Rights of soldiers vs rights of terrorists
The LTTE used civilians as a human shield. They sought safety
with the Armed Forces
In the current context of things, it is imperative that we draw the
lines between what and who are legal and what and who are not. With 32
nations including Sri Lanka having banned the LTTE as a terrorist
organisation, we would first like to have legal luminaries tell us what
rights under international human rights laws terrorists like the LTTE
have, whatever LTTE fronts masquerading and lobbying amongst foreign
parliamentarians and the UN may say.
The armed forces of a country are the legitimate entity tasked to
safeguard the territorial sovereignty of a country and the safety of its
citizens – not LTTE terrorists. Only the armed forces of a country have
the legal right to a hierarchical command structure with distinguishable
uniform and weaponry given by the State to protect the nation and its
people – not the LTTE.
We would like to know why and who has placed a terrorist organisation
on par with a sovereign Government when it is classified as a terrorist
organisation, which under the IHL has no rights when they are armed
non-State actors involved in an armed conflict.
A sovereign nation has the right to domestically apply laws to
nullify threats to the country. That instance was hijacked by several
foreign nations through various interferences that not only helped
continue LTTE terrorism, but resulted in thousands of civilian deaths.
Child soldiers of the LTTE, trained to kill.
Why is the accountability of these foreign
governments/representatives never subject to investigation?
It was in July 1987 that Sri Lankan forces cornered the LTTE leader
in Vadamarachchi and it is said that India threatened to invade Sri
Lanka if Prabhakaran was not let free. India is also believed to have
given Prabhakaran refuge.
It was foreign governments that forced five rounds of peace talks and
a ceasefire, none of which arrived at any solution except to virtually
hand over territory to an armed terrorist organisation and watched them
acquire arms and recruit children to kill.
These very trainers live on foreign soil and question why their roles
in training children to kill is not investigated or charged.
Those that want international investigation teams to monitor the
situation in Sri Lanka may have forgotten the presence of the Nordic
Monitoring Mission (SLMM) that was on the ground, tabulating the
violations, and the LTTE had close to 4,000 if not more as against less
than 50 by the Armed Forces and nothing much was done about these
violations except a statement which didn’t provide any reprieve for
those bombed to pieces.
In internal armed conflict, insurgents are not entitled to POW status
under the Third Geneva Convention or Additional Protocol I since the
conflict is not international.
Accordingly, they may be tried for sedition, treason, rebellion,
murder, or other crimes under the domestic law of their State. Under
Article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions, they have to be tried
in domestic courts.
We want the GOSL to immediately file charges against these LTTE
remnants for their crimes against the people of Sri Lanka. It must be
reiterated that the case of the LTTE is not as simple as anyone can make
out to be. Today’s conflicts have been made into political agendas and
often a country’s armed forces become guinea pigs just as civilians
become targets – it is time these international authorities stop the
confusion because none of their fancy notions have helped reduce
conflict in any part of the world, especially when their role has been
purposely diluted into finding theories on why armed non-State actors or
even terrorists should prevail at the cost of the freedom of life to
Attack at the BIA, one of the many LTTE atrocities.
The nations pointing fingers may first like to see how they profit
from the manufacture and sale of arms which begs to question whether
most of these “conflicts” that exist are also engineered so that sales
of arms will take place for both State and non-State actors, even
Ideally, the LTTE has to be referred to as nothing other than
terrorists if they are proscribed as such by nations. Legally they have
no rights. However, various reports refer to them as “soldiers” – which
they are certainly not, some call them “belligerent” while under US
definition they would be “unlawful combatants”.
In an armed conflict, only “combatants’ can take direct part in
hostilities. Soldiers are members of the armed forces, defined so under
the IHL, and are known as combatants. As combatants, soldiers are
entitled to, under the IHL, to take direct part in hostilities.
It was the LTTE who were taking the civilians with them and the LTTE
claimed they were “voluntarily” with them. It was the LTTE that also
claimed that these civilians were “voluntarily” helping move ammunition
and artillery – these front organisations echoed the same sentiments.
In such a scenario, non-combatants lose their protected status and
are not entitled to be treated as prisoners of war and are liable to be
prosecuted under domestic laws. Civilians have no right to take “direct
part in hostilities”. This is the hard truth that people have to accept.
We seem to forget that soldiers are humans too – they are sons,
husbands and fathers and join the Forces to defend the nation. Placing
them on par with terrorists such as the LTTE is an insult and every step
should be taken to ensure that in all future Government publications,
the LTTE is clearly placed as nothing more than a brutal terrorist
How do we draw the line between the soldier and the terrorist? Why
should terrorists be treated as combatants? Firstly, they become who
they are because they resort to terror – their notoriety comes by
killing and destroying – they are given instructions to do mayhem.
Soldiers are only instructed to kill the enemy in defence of a nation.
Terrorists such as the LTTE chose to wear uniforms when it suits them
and pretend to be civilians when it suits them. That was how they
carried out so many brutal attacks on civilians.
The LTTE killed more than one child.
It has been annoying to see that throughout Sri Lanka’s three-decade
conflict regarding all of the close to 400 acts of terror by the LTTE,
nothing beyond a customary statement from the UN and its associated
entities as well as diplomatic missions came as consolation to the
families of the dead and to the nation that had to explain to the people
why it could not deal with LTTE terror.
Of course, we find fault with successive governments for not exerting
their sovereign right and that of the people whose protection of life
comes prior to the existence of a terror outfit such as the LTTE. The
world has also forgotten that the rights of the people of a nation come
before that of agendas that have helped the LTTE continue its terrorism.
It is these international organisations that keep dangling
international laws on soldiers, forgetting that terrorists do not sign
laws, treaties or wish to even uphold them except to cunningly use these
for their own protection and sustenance.
International authorities and their speakers drafting these lovely
clauses from their Geneva confines have forgotten LTTE atrocities and
think that ONLY the soldiers are compelled to take their bible of laws
in one hand and the gun in the other and in the thickness of terror
attacks read through the pages to apply what is right according to what
people such as Navi Pillay deem right; in the meanwhile, that soldier
ends up blown to smithereens by the LTTE!
So, let’s be a little realistic here. These fancy righteous notions
that are spoken across international conference tables and meeting rooms
have done little to rope in terrorists for any of the crimes they have
committed by premeditated planning and that is what these international
authorities now need to explain to the victims of the dead through three
decades. It is their interferences in the domestic right of nations to
take care of terrorism that has led Sri Lanka to 30 years of mayhem by
Soldiers have died because these nations have denied Sri Lanka the
right to defeat terrorists like the LTTE and instead forced nations to
sign pacts with the LTTE, giving them credibility.
What about the rights of the children of the soldiers, their wives
and their parents? These people are humans and have gone to defend the
nation, to fight the enemy and that is something legal. Why are
international authorities silent about the rights of these soldiers and
the rights of the peoples whose lives the LTTE cut down illegally?
How can the UN seriously address the LTTE’s crimes over three decades
when it is courting the front organisations that had been collecting
arms and building the LTTE kitty from their foreign havens? If the world
is serious about accountability, then there are some hometruths they
would have to accept first and that starts with the simple fact that the
LTTE served as an international proxy and by virtue of being virtually a
mercenary, the LTTE has no rights under the IHL and if civilians have
been with the LTTE as “volunteers”, then it is from these front
organisations that the UN and UNHRC in particular must ask questions of
It is they who compromised the lives of these citizens and let’s not
forget that the soldiers have saved families of key LTTE leaders to
prove that they fought an armed conflict fair and square. In so doing,
they also saved these “volunteers” numbering 295,000 because though
there is principle of distinction, that distinction cannot be
manipulated to be used for the convenience of terrorists.
It is a soldier’s right to defend the nation and therefore before
questioning soldiers, it is the ILLEGAL element that has to be first
addressed. What we like to know is why the LTTE is not being questioned.
Given that “respectability” has been afforded to a terrorist outfit
such as the LTTE and now that the LTTE leader is no more, there are
plenty of offshoots of the LTTE functioning as “legitimate” entities in
foreign shores and some have even created “transnational governments in
the sky” – now these people are the ones that need to be taken for
questioning on why civilians were forcefully denied their non-combatant
status and turned into combatants because the LTTE did not fight the
Armed Forces in uniform as traditional wars happen – they always applied
a combination of terror tactics which Ms Pillay may like to explain
before declaring that Sri Lanka’s soldiers are always in the wrong.
Double standards need to stop as the Eni Faleomavaega, Congressman
for America Samoa said in his statement on Sri Lanka at the
Congressional Committee hearing questioning Robert O’ Blake – this is
worth listening to.
Sri Lanka had every right to apply the JUST WAR THEORY because Sri
Lanka was a country that suffered three decades of LTTE terror, it was a
country that listened to international community representatives and
agreed to hold five rounds of peace talks/negotiations and numerous
ceasefires which served only to allow room for the LTTE to regroup and
refine their terror tactics, by virtue of allowing the LTTE to be
accepted for their crimes even freely roam the world to purchase weapons
and other hardware.
It is the international community that has wronged the 20 million
people of Sri Lanka because every solution offered was thrown back in
We have had international monitors who have ended up doing nothing
worthwhile, so we do not need such presence. We have had international
organisations that have handed over equipment and facilitated the LTTE
in their terror – bring out those crimes into the daylight.
It is about time that we do not keep silent about all that the
foreign governments, NGO representatives, local counterparts and even
Tamil politicians had been doing to help the LTTE – so roll out these
names openly for the world to see.
Therefore, after three decades of watching people die, allowing the
Armed Forces personnel to sacrifice their lives for no reason, the
decision to militarily take on the LTTE was made – Sri Lanka cannot be
faulted for that.
Thirty years is no small number and there were no documentaries,
parliamentary debates or foreign television debates as are taking place
now to demand that the LTTE be punished for their crimes! We are talking
about an armed non-State actor that controlled territory and this
territory was virtually handed over in a ceasefire agreement brokered by
foreign nations who now preach to us about what is right and wrong.
No substantial evidence
Moreover, the world is supposedly aghast at a photo of a bloodless
child, claiming without any substantial evidence that the Sri Lankan
Army had killed him, based on some forensic evidence given by a doctor
in the UK looking at a picture, and this has become world news just
because a documentary film producer thinks he is the world’s authority
on why Sri Lankan Forces should be accountable, based on some footage he
has put together.
These pictures or allegations have not been produced by a government
or the UN, so why is this global frenzy over a film? Lest people have
forgotten, Prabhakaran and the LTTE were Sri Lanka’s Pol Pot – who
mourns Pol Pot? Why has the world forgotten the LTTE crimes through 30
years and was there any year in each of the 30 years that any foreign
nation, the UN, Navi Pillay or predecessors or film makers such as
MacCrae came forward to tell the world of LTTE crimes?
The LTTE killed more than one child and many of them were not shot,
they were hacked to death using clubs, they were cut up and had their
heads put upon sticks as a message to others.
Pregnant women had their stomachs cut up – where were the films on
these brutal atrocities where tens of thousands of civilians were killed
by the LTTE and children who were just babies? So, if international
players were silent through 30 years, save for a statement, they have no
moral right to now point fingers. They should feel ashamed.
Many wrongs have taken place against the State of Sri Lanka,
especially against its people, and bringing these to light is the best
way a country can move forward. Hiding these facts from history is doing
injustice to the many innocent people and soldiers who sacrificed their
The LTTE is nothing but a terrorist outfit – it is designated so and
it is the LTTE that compromised civilians, placing them as combatants
and this entitles the UN and its associate entities to start questioning
the LTTE front organisations as to why the rights of civilians were
violated and it is not the soldiers that should be found fault for the
crimes committed by the LTTE.
Moreover, all agendas are hidden in human rights legal jargon and we
would like to know how far Sri Lanka’s External Affairs Ministry is upto
the task of ensuring that Sri Lanka’s case is projected as it should be,
to ensure that LTTE terrorists are not safeguarded and Sri Lanka’s
officials do not commit to what satisfies the diplomatic and political
agendas of their counterparts against Sri Lanka and its patriotic Armed
Forces just because they receive personal accolades for the diplomatic
adroitness which serves no interest of the nation, especially that of
the Armed Forces.
Courtesy: eurasia review