by Action Against Hunger, France, December 3, 2013
ACF International launches report to disclose the role of Sri Lankan security forces in the massacre of its 17 humanitarian colleagues*
Ahead of International Human Rights Day, observed on 10th December, humanitarian organisation Action Against Hunger | ACF International reveals publicly for the first time who is responsible for the assassination of the 17 humanitarian aid workers killed on 4th August 2006 in the city of Muttur, Sri Lanka, and who protected the perpetrators of the crime. In one of the most serious crimes ever committed against humanitarian workers, the 17 aid workers were lined up, forced to their knees and shot in the head.
Entitled The Truth about the Assassination of 17 Humanitarian Aid Workers in Sri Lanka, the report unveils that according to the information ACF holds, the aid workers were assassinated by members of the Sri Lankan security forces and the criminals were covered up by Sri Lankan top authorities.
‘Every day we and other humanitarian organisations work in war zones,’ said Mike Penrose, Executive Director of ACF-France. ‘It is paramount that those who do not respect humanitarian aid workers are brought to justice and that these crimes do not go unpunished.’
ACF does not seek to be or to replace a judge. Up until now, the organisation’s position was to wait for the outcome of the official investigation. Now that relevant domestic mechanisms have been exhausted, witnesses have been silenced and the internal Sri Lankan investigation has become a farce, ACF considers it has a moral duty to denounce publicly the perpetrators of this crime.
The report brings together publicly available sources**, confidential documents and witness statements obtained by Action Against Hunger from witnesses on the ground and overseas, diplomatic contacts and other sources close to the matter. These sources implicate Army, Navy and Police personnel in the killings.
ACF calls on the international community to consider seriously the arguments presented in the report and to end the impunity by conducting an independent international investigation into the massacre. If such an investigation is opened, ACF stands ready to cooperate with it in full by providing additional information in its possession.
Every day, humanitarian workers risk their lives delivering assistance in situations of armed conflicts. Respect for those who deliver humanitarian assistance is the most important condition to be observed by warring parties. Impunity for the Muttur massacre is not only an example of flagrant injustice for the deceased aid workers; it is also a brutal sign to the international community that humanitarian aid workers who work in situations of armed conflict are no longer protected nor respected.
*About the Muttur Massacre: Seventeen humanitarian aid workers working for Action Against Hunger were brutally executed on the organisation’s premises in Muttur on 4th August 2006. The aid workers were lined up and shot dead at close range. The Muttur massacre is not only a crime against humanitarian workers of unseen scale but also one of the most atrocious war crimes committed during the Sri Lankan internal armed conflict.
**Sources include: WikiLeaks cables, NGO articles, UN reports and press articles amongst others
On 4th August 2006, 17 humanitarian aid
workers of Action contre la Faim (ACF)
were brutally assassinated in the Sri
Lankan town of Muttur – the aid workers were lined
up and summarily executed on the organisation’s
premises. The Muttur massacre is one of the most
atrocious war crimes ever committed against
ACF has closely followed the domestic investigation
only to become convinced that the Sri Lankan
justice system is incapable of investigating the
case. Several domestic mechanisms dealing with
the Muttur massacre arrived at no conclusion: the
Magistrate Court (from 2006 to 2008), the National
Commission of Human Rights (from 2006 to 2008),
the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (CoI)
(from 2007 to 2010) and the Lessons Learnt and
Reconciliation Commission (from 2010 to 2012).
Meanwhile, a lot of information has leaked into the
public domain, including the names of the alleged
murderers. ACF has also collected information
which reveals that the 17 humanitarian aid
workers were likely assassinated by members
of Sri Lankan security forces and the criminals
must have been covered up by Sri Lankan top
This report brings together publicly available
information on the Muttur case, combines this
with information obtained by ACF directly (from
witnesses, diplomatic contacts and other sources
close to the matter) and offers several arguments
in support of this allegation.
The report begins with the results of independent
investigations and individual testimonies which
implicate Army, Navy and Police personnel in
the killings and continues with a description of
how the security forces attempted to destroy
the evidence in the days immediately after the
massacre. The report then explores the multiple
irregularities of the official investigation which
have helped the killers avoid justice and the role
that the top Sri Lankan authorities have played in
Facing growing pressure by the international
community for an effective investigation, Sri
Lankan authorities are attempting to deflect public
attention by claiming that another investigation into
the Muttur massacre has been opened. However,
deliberate subversion of the investigative process
over the past 7 years and continuous harassment
of witnesses and journalists who have raised the
case have demonstrated that no effective legal
action can be taken in today’s Sri Lanka in relation
to the Muttur massacre. ACF believes that only
an independent international investigation can
effectively lead to prosecution of the killers.
With no prospects of an effective domestic
investigation today, ACF has decided to publicly
say what it knows about the Muttur massacre.