No cause however great, be it a claim of liberation or national security justifies attacks on innocent civilians. The bottom line in any human discourse is the basic humanity of all human beings. Where this bottom line is crossed the boundary between humanity and inhumanity is breached. The Asian Human Rights Commission unequivocally condemns the placing of the bomb on a bus at Piliyandala killing 26 civilians and injuring 70 on April 25, which has been attributed to the LTTE. No amount of excuses on the basis that the Sri Lankan armed forces have engaged in similar acts of brutality towards Tamil civilians will minimize the senseless cruelty of this act. One act of inhumanity cannot be compensated by other acts of inhumanity. The argument that the opponent is as barbarous, or even more barbarous, than the proponent does not provide moral legitimisation of an action of the most despicable kind in targeting unsuspecting civilians engaged in the day to day affairs of their simple lives, and often difficult task of living.

Piliyandala, on the outskirts of Colombo is an area which is underdeveloped and most people living in such areas are poor. The commuters from this bus station to the inner parts of the country can also be presumed to be ordinary folk, who after a hard day of work, were returning to their homes. The targeting of these persons does not prove any other point than hopelessness, demoralization, backwardness and inhumanity. In a country where the law is respected this crime would have been considered a crime against humanity. Under the International Criminal Code (ICC) this act at Piliyandala would easily qualify as an act against humanity and would constitute a crime against humanity. Those who carried out the act and those who planned it, directly or indirectly, would be considered to have committed a grave crime under international law.

However, opening the discussion in this area will immediately lead to political attacks, as any talk of international law, the ICC and other forms of local or international legal liability for crimes against civilians, is considered the highest among the politically sensitive subjects in Sri Lanka. Those who raise such issues are considered traitors who wish to bring human rights monitors into the country or to expose the human rights problems in the country to international tribunals. Even the simpler criticisms made by the IIGEP were treated by the country’s Attorney General himself as a ‘sinister plot.

The question then arising is as how to prevent future actions such as the incident at Piliyandala and many other places. At the moment, from the point of view of law and law enforcement, there is no such possibility. The victims of the Piliyandala bomb blast, like all other civilian victims in the south, north and east, are destined to be denied justice. There will be the ritual of condemnations, the promise of investigations and some symbolic gestures of the increase of road checks and barriers. This is a ritual that all Sri Lankan’s are familiar with, and the expectation of justice itself has ceased.

It is to this problem that the local people themselves and the concerned persons internationally must try to find a solution. Attacks on civilians by one party claiming it to be retaliation for the acts of the other party will continue to happen until the dead end of reason that the country has arrived at is broken by some means. There must be some room for reason if the inhumanity that goes on in the name of the conflict is to be reduced and eliminated. The Asian Human Rights Commission regrets that it cannot suggest anything more at this moment other than to appeal to the reason of the people of Sri Lanka and those who are genuinely concerned about the preservation of human decency in civilisation to give their thoughts to the crisis faced in this country.

For further information please refer to our previous statement and UPI article:

Human lives matter at:

http://www.upiasiaonline.com/Human_Rights/2008/01/18/human_lives_matter/7158/

SRI LANKA: New Year and the loss of meaning in personal tragedy at:

http://www.ahrchk.net/statements/mainfile.php/2008statements/1459/