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LTTE, Human Shield and Laws Of Armed Conflict

LTTE, Human Shield and Laws Of Armed Conflict

Dr. P.A.Samaraweera,

According to recent statistics the number of civilians arriving in government controlled areas have reached nearly 50,000. On Friday 20th about 2000 had arrived from LTTE held areas, the highest per day so far. The LTTE is holding civilians as a human shield to take cover and combat the security forces. Many fleeing civilians had been killed or injured by the Tigers shooting at them. Civilians who arrived in the cleared areas had confirmed this. It had also been reported that Prabhakaran and his son is often seen mingling with the civilians.
The suffering caused to the civilians by holding them as a shield is against The Laws of Armed Conflict (LOAC). The Geneva Convention of 1949 as well aim to protect non-combatants and civilians from unnecessary suffering during armed conflict.
The LOAC focuses in protecting civilians and preventing unnecessary suffering and destruction to them.  Further, targeting civilians for the sole purpose of terrifying them  is also prohibited. According to the LOAC,  "...Commanders must take into consideration unintended  civil destruction... and minimise civil casualties...Civilians are also not to be made objects of direct attack... Obliterating homes, destroying families and causing humanitarian suffering to be avoided... shield civilians from greatest harm..." 
In contrast to the above, the LTTE is breaching The Laws of Armed Conflict by holding civilians as a human shield, combatants and commanders mixing with civilians  and forcibly conscripting  civilians. On the other hand, the Sri Lankan security forces have openly declared that it had ceased to use heavy weapons and also avoided direct confrontations where there are civilians.
It is surprising to note that with all this, the international community and the Human Rights Institutions are turning a blind eye for this brutal conduct of the LTTE. This was clearly seen by the UN Human Rights Report released recently and by the pro-LTTE rallies held in some countries. These demonstrations supporting a proscribed  terrorist organisation were conducted despite the fact that the LTTE is banned in so many of those countries.
The irony is that the western world while 'entertaining' the sympathisers of the most brutal terror organisation, the LTTE,  is  combating terrorism in their countries in an aggressive way. For example, in February this year, the US saying that the situation in Afghanistan has become complex approved the deployment of 30,000 more troops to stabilize the country and combat terrorism. Since US invasion in 2001, there are already 70,000 soldiers. Then in Iraq, US and its allies have 140,000 soldiers in the war zone and to combat terrorism.
Further, The New York Times of March 8th, referred to an interview .  "...  in the interview, US left  open the option for American operatives to capture terrorism suspects abroad even without the cooperation of a country where they were found... Let's say, we have a well known Al Qaeda  operative appearing in a third country with whom we don't have an extradition relationship or would not be willing to prosecute, but we think  is a dangerous person..."
As against this policy, in the western countries hard core LTTE cadres are moving freely involved in money laundering, drug trafficking, arms smuggling and so on raising funds for terrorists in Sri Lanka. It is because of this sloppy attitude of some countries that the Tigers are bold enough to hold  civilians as a human shield breaching the Laws of Armed Conflict. If the west is keen to eradicate terrorism then they should serve all terrorists with the same spoon.


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