Does "military logic" dictate civilian deaths in Sri Lanka?

May 1, 2009

Yesterday, the U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes told a press conference in New York, following his two-day visit to Sri Lanka, that “both sides are pursuing their military logics, if I can put it that way.”  He was referring to the Sri Lankan government’s refusal to agree to a humanitarian pause in hostilities and the refusal by the opposition Tamil Tigers to let the civilians trapped in the war zone in northeastern Sri Lanka leave the area.  Will continued fighting in a shrinking war zone, combined with tens of thousands of civilians being held captive by the Tigers, inevitably mean massive civilian deaths?

We may not have much more time to find out.  President Rajapaksa said today that the government planned to conquer the remaining Tiger-held area in the next five or six days.

“With relatives like these…”:  A Sri Lankan government minister said today that the civilians who’ve managed to flee the war zone already “are totally free and willing to be members of a single Sri Lankan family.”  Meanwhile, a Tiger spokesman today denied that the Tigers were holding the estimated 50,000 civilians in the war zone as human shields, saying, “We all are family.  How could anyone hold his or her family as a ‘human shield?'”

Before it’s too late, the Tigers must announce that civilians are free to leave the war zone and the Sri Lankan government must agree to a pause in the fighting, so the civilians can leave safely and aid can get into the zone.