2ND LEAD (Adds details of attacked hospitals)
Colombo committing war crimes attacking hospitals – HRW
[TamilNet, Saturday, 09 May 2009, 13:35 GMT]
Sri Lankan armed forces “have repeatedly struck hospitals in the northern Vanni region in indiscriminate artillery and aerial attacks”, Human Rights Watch said Saturday, warning that commanders responsible for such attacks may be prosecuted for war crimes. "While doctors and nurses struggle to save lives in overcrowded and underequipped facilities, Sri Lankan army attacks have hit one hospital after another," said Brad Adams, Asia director at HRW. HRW again called for the situation in Sri Lanka to be urgently taken up by a formal meeting of the UN Security Council and by a special session of the UN Human Rights Council.
Patients, medical staff, aid workers, and other witnesses have provided Human Rights Watch with information about at least 30 attacks on permanent and makeshift hospitals in the combat area since December 2008. One of the deadliest took place on May 2, when artillery shells struck Mullaivaikal hospital in the government-declared "no-fire zone," killing 68 persons and wounding 87.
HRW quoted “several independent sources” as saying that each time a hospital was established in a new location, the doctors transmitted GPS coordinates of the facility to the Sri Lankan government to ensure that the facility would be protected from military attack. Medical staff said that, on several occasions, attacks occurred on the day after the coordinates had been transmitted.
“Permanent and makeshift hospitals within LTTE-controlled territory continue to receive hundreds of patients daily. Many arrive wounded from the fighting, while others are sick due to inadequate sanitation, and acute shortages of food and clean water,” HRW said.
"Hospitals are supposed to be sanctuaries from shelling, not targets," Adams said.
"Repeated Sri Lankan artillery attacks striking known hospitals is evidence of war crimes," he added. "The government cannot hide behind LTTE atrocities to justify their own unlawful acts."
HRW has criticized both the Sri Lankan armed forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for numerous violations of the laws of war during the recent fighting.