returned from covering the war in Sri Lanka, where I was
detained, shot at by helicopters, and sent out onto mined roads by the Sri Lankan army and
have just received news that the bombing has begun again in the North, while the army is
negotiating with Libya for more arms - because I have seen these things, and because many
friends there are dying while my government does nothing, I am writing to you. I have
covered the wars in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iran and Iraq, and Indian Kashmir. The fighting
in Sri Lanka is much worse than the worst of any of these conflicts, because of the
underlying racial hatreds and institutionalized discrimination.
I urge you to do anything you can, Congressman Yatron, to convene a special hearing on
Human Rights abuses taking place in that country. Pshaw, you say, how bad can it be ? It's
so bad, that after travelling 32 hours by boat, bike, bus and car to return to Colombo
from the Jaffna Peninsula - where I had spent six days following the late-August operation
on Jaffna - I attended a press conference where Defence Minister Ranjan Wijeratne told
the press that there had been no civilian casualties despite heavy bombing. When I
volunteered that I had seen many bomb-blasted bodies, and many hundreds of people injured
by helicopter strafing and more, the Defence Minister told me it was a pity I had not been
That's the mentality you are dealing with - human rights is not an idea with much currency
for the Sri Lankan government. Quiet diplomacy is not an option for our policy in Sri
Lanka. The United States government must send a strong message, condemning the bombing,
the 30,000-60,000 disappearances of young people in both North and South, and the
continuing army blockade of shipments of food stuffs and medical supplies to the North.
Congressman, I'm writing to you because I am angry. You should be, too.'' - Deanna
Hodgin, Insight Magazine, letter dated 7 November 1990 to Congressman Gus
Yatron,Subcommittee on Human Rights,Washington
- see also the paper presented by Deanna Hodgin on
The use of Governmental Aggression to Suppress a Minority's
Quest for Self Determination at the International Tamil Eelam Research Conference,
Jaffna Hospital bombed despite Red Cross markings
"The Sri Lankan Air Force bombed the Jaffna hospital Friday two days after the
Red Cross reopened it under a safety plan, the International Committee of the Redcross
(ICRC) said. In a statement issued here, the ICRC charged that a single airforce aircraft
dropped two bombs around 7.45 a.m. within 'the clearly defined security area'. One person
was wounded inside the ICRC protected hospital compound, and four within the security
According to the ICRC, the roofs of four of the hospital buildings were blown off by the
explosion and the windows shattered...the hospital was clearly marked with red crosses for
easy identification from the ground and air, officials said. The rules proscribe any
military action from or against the safety area which was devoid of any military or
political installation, the ICRC said..." - AFP News Service, 10 November 1990
"Government bombers have damaged schools, hospitals, churches
and temples" - Christian Aid News, March 1991
June last year, Sathan was a fisherman living in the eastern Sri Lankan coastal town of
Trincomalee. Now he, his wife and two children sleep on a dirt floor in a room eight feet
by ten feet, more than 100 miles from home. Like more than a million others in a country
only half the size of England, Sathan had to leave his house as civil war, gang violence
and looting erupted around him. He and his family fled on foot, travelling only by night
for more than two months to reach a refugee camp 20 miles from the northern town of
Jaffna. "There was bombing and helicopter pilots were shooting and we were
afraid," he says. "People were attacking houses and burning them down. My mother
is old and could not walk, so we had to leave her behind."
The main hospital in the Tiger stronghold of Jaffna estimates that for every
guerilla injured, there are five or six civilian casualties. Government bombers have
damaged schools, hospitals, churches and temples in air raids on northern towns.
" (Tom Redfern in Christian Aid News, March 1991)