Why we need to press for a fair trial on Sri Lanka?

Along with Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting contemplations, fresh videos of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed by the Sri Lankan government have emerged renewing the calls for international investigations. The Petrie report, a U.N document released last year, estimated  the killings to be more than 70,000. The narrative about these killings goes something like this: “the Sri Lankan army indiscriminately bombed the Tamil civilians who were taken hostage by the Tigers”.

The Tamils on the other hand - the party directly affected by the conflict - allege that the government forces had deliberately trapped them inside the conflict zone with malice aforethought.  According to them, the killings were not merely indiscriminate, but one that was cleverly planned and meticulously carried out.  The allegation has serious groundings.   ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’ a documentary produced by England’s Channel 4 News documented instances of Sri Lankan army asking Tamil civilians to go to specific designations marked as ‘no-fire zone’ and then shelling at them repeatedly and deliberately.

The Sri Lankan war has been described by many international organizations as a ‘war without witness’ owning to Sri Lanka’s imposition of full darkness into the conflict, including a complete media blackout. In September 2008 the Sri Lankan government ordered all foreign aid agencies, including the UN, to vacate the Vanni region.  If Sri Lanka had truly wanted the Tamils to vacate the conflict zone, why did they not ask the civilians to leave along with the international aid agencies while the aid agencies were there to oversee the evacuation process?   Is this an indication of something deeper?

The answer to these questions can only be meaningfully answered via an international mechanism to investigate what truly happened during the bloody stages of the war. For now, every attempt towards international investigations is being blocked by Sri Lanka. 

Meanwhile, the narrative regarding the investigation should start at the right place taking all factors into consideration, including the preparatory work that was put into the commission of this crime.  Anything else- in this case the so-called ‘indiscriminate bombing’- is bound to provide only a distorted version. 

To narrate the story on behalf of the Tamils without taking the victims’ statement into consideration is to take them hostage for the second time, this time, by highjacking the story of their plight. From the victims’ perspective, the revelation of the truth is more important to them than the punishment of their culprits.  

“We want international inquiry, not to put the Sri Lankan government in jail, but more importantly, because that’s the only way the truth of what really happened to us can be realized. In the absence of justice, truth is the least we are asking for” said Raveedran a recent Tamil immigrant.


Kannan Sreekantha walked 1000 miles from Chicago to Washington in 2009 with two Tamil Canadian students to raise awareness about the plight of the Tamil people.  He is currently studying law at City University of London.


Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  • JDS is the Sri Lankan partner organization of international media rights group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The launching of this website was made possible by the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), of which Reporters Without Borders is a beneficiary.