The Sri Lankan government’s continued denial over the military’s use of cluster munitions is an “ever increasing affront to victims” said the International Truth and Justice Project, after Sri Lanka was chosen to head the Convention on Cluster munitions earlier this month.
“Fudging your own past use is simply not an option as President of the body championing the campaign to eliminate this banned weapon,” said the Executive Director of the ITJP, Yasmin Sooka, who investigated the allegations of cluster bomb use in 2011 for the UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka. “Tamils who worked for the United Nations and de-mining groups tell us on several occasions they personally witnessed cluster munitions falling and examined the casings immediately afterwards.”
Sooka went on to highlight reports of cluster munition use during the arm conflict, stating that “doctors in the war zone operated to remove a cluster munition embedded in a woman’s leg”.
“After the war, deminers described finding cluster remains in several locations, only to have the army cordone off the area and keep the findings secret from the local community,” she added.
“This continual denial is an ever increasing affront to the victims who witnessed the death and injury of loved ones - or were themselves injured by cluster munitions... The Government of Sri Lanka has never explained how cluster munitions were dropped from the air onto civilians if it wasn’t from their jets”.
See the full statement from the ITJP, and a compiled briefing not on cluster bomb use, here.
Leaked photos obtained by the Guardian in 2016 showed demining teams excavating cluster munitions from Kilinochchi and Chalai in Mullaitivu, sites of heavy bombardment by Sri Lankan forces during the armed conflict. Though the Halo Trust did not comment on the photographs, it confirmed that it had recovered a total of 42 cluster munitions in several sites around the Tamil North-East during de-mining work in 2011 and 2012.
See more in our feature: Leaked photos confirm cluster bomb use in Sri Lanka (19 Jun 2016)