New Satellite Images Show Bombardment of Sri Lankan "Safety Zone"

May 4, 2009

Suspected site of multiple shelling craters within Civilian Safe Zone (c) Digital Globe 2009 / UNOSAT
Suspected site of multiple shelling craters within Civilian Safe Zone (c) Digital Globe 2009 / UNOSAT

UNOSAT released new satellite images of the Sri Lanka war zone. Conclusion:

Within the northern and southern sections of the Civilian Safe Zone (CSZ), there are new indications of building destruction and damages resulting from shelling and possible air strikes. (…) An additional 5 permanent buildings within the CSZ have been destroyed between 29 March & 19 April bringing the total estimate within the CSZ to approximately 60 main buildings destroyed. This count does not include potential damages to or destruction of IDP tent shelters. (…) Over five thousand of IDP shelters were relocated within the CSZ during April under pressure from increased shelling and military operations along the western sections of the CSZ. The approximate area of IDP settlement has further shifted eastward towards the coastline and south into the areas of heavy shelling between the villages of Karaiyamullivaikal and Vellamullivaikal.

While Franceso Pisano, manager of the UNOSAT program, declined to assign responsibility for the bombardments, Human Rights Watch’s Peter Bouckaert makes clear that the Sri Lankan Government is to blame: “This is incontrovertible evidence that the Government has been lying for months.”

Over the last few months, both the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan government have been violating the laws of war. The Tamil Tigers have used civilians trapped in the conflict zone as a buffer against government forces. The Sri Lankan military has reportedly used heavy artillery despite the presence of a large civilian population in the conflict zone.

Despite a pledge by the government to stop using heavy weaponry, there was continued shelling on 28 April with 204 injured civilians admitted to a health facility in the hamlet of Mullivakkal, according to medical staff. Of these, 29 patients subsequently died.