Posts Tagged ‘civilians’

Pakistani Civilians Among 17 Killed in Latest US Drone Strikes

March 11, 2010

Drone Attacked Crowd of Civilians Rescuing Victims of Previous Drone

by Jason Ditz,, March 10, 2010

An unknown number of civilians were slain today in Pakistan’s North Waziristan Agency, when US drones launched a pair of attacks on a site which left at least 17 people killed and several wounded.

The first drone strike targeted a vehicle which Pakistani officials say was “carrying some miscreants.” The attack killed at least eight people and collapsed a nearby home, which is what precipitated the second attack.

A crowd of civilians gathered around the collapsed building, trying to pull people from the rubble, when a second drone fired missiles into the crowd, killing at least nine people and wounding several others.

“Miscreants” aside, it was unclear if any of those killed were militants of any significant faction, and Pakistani officials say there was no evidence any high-value target at the site. The area is controlled by a nominally “Taliban” militant faction which currently has a peace deal with the Pakistani government.

Pakistan government unprepared for South Waziristan displacement crisis

October 21, 2009

Pakistan Army troops prepare to leave for patrolling during a curfew in Bannu, Pakistan, 17 October 2009.

Pakistan Army troops prepare to leave for patrolling during a curfew in Bannu, Pakistan, 17 October 2009.

© AP GraphicsBank

Amnesty International, 19 October 2009

The government of Pakistan remains woefully under-prepared for a displacement crisis in South Waziristan as civilians flee the region following three days of heavy fighting, Amnesty International said on Monday.

Tens of thousands of residents have escaped the conflict zone after Pakistan’s army launched a new offensive against suspected Al-Qaeda and Taliban forces on Saturday in the northwest of the country.

Many are seeking refuge in the neighbouring areas of Dera Ismail Khan and Tank but Amnesty International research teams on the ground report a glaring lack of facilities to support the influx of displaced families.

Continues >>

Sri Lanka: attacks on free media put displaced civilians at risk

August 15, 2009

Vigil marking the first anniversary of the detention of Sri Lankan journalist Jayaprakash Sittampalam Tissainayagam, London, March 2008

Vigil marking the first anniversary of the detention of Sri Lankan journalist Jayaprakash Sittampalam Tissainayagam, London, March 2008

Amnesty International, Aug 14, 2009

Attacks on journalists, relentless intimidation, and government-imposed restrictions on reporting threaten freedom of expression in Sri Lanka and jeopardize the safety and dignity of civilians displaced by war.

The Sri Lankan government actively obstructed reporting on the last stages of the recently concluded armed conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE – Tamil Tigers). Civilians were subjected to artillery attacks and both sides were accused of committing war crimes.

The government continues to deny journalists and media workers unrestricted access to hundreds and thousands of displaced people living in camps, hindering reporting on their war experiences and on conditions in the camps themselves.

Continues >>

Sri Lanka – camps, media…genocide?

July 1, 2009

Martin ShawOpenDemocracy, June 30, 2009

What kind of violence has the Sri Lankan state been committing against its Tamil civilian population as the island‘s civil war ended; on what scale and with what intentions? Martin Shaw explores the difficult terrain where war, atrocity and genocide meet.

The civil war in Sri Lanka is receding from the international headlines, as crises in Iran and celebrity deaths occupy the media’s limited space and attention-span. A very large number of its Tamil victims are still, more than six weeks after the fighting ended, confined in government forces in a complex of forty camps in the north east of the country. An estimated 280,000 civilians – originally displaced from their homes by the fighting between the Sri Lankan military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (TamilTigers / LTTE), and in some cases fleeing from the brutal regime in the LTTE’s former “liberated” zone – are being held, generally against their will.

Continued >>

At least 40,000 civilians in Pakistan’s Swat: Red Cross

June 11, 2009

At least 40,000 civilians in Pakistan's Swat: Red Cross AFP/File – Pakistani civilians queue for food Swabi. The Red Cross has warned that some 40,000 civilians remain …, Tue Jun 9, 11:52 am ET

GENEVA (AFP) – Some 40,000 civilians remain in Pakistan‘s troubled Swat region where they lack access to electricity and water amid a military assault against the Taliban, the Red Cross said on Tuesday.

“Every time we entered a village, hundreds of people asked for help,” said Michael von Bergen, an International Committee of the Red Cross representative who was part of a convoy delivering aid in the region last weekend.

“Those who did not leave are now desperate. They need food, clean water and working medical facilities,” he added in a statement.

The situation in the area “remains volatile,” assessed the ICRC, adding that a curfew remain in place in Swat.

Pakistan launched its push into Lower Dir, Buner and Swat in late April and early May after the Taliban advanced to within 100 kilometres (60 miles) of Islamabad, violating a deal to put three million people under sharia law in exchange for peace.

Pakistan has not released civilian casualty figures as a result of the operations but says more than 1,300 rebels have been killed. The fighting has displaced around 2.4 million people.

Rights Group: Hundreds of Thousands of Trapped Swatis Face Catastrophe

May 27, 2009
2.3 Million Fled, But 200,000 Remain as Shortages Worsen

by Jason Ditz |, May 26, 2009

Being among the 2.3 million Swat Valley residents who have fled the military’s offensive is not easy. The government-run refugee camps are filled to beyond capacity, and the refugees are not being allowed into neighboring provinces that fear an influx of the displaced.

Yet according to Human Rights Watch, the hundreds of thousands of civilians who remain trapped in the valley have it even worse, facing severe shortages of food, water and medicine in addition to dealing with military curfews, surly militants, and artillery barrages. The group is calling on the military to lift its curfew to allow more civilians to leave.

Swatis in the valley’s northern section have had the hardest time fleeing, with the roads south generally controlled by the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Some have attempted to flee north through the mountain passes, but the military has been attacking people along those passes, making that route unsafe.

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Rethinking the Costs of Peace

May 25, 2009
The US has provided to Israel more than $100 billion in military and economic assistance.

By Josh Ruebner | The Palestine Chronicle, May 24, 2009

In pledging to trim ineffective spending, President Obama declared that “there will be no sacred cows and no pet projects. All across America, families are making hard choices, and it’s time their government did the same.”

By asking earlier this month for $2.775 billion in military aid to Israel in his FY2010 budget request, it would seem that on this important policy issue President Obama’s commitment is more rhetorical than substantive. Since 1949, according to the Congressional Research Service, the United States has provided to Israel more than $100 billion in military and economic assistance. In 2007, the United States and Israel signed an agreement for $30 billion in additional military aid through FY2018.

Yet the provision of U.S. weapons to Israel at taxpayer expense has done nothing to bring Israelis and Palestinians closer to achieving a just and lasting peace. Rather, these weapons have had the exact opposite effect, as documented recently by Amnesty International, which pointed to U.S. weapons as a prime factor “fueling” the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, during the Bush Administration, Israel killed more than 3,000 innocent Palestinian civilians, including more than 1,000 children. During its December 2008-January 2009 war on the occupied Gaza Strip alone, Israel killed nearly 1,200 non-combatants.

On average, for each day that President Bush sat in the Oval Office, Israel killed one Palestinian civilian, often with U.S. weapons. Before Congress appropriates any additional military aid to Israel, it should insist upon President Obama providing a comprehensive and transparent review of the effects U.S. weapons transfers to Israel have on Palestinian civilians. The Arms Export Control Act limits the use of U.S. weapons given to a foreign country to “internal security” and “legitimate self-defense.”

If, after reviewing the impact of Israel’s misuse of U.S. weapons, the President and Congress cannot find the political will to sanction Israel for its violations of the Arms Export Control Act and prohibit future arms transfers as is required by law, then there are still steps that the U.S. government should take to ensure that any future transfers are not used to commit human rights abuses but instead to promote U.S. policy goals. For example, previous U.S. loan guarantees to Israel have stipulated that funds cannot be used to support Israeli activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Conditioning U.S. military aid to Israel in the same way would prevent these weapons from being used to kill innocent Palestinian civilians.

As President Obama has stated, “We can’t sustain a system that bleeds billions of taxpayer dollars, on programs that have outlived their usefulness or exist solely because of the power of politicians, lobbyists or interest groups. We simply can’t afford it.” In regard to U.S. aid to Israel, this is true as much from a budgetary standpoint as it is from a moral one.

– Josh Ruebner is the National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. This article was contributed to (Originally published in the Detroit Free Press, May 21, 2009)

SRI LANKA: Intl Condemnation Mounts, Along With Body Count

May 15, 2009

By Lydia Zemke | Inter Press Service

UNITED NATIONS, May 14 (IPS) – As the humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka takes a turn for the worse, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is sending one of his most senior officials to take stock of the situation in the war zone, where hundreds of civilians are being killed both by government and rebel forces.

Under-Secretary-General Vijay Nambiar, the secretary-general’s chief of staff, is scheduled to make a second visit to Sri Lanka to convince the government of the need to rescue the estimated 50,000 civilians being used as human shields by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, listed as a “terrorist organisation” by several countries, including the United States.

The outlawed rebel group has been fighting for a separate Tamil nation state in the politically-troubled northern and eastern provinces since the late 1970s, in one of the longest-running armed conflicts in Asia.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the 15 members of the Security Council met for the third time – the last two being informal briefings – to discuss the crisis, this time releasing the first “official and written [non-binding] statement” condemning the violence and killings in Sri Lanka.

The president of the Security Council, Ambassador Vitaly Churkin of Russia, denounced the violent actions of both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government, demanding that “all parties respect their obligations under international humanitarian law”.

The press statement specifically urged that “the LTTE lay down its arms and allow the tens of thousands of civilians still in the conflict zone to leave,” and “call[ed] on the government of Sri Lanka to take the further necessary steps to facilitate the evacuation of the trapped civilians and the urgent delivery of humanitarian assistance to them.”

Hundreds of civilians were killed over the last weekend, including more than 100 children, according to Gordon Weiss, the United Nations spokesman in Sri Lanka, and at least another 50 killed on Wednesday alone in the shelling of a field hospital.

Some agencies claimed that heavy artillery was used in the northeast and in the No Fire Zone (also known as the “Safe Zone”), in which 50,000 civilians are reportedly still trapped. According to Amnesty International, an estimated 7,000 civilians have been killed and 13,000 injured since the beginning of the year.

Amnesty highlighted the difficulty of obtaining information on the current situation in Sri Lanka, describing it as “a war without witnesses”.

“The government has restricted journalists from accessing the conflict zone and has intimidated editors or critics of those who are reporting on the humanitarian crisis,” said Yolanda Foster, Amnesty International’s researcher on Sri Lanka.

On Monday, eight members of the U.N. Security Council met for the first unofficial briefing with U.N. officials and non-governmental organisations to discuss the escalation of violence over the weekend.

Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and British Foreign Minister David Miliband attended the meeting after having returned from their visit to Sri Lanka over the weekend with no significant achievement in calming the violence.

Following the meeting, Spindelegger stressed three main points: freeing the people currently trapped in the small area of the No Fire Zone, enhancing the situation in the IDP camps, and preparing for the future political negotiations that need to take place in order to end all military actions to lead towards viable peace.

All three ministers expressed their countries’ support towards helping the Sri Lankan government and its people to reach a peace agreement.

“We are clear that this is an issue that the U.N. Security Council should address. It involves major civilian loss of life and distress,” said Miliband.

“It does have ramifications for the region and it involves the word of a member of the United Nations not to use heavy weaponry in the pursuit of its goals to suppress a terrorist organisation. Those are fundamental issues that we, as European members of the Security Council, do believe belongs here,” stated Miliband.

Despite the foreign ministers’ emphasis on the importance of putting the issue on the Security Council agenda, some nations such as China and Russia have opposed strong action due to their own economic and military interests with the Sri Lankan government, preventing the U.N. from taking any significant action forward, other than humanitarian support.

At least two other countries – Libya and Vietnam – have also taken the position that the military conflict in Sri Lanka is a domestic issue that does not warrant Security Council intervention.

Amnesty International addressed a letter to both the Security Council and the Barack Obama administration in the U.S. urging them to take immediate action “to speak out against the indiscriminate killing of civilians in the current conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).”

“The [Security] Council must convene without any further delay to discuss the latest disturbing developments and immediately require that attacks on civilians by the Sri Lankan army or the LTTE be stopped; that the LTTE allow all civilians to leave the conflict area; and that the Sri Lankan government provide immediate access to international monitors and humanitarian agencies.”

Addressing the issue for the first time at a press conference Wednesday, President Obama warned that, “without urgent action, this humanitarian crisis could turn into a catastrophe.”

Obama urged the Tamil Tigers to “lay down their arms and let civilians go”, but added that “the government should stop the indiscriminate shelling that has taken hundreds of innocent lives, including several hospitals, and the government should live up to its commitment to not use heavy weapons in the conflict zone.”

He also called on the government to permit access to U.N. humanitarian teams trying to reach the besieged civilians, and allow U.N. and Red Cross workers access to the nearly 190,000 displaced people within the country in need of supplies.

Dr Barnsby’s letters to Gordon Brown and David Cameron

May 13, 2009

The Barnsby Blog, May 13, 2009

The following message has been emailed to  Gordon Brown today:

Dear Gordon,

When are you going to stop supporting the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere?

When are you going to oppose the daily slaughter of innocent civilians and our own troops?

When are you going to cease to be a party to Torture supported by and initiated by your own government?

And when are you going to understand that ending the wars will release such a flood of money that the Economic Slump we are currently suffering from would disappear overnight?

George Barnsby


A second message was sent today to David Cameron:

Dear David

When are you going to stop supporting the wars in Iraq and  Afghanistan and elsewhere and making yourself an accessory to the Torture sanctioned by the Brown government?

And when are you going to understand that ending these wars will release such a flood of money that the Economic Slump we are suffering from would disappear overnight?

And when are you going to end your hypocrisy of pretending to be a democrat when you do not reply to my correspondence?

A reply to this email is requested.

George Barnsby

Sri Lanka army kills 257 civilians in latest strike against Tamil Tigers

May 10, 2009

• Doctor says latest assault is bloodiest he has seen

• Sri Lanka military denies shells are being used in territory controlled by Tamil Tigers

French surgeons in Sri Lanka
French surgeons performing surgery in the operation room of the French emergency rescue operation hospital near the northern Sri Lankan town of Cheddikulam. Photograph: Pedro Ugarte/AFP/Getty Images

A massive artillery barrage by the Sri Lankan army last night killed at least 257 civilians and left another 814 wounded in the small strip of territory that remains under the control of Tamil Tiger rebels.

A doctor working in the warzone described the assault as the bloodiest he had seen in the government’s offensive against the Tamil Tigers.

Dr V Shanmugarajah said he feared many more may have been killed since some bodies were being buried on the spot without being brought to the makeshift hospital he runs.

Shanmugarajah described seeing shells fly through the air, with some falling close to the hospital, forcing many to flee to bunkers for shelter.

The rebel-linked TamilNet website said about 2,000 people were feared dead. It accused Sri Lankan forces of launching the attack, a charge the military denied.

Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said it was only using small arms in its effort to wipe out the Tamil Tiger rebel group and there “is no shelling taking place”.

The government had sent medical supplies into the warzone in recent days but a shortage of doctors, nurses and helpers has made treatment difficult, Shanmugarajah said.

“We are doing the first aid and some surgeries as quickly as we can. We are doing what is possible. The situation is overwhelming; nothing is within our control,” he said. Shanmugarajah said he had sought the help of volunteers to dig graves.

The government vowed two weeks ago to cease firing heavy weapons into the tiny coastal strip that remained under rebel control in an effort to avoid civilian casualties. But medical officials in the area have reported that air strikes and artillery attacks have continued unabated, despite the presence of an estimated 50,000 civilians in the tiny conflict zone.

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