Recommendations of LLRC report implemented - Dr. Kohona
Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations,
Ambassador Dr. Palitha Kohona has outlined the key features and
recommendations of the final report of the Lessons Learnt and
On May 15, 2010, President Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed the Commission
of Inquiry on the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC)
and hardly 15 months after the end of the conflict, on August 11, 2010
this independent body commenced hearings. The hearings were open to the
Many of the sessions of the LLRC were observed by Colombo-based
diplomats and the media. The LLRC collected evidence from hundreds of
witnesses, had sittings in many parts of the country and even invited AI
(Amnesty International), HRW (Human Rights Watch) and ICG (International
Crisis Group) to present evidence, which they, regretfully declined to
The Commission submitted its Report on November 20, 2011 and it was
subsequently tabled in Parliament. It is now a public document. The
Government has categorically stated that it will implement its
recommendations, Dr. Kohona said.
He said the LLRC concluded that the protection of civilian life was a
key element in the formulation of policies by the Government for
carrying out military operations.
Contrary to other assertions made, the deliberate targeting of
civilians formed no part of its military strategy. Targeting of
civilians would have been militarily and politically counter-productive.
The LLRC observed that the military operations were conducted
professionally. It also urged that if transgressions by individuals had
taken place, these be further examined and appropriate legal action
The Ambassador said the LLRC surveyed the law relating to the
protection of civilians in armed conflict situations. This is important
as so many different interpretations of the law have been bandied
around. The Four Geneva Conventions and the two Protocols of 1977 were
discussed. Sri Lanka is a party to the Four Geneva Conventions. The 1980
Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and the Five Protocols are
The LLRC discussed material relating to the responsibility of State
security forces to protect civilians. Quoting extensively from
authoritative sources, it stated that there is an obligation to ensure
that civilians were not harmed.
This obligation is, however, qualified. Feasible precautions must be
taken to distinguish between civilians and combatants. However, a margin
of discretion is left to field commanders given the “heat and confusion”
He said any attack must be proportionate to the necessity of
achieving the military objective. The LLRC has observed that in many
instances, especially towards the end of the conflict, LTTE combatants
did not wear uniforms, combatants could have been civilians forcibly
taken into the ranks to perform military or support duties, combatants
could even include children.
In a situation where the combatants were not identifiable, and the
LTTE had merged protected premises with combat strategy, it would be
difficult to distinguish “civilians” and combatants. Naturally, the
number of civilians dead would be difficult to determine.
The envoy said rules distinctly require that civilian areas not be
used for military operations, including the location of offensive
The LTTE located its weaponry among civilians, including in the
No-Fire Zone (NFZ), attracting retaliatory fire. There is extensive UAV
(Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) footage of LTTE weapons in the NFZ.Aerial
attacks almost always followed both UAV observations and ground
confirmation. The LLRC noted that the Sri Lanka Army conducts its own
international humanitarian law training programs developed with the
assistance of the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) and
the Red Cross, suggesting that humanitarian law was considered very
important to the military.
He said the UN humanitarian agencies have not been in a position to
verify civilian casualty figures. There was, in fact, no proper
The so-called hospitals were largely makeshift medical facilities
being established in the wake of the retreating LTTE.
There were some suggestions that food and medical supplies were
deliberately held back from civilians. But the LLRC noted that food and
medical supplies were monitored by the CCHA (Consultative Committee on
Humanitarian Assistance) which included the Ambassadors of the USA,
Japan, EU and Germany, United Nations agencies and the ICRC.
There was no deliberate effort to deny food and medicine, despite the
lack of security and ongoing fighting. The Government Agents maintained
a three month buffer stock.
When access to Mullaitivu by land became impossible, the Government
sent food and medicine to Mullaitivu, by sea, under ICRC protection.
From February to May 9, 2009, the ICRC evacuated 5,490 patients
including pregnant women. The patients were moved to Government
No accurate figures
The number of civilians living in the LTTE controlled areas had not
been clearly established. Not even the UN had an accurate figure. Many
also were escaping into Government-controlled areas continuously. The
LLRC observed that there were deaths and injuries to civilians. The
number is disputed.
The Secretary General’s Panel Report was cited by the LLRC. When the
No Fire Zones were declared unilaterally by the Government with
designated exit corridors, the LTTE deliberately clustered the civilian
population and positioned military hardware, including long range guns
among the civilians.
The Security Forces had to return fire to neutralise these gun
positions. The LLRC heard no representations from civilians or LTTE
cadre that the Security Forces deliberately targeted civilians, he said.
On the other hand, civilian witnesses described many instances where
the LTTE deliberately fired at people attempting to flee into
The LLRC also concluded that many LTTE cadre would have been among
The UN humanitarian agencies which had in-situ information about
casualty figures from January to April 2009, and thereafter secondary
source information, have said that it was not possible to establish a
The LLRC recommended that specific instances of breaches of rules of
combat be investigated fully and if necessary, prosecution undertaken.
A professionally designed household survey to ascertain the scale and
the circumstances of death and injuries to civilians as well as damages
to properties was also recommended. Channel 4 had not made the original
footage available to the LLRC for examination. The LLRC recommended that
the Government initiate an independent inquiry on the video and if the
summary executions see on it were proved to be accurate, the offenders
On the other hand, if the footage is artificially constructed, as
suggested by some of the witnesses, the Commission recommends that the
Government of Sri Lanka institute an independent investigation into
The LLRC examined questions raised with regard to disappearances and
abductions (white vans also), treatment of detainees, illegal armed
groups, children, women, the elderly, disabled persons, displaced
persons, the Muslim community displaced in the North, freedom of
expression and freedom of religion.
Sri Lanka is a party to the seven core HR treaties. In this context,
it is noted that the emergency regulations were lifted last year after
Former LTTE combatants numbering 11,954 underwent rehabilitation.
Less than 1,000 still remain in custody. This was achieved in a space of
two and a half years.
The LLRC recommended that next of kin have the right to access all
The Commission recommends the appointment of an Independent Advisory
Committee to monitor and examine the detainees and arrest persons under
the Public Security Ordinance.
It recommends that the issuance of death certificates and monetary
recompense, where necessary, should be expedited. It noted the recent
amendments to the Registration of Deaths Act.
The LLRC recommends that investigations be conducted in respect of
allegations against illegal armed groups with a view to ascertaining the
truth and the institution on criminal proceedings against offenders.
The LLRC examined the cases of many widowed women and made a series
of recommendations to deal with their specific complaints. The
Government has already carried out a series of measures including a
comprehensive census in the Northern Province, which will enable firm
and verifiable conclusions to be derived at on issues involving
disappearances and deaths.
The Government will establish a mechanism for gathering and assessing
evidence relating to the much publicised episodes. A strong
investigative mechanism will be put in place. The material yielded by
such an investigation will be placed before the Attorney General for a
decision to determine the institution of criminal proceedings.
In the cases of alleged deaths, once finality is reached, the
issuance of death certificates and the provision of a range of relief,
including monetary compensation, and access to education and employment
sectors, are among the steps that will be taken as a matter of urgency.
Many people lost their lands during the 30 years of conflict. All
Sinhalese and Muslims were evicted by the LTTE from Jaffna. Many
Sinhalese and Muslims were ethnically cleansed from the East by the LTTE.
Those lands were distributed among LTTE supporters. In the final phase
of the conflict, over 294,000 became displaced.
It is not an easy task to return all these people to their original
lands. Loss of documentation relating to ownership is a major issue.
Some lands were demarcated as HSZs (High Security Zones) and landmines
were located extensively. Approximately 3,900 sq km have been cleared.
The Commission’s suggestions regarding institutional mechanisms to
deal with and documentation and user-right issues would assist in
addressing this issue.
The launch of a well-designed, settler-centred communication campaign
to provide fuller information will be immediately undertaken. The
Commission’s recommendations about the formulation of a land use plan
for each district in the Northern and Eastern Provinces will be used.
With regard to the extent of the two High Security Zones in the North
and the East, as the Commission has recognised, the extent of the zones
has diminished significantly in terms of area and restrictions.
The Government will closely monitor and expedite continuing progress
in this regard. There has been considerable progress in respect of
access to places of religious worship, very few of which are currently
situated within the remaining High Security Zones. Any residual issues
will be resolved in a time-bound manner. Resettlement will involve
extensive resources. Schools, clinics, roads, electricity, water and
community services will have to be restored.
The Government, moreover, regards as fundamental the principle that
any citizen of Sri Lanka has the inalienable right to acquire land in
any part of the island in accordance with applicable laws.
The Government is committed to withdrawing the security forces from
all aspects of community life. Their role will be confined exclusively
to security-related matters.
The police, with Tamil language capability, will be further
strengthened to deal with law and order functions. More than 600
Tamil-speaking police officers have been recruited already. As a means
of enhancing effectiveness in this regard, units of the
Attorney–General’s Department will be set up in the Provinces to provide
guidance to the police with regard to procedure.
The Government places particular emphasis on bringing about a total
end to the possession of unauthorised weapons. This issue, which was
closely linked to the turbulent conditions prevailing at the height of
the conflict, has been addressed with considerable success. Where there
is evidence relating to the possession of illegal weapons, raids will be
conducted on the basis of a policy of zero tolerance.
As a central feature of the Government’s approach to reconciliation,
a Parliamentary Select Committee has been set up to achieve a national
consensus in respect of Constitutional changes which are necessary to
fulfil minority aspirations. Parallel with this, an all-party mechanism
necessary for the sustainability of far-reaching Constitutional Reforms
is under study and the Government is in the process of conducting
bilateral discussions with Tamil political parties on a structured
The Government has no doubt that the Trilingual Policy, already
announced as a cornerstone of its plans for the 2012, will make a
valuable contribution to building bridges among the communities,
consolidating a sense of national unity.
Out of over 294,000 displaced persons at the end of May 2009, Sri
Lanka’s achievement in bringing down the numbers to a mere 6,647 by the
end of 2011 has been commended internationally. The Government has spent
US $ 360 million on the resettlement program.
Demining of conflict-affected areas was carried out at a pace that is
comparable with the best efforts anywhere in the world. At present 3,900
sq. km. have been demined. More than 354,000 Anti-personnel Mines and
227 Anti-tank Mines have been recovered from these areas. The Army is
responsible for around 80 percent of the successful demining operations.
Over 11,600 ex-combatants have gone through varying programs of
rehabilitation, depending on the need and level of involvement in
terrorism. Less than 1,000 remain in the Government’s rehabilitation
centres, undergoing rehabilitation programs. Careful attention was given
to the 595 LTTE child soldiers in Government custody, who were
rehabilitated under a program assisted by UNICEF, and reintegrated into
their families within one year.
The Government is undertaking massive infrastructure and economic
development programs in the North and the East, the former theatres of
conflict. The total allocation for the Jaffna District in the North is
around US $ 300 million while US $ 250 million and US $ 150 million have
been invested in projects in the Kilinochchi and Batticaloa districts
respectively. Since the end of the conflict, a 22 percent economic
growth has been recorded in the North, while Sri Lanka’s GDP recorded an
eight percent growth in 2011.
One of the major external challenges that Sri Lanka faces as it
strives to consolidate the peace is that is the campaign launched by the
remnants of the internationally proscribed terrorist organisation in
some countries. This terrorist rump is not only undermining the
reconciliation and development efforts carried out by the Government of
Sri Lanka, but is also attempting to pursue punitive action on human
rights violations, issuing the governments of their host countries.
It is the firm position of the Government of Sri Lanka that it will
not favour any external intervention into domestic issues. Such
interventions would not be in keeping with established international
practice, where the domestic process needs to be exhausted prior to
resorting to externalisation.
Courtesy: Asian Tribune