The Mullivaikal Devastation in Sri Lanka and its Aftermath

Tamil community members staging a protest against Sri Lanka for alleged human rights violations in Bhopal Tamil community members staging a protest against Sri Lanka for alleged human rights violations in Bhopal PTI Photo

16 September 2015
When Sri Lanka government declared Mullivaikal a “No Fire Zone” civilians were forced to escape or endure the horrific civil war violence of 2009.

Now, the United Nations is calling for the Sri Lanka government to take responsibility. Between 2002 and 2011, the Sri Lanka Government designated Mullivaikal a “No Fire Zone.” Indiscriminate violence including mine attacks, suicide bombings, and airstrikes struck the city incessantly, especially in early 2009. More than 100,000 civilians were forced to flee the Mullivaikal; however, not everyone succeeded.

Nahulan Tharsana recounts the devastating explosions of April 2009: “Shells came from three sides; there were explosions everywhere. People were trying to stay alive by hiding from the bombs.” Although Nahulan survived the attack, she continues to find constant reminders of the destruction from bullet holes in her Mullivaikal home.

Mallarajan Rajiba and her younger brother Kanagan Rajiba were ten and seven years old at the time of the explosions. Mallarajan remembers her family seeking shelter in a bunker with other relatives. She recalls the exact location where the shells exploded: “...just where [her family] all had dinner that night.” Mallarajan and brother were the sole survivors that evening.  

After the battle in Mullivaikal ended in late May of 2009, the LTTE forced an estimated 300,000 civilians to retreat with them—leaving the civilians’ fates unknown.

The United Nations Office for Human Rights accused both the Government of Sri Lanka and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) of violating international humanitarian law resulting from the Sri Lanka 26-year civil war. Sri Lanka forces have been accused of torture, sexual violence, and killings, while the LTTE have been accused of suicide bombings and mine attacks, assassinations of civilians, and abuse of Tamil children. The United Nations is recommending the establishment of a specialized court to ensure justice.

The Sri Lanka Government previously denied the human rights violations, but President Maithripala Sirisena acknowledges the government’s prior mistakes and intends to “move forward to dismantle the repressive structures and institutional cultures.”


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