Cease-fire monitors in Sri Lanka have blamed government security forces for the slaughter of 17 humanitarian aid workers earlier this month. Although government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels both claim to be sticking to the cease-fire, violence has escalated in recent months.
A statement issued by the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission cited three reasons why it reached its conclusion. First, it noted, security forces had been present in Muttur at the time of the killings. Second, the government had prevented the truce monitors from going to the scene immediately after the bodies were discovered. Third, confidential conversations with ?highly reliable sources? had pointed to the culpability of security forces. No other group, the Monitoring Mission concluded, would have been in a position to carry out the killings, which it called a ?gross violation? of a tattered cease-fire agreement.
?The Security Forces of Sri Lanka are widely and consistently deemed to be responsible for the incident,? the statement read. The New York-based Human Rights Watch pointed out in a statement earlier this month that under international humanitarian law applicable in the current hostilities in Sri Lanka, the summary execution of any person is a war crime. Humanitarian relief workers and their facilities are entitled to special protections against attack, it said.
The 17 employees of the French branch of the international humanitarian agency Action Against Hunger were found dead on Aug. 6 in the agency?s office in Muttur. Fifteen of the employees had been shot in the head. Two had been shot in the back, as though they were trying to escape their attackers, agency officials said at the time. They were all dressed in T-shirts bearing the agency?s name. Action Against Hunger worked on tsunami reconstruction and provided water and sanitation services to people displaced by war.