Sri Lanka: Repeated Shelling of Hospitals Evidence of War Crimes
May 11th, 2009
With 30 attacks reported on medical facilities since December, Human Right Watch warns that commanders responsible for such attacks may be prosecuted for war crimes.
The Sri Lankan armed forces have repeatedly struck hospitals in the northern Vanni region in indiscriminate artillery and aerial attacks according to the respected international human right monitoring organization.
One of the deadliest of these attacks on medical facilities took place on May 2, when artillery shells struck Mullaivaikal hospital in the government-declared “no-fire zone,” killing 68 persons and wounding 87.
Government medical personnel in the war zone carefully report the GPS coordinates to the government in a vain effort to protect the facilities in the intense bombardment of the crowded area. An estimated 100,000 civilians are trapped between the two armies, unable to escape the fighting.
“Hospitals are supposed to be sanctuaries from shelling, not targets,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “While doctors and nurses struggle to save lives in overcrowded and under-equipped facilities, Sri Lankan army attacks have hit one hospital after another.”
The Oblate JPIC office has joined Human Rights Watch in criticizing both the Sri Lankan armed forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for numerous violations of the laws of war during the recent fighting.