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12 years ago, 17 employees of Action Against Hunger were executed in Muttur, Sri Lanka. These men and women, despite the fact that they were properly identified as aid workers, were murdered in their offices on August 6th, 2006, as they were providing assistance to the tsunami casualties. Since then, there still has been no appropriate court. Action Against Hunger keeps on demanding the prosecution of the perpetrators.
Rarely have humanitarian workers been targeted with such violence. This assault, led by some members of the Sri Lankan government forces, constitutes a war crime, as the Geneva Conventions rule that during wartime, civilians and aid workers’ protection remains an uninfringeable principle.
Taken aback in their offices, the 17 Action Against Hunger’s aid workers were murdered, while their only objective was to support the populations. After having helped more than 100 000 persons in Sri Lanka since 2005, the organization has eventually decided to leave the national soil two years after the killing. Beyond the victims, their relatives and coworkers, it is also a whole population that has been wronged.
"Since 2006, the Sri Lankan government, after failing in its duty to protect its population and all aid workers, has failed in its duty to provide justice"
The national investigations that were conducted were futile; and Action Against Hunger’s inquiries have been overlooked. « To face this impunity, we have succeeded in obtaining in 2014 the opening of an international investigation, which has led to a report on the crimes committed during the Sri Lankan civil war. The United Nations’ Civil Rights Council has substantiated our conclusions, regarding the government forces’ implication and the threats to the families and witnesses » Pauline Chetcuti adds.
Thereafter, the United Nations and the Sri Lankan government approved the establishment of a special international court, requested by the Council. Yet, it has been constantly delayed. Sri Lanka is indeed impeding the process by refusing the presence of international judges. The United Nations have recently asserted in a report from the Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism, that “none of the measures adopted so far to meet Sri Lanka’s commitment to provide transitional justice is appropriate to ensure real progress”.
"Action Against Hunger will not give up achieving justice for the 17 victims of the Muttur massacre."
« This tragedy thus reminds us that humanitarian workers are still threatened in conflict areas, in the same way as for civilians; despite the fact that their action is sorely needed. No humanitarian mission can be carried out under such conditions, » Pauline Chetcuti claims.
This tragedy is unfortunately not an isolated event. On August 19th, 2018, the World Humanitarian Day, a tribute will be paid to all those who have perished on the field and to those who keep on providing assistance to millions of people throughout the world. The international community must rally to ensure that disregard and contempt will not prevail. The safety of all aid workers is no option.
« We demand the competent authorities to prompt Sri Lanka to implement a realistic and independent mechanism to combat impunity while guaranteeing accountability » Pauline Chetcuti concludes.
Twelve years after the massacre, we do not forget them and we will not give up on our search for justice: M. Narmathan, I. Muralitharan, R. Arulrajah, T. Pratheeban, A. Jaseelan, G. Kavitha, K. Kovarthani, V. Kokilavathani, S. Romila, M. Ketheswaran, M. Rishikesan, S.P. Anantharajah, G. Sritharan, S. Koneswaran, S. Ganesh, Y. Kodeeswaran, A.L.M. Jawffar.
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