|Op-Ed in The Guardian: The crisis in Sri Lanka – a conflict without winners|
The Guardian – Op-ed
By Francis Deng
Special Advisor for Prevention of Genocide
17 May 2009
The standoff might be coming to an end, but a military victory will not be sustainable unless legitimate grievances are addressed
(…). Most urgent is the need to address the catastrophic conditions of civilians still remaining in a shrinking pocket of land on the northern coastline, designated a "safe zone" by the government, While some reports indicate these trapped civilians are being used as human shields by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels, both sides have been repeatedly reminded by the United Nations s secretary general to adhere to their obligations under international law.(…)
There have been disturbing reports and images of Tamil men and women suggesting torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The full extent of death, injury and destruction cannot be ascertained because of the government's refusal to allow independent media and monitoring in the conflict zone.
All parties must be urged to respect international human rights and humanitarian law obligations, particularly to prevent unlawful killings and accord protection to civilians and detainees. Women and girls are particularly vulnerable to excesses of conflict and the Government has a legal obligation to give them special protection. The parties should be reminded that individuals could be held personally responsible for war crimes and other international crimes committed in the course of conflict and which attract universal jurisdiction. The government should allow the United Nations and other international humanitarian and aid organizations full and unfettered access to all civilians and detainees in places of detention and processing centres, including all sites for the internally displaced.
(…) It will not end with winners and losers and it cannot be ended solely through a military victory that may not be sustainable in the long run unless legitimate grievances are addressed. The government and the LTTE must immediately alleviate the plight of civilians and the Government is urged to work with the international community to initiate a political process to create a national framework in which all Sri Lankans can co-exist as equal citizens.