Urgent Action appeal
Urgent Action appeal
By James McDonald
(Date: Feb 1996)
Amnesty International issued the following Urgent Action appeal today.
Deliberate and arbitrary killings / Fear of further killings
At least 80 civilians were deliberately and arbitrarily killed when
a lorry containing explosives was driven into the entrance of the
Central Bank in Fort, central Colombo, on 31 January 1996.
Observers believe that members of a Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
(LTTE)'s suicide squad were driving the lorry.
According to eye-witnesses, three armed men drove the lorry up to
the front of the building; two of them jumped out and started
shooting at random. The other one drove the lorry into the gate,
which had been closed by a security guard, detonating the explosives
in it. Among those killed were passersby, employees of the bank and
other institutions and offices in the area, all of whom appear to
be civilians. Hundreds more were injured.
Although the LTTE has not acknowledged responsibility, the manner
in which the attack was carried out is reminiscent of similar
attacks on military targets attributed to them in the last few
years. The two armed men in the lorry have reportedly been arrested
and are said to have confessed to being members of the LTTE.
According to a Reuters report, the LTTE claimed in a radio message
that "military analysts have said it is the work of the security
forces". A spokesperson at the LTTE's International Secretariat in
London declined to comment on this report and said that due to
difficulty in communication with the leadership in Sri Lanka, they
were not able to issue a statement.
In a press release of 19 January 1996 headed Warning Again,
delivered at the offices of the Colombo newspaper, The Island, on
31 January, the Ellalan Force, widely believed to be a front
organization for the LTTE, warned tourists and investors not to come
to Sri Lanka and help the government in its military offensive,
including bombing and shelling. It said: "The Ellalan Force won't
be responsible for the casualties due to the bomb explosion in
Amnesty International considers such killings of civilians in large
numbers to be a clear and abhorrent violation of humanitarian law.
The organization fears further such killings unless the LTTE
leadership take immediate measures to put a stop to them.
Amnesty International has repeatedly appealed to both the LTTE and
to the Government of Sri Lanka to avoid deliberate and arbitrary
killings in the context of the ongoing armed conflict in the
northeast of the country. It reiterated its appeal on 26 September
1995 amid reports of escalating fighting in the northern Jaffna
peninsula during a large-scale military offensive launched by the
government aimed at taking control of Jaffna town, the main town
which had been under control of the LTTE since 1990.
During the military offensive, there were a number of reports of
killings of civilians during alleged indiscriminate bombing and
shelling by the security forces. There were also allegations of
deliberate and arbitrary killings. However, due to restrictions
imposed on travel to the area and a press censorship in force at the
time, independent information about the alleged human rights abuses
Amnesty International does not take a position on the legitimacy of
resorting to arms to pursue political goals. Neither does it address
the general issue of military tactics. Rather, the organization
calls on all parties to a conflict to respect basic principles of
international humanitarian law, and in particular to refrain from
deliberate and arbitrary killings, including the killing of
civilians. In a letter of 11 September 1995 to the LTTE's main
representative abroad (which was made public - see UA 121/95, ASA
37/09/95, 26 May 1995 and follow-ups ASA 37/22/95, 19 September and
ASA 37/24/95, 24 October), Amnesty International set out in detail
its concerns about continuing reports of deliberate and arbitrary
killings of civilians by members of the LTTE.
Amnesty International, in a message sent on 31 January 1996 to
President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, appealed for all
necessary measures to be taken to prevent any reprisal killings of
Tamil civilians in either Colombo or other areas of the country.
Amnesty International is deeply concerned about the deliberate and
arbitrary killing of at least 80 civilians, allegedly by members of
an LTTE suicide squad in Colombo. Amnesty International is urging
the LTTE that, if it is indeed responsible for this attack, the LTTE
take urgent steps to ensure an immediate halt to any further killings