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UNHRC Robust on Lanka, Hypocrisy in Gaza - EDITORIAL

11 Mar 2024 - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}      

Earlier this month, the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) once again took up the issue of its resolution on “Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka”. We also heard for the umpteenth time representatives of western nations pontificate on how wars should be conducted with minimum loss to civilians, women and children. 

Believe it or not, it is we Lankans who have undergone civil conflicts on three or more occasions. It was after all our men and women (brothers, sisters, husbands, wives and children) who paid the price in blood, sweat and tears. It was we who suffered the pain of inquisition. We have seen it all and still feel the pain.
War means killing and being killed. The rules of war – the protection of women, children and non combatants – are often ignored during armed conflicts. However, the cold-blooded killing of civilians is not only a war crime, but a crime against humanity and cannot be tolerated.

A war crime is akin to major killings of civilian populations as witnessed in the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States. Over a hundred thousand civilians died in that attack. Thousands more civilians continued to suffer the after effects of the two atomic bombs which were dropped that day. 

Even Dwight D. Eisenhower, supreme allied commander, in World War II, told his biographer that he expressed to War Secretary, Harry Stimson his “grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of face.”

While admitting the Lankan military did violate specific ‘rules of war’ during the heat of battle, at no point was a conscious decision taken by the government to specifically target large groups of civilians. 
One of the charges against the SL government refers to the deaths resulting during the last days of the conflict, where thousands of civilians did in fact die. Sadly, the insurgent group – the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) – was using civilians as human shields, and it was those innocents who died in their numbers.  
The LTTE itself was described by the FBI as “the most dangerous and deadly extremists in the world”. In a resume the report adds “No, it’s not Al Qaeda or Hezbollah or even HAMAS.The group is called the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) or the Tamil Tigers for short...” It was in this background, the final stages of the war against the LTTE was fought.’’

What is worse is despite this knowledge, the US and the West continued ignoring the LTTE’s operations in their own countries where the group set up offices and continued fund raising for their war effort.
We do not for a moment condone the trampling of human rights and committing of brutalities against the Tamil community by the government. However, the irrelevance of the UNHRC sessions on Lanka at this moment – while Israel is in a coldblooded killing of civilian Palestinians in Gaza – cannot be seen as anything but biased and hypocritical.

At least 30,960 civilian Palestinians have been killed and 72,524 injured in Israeli attacks on Gaza since October 7, 2023. The organisation ‘Save the Children’ reported as at January 10, Ten thousand children had been killed by Israeli airstrikes and ground operations. Around 1.1 million children – the entire child population in Gaza – were denied access to adequate humanitarian assistance. 

Yet the UNHRC has been strangely silent at the ongoing massacre in Palestinian Gaza where Israel continues committing war crimes day-in and day-out. 
The metaphor ‘the mills of God grinding slowly’ seems to be operating today. As Pultrach in “On the Delay of Divine Vengeance” says, “... I do not see what use there is in those mills of the Gods that are said to grind so late, as to render punishment hard to be recognised and to make wickedness fearless.”