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Obama on Sri Lanka in 2009

As the Sri Lankan government continued to massacre thousands of Tamil civilians through mass bombardment, newly inaugurated President Obama addressed the press on the White House lawn, saying:

“First, the [Sri Lanka] government should stop the indiscriminate shelling, ... including [of] several hospitals, and ...

“... the government should live up to its commitment to not use heavy weapons in the conflict zone.

“Second, the government should give UN humanitarian teams access to the civilians who are trapped between the warring parties so that they can receive the immediate assistance necessary to save lives.

“Third, the government should also allow the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross access to nearly 190,000 displaced people ... so that they can receive the support that they need.”

But Sri Lanka did none of these things. Instead, the massacres and humanitarian blockade continued. It was, Colombo argued, a “humanitarian mission” and “fighting terrorism.”

Up to 40,000 civilians were killed in the last six months of Sri Lanka's war.

Just weeks before Obama’s comments, Robert Templer, Asia Director of the International Crisis Group observed:

“Barack Obama's administration has said it is committed to the principals of international law and humanitarian protection. Sri Lanka is the perfect opportunity for the new US president to show that this is not empty rhetoric."

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