Four Months after Muttur Massacre Action Against Hunger Resumes its Operations in Sri Lanka

Investigation into Killings and Human Rights Abuses Continues

On 6th August 2007, seventeen employees of Action Against Hunger were found massacred at the organization’s base in Muttur (eastern Sri Lanka). In November, the criminal investigation moved forward. At the same time, Sri Lanka’s President created a commission to investigate the principal human rights violations committed in the country. As the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate and the populations’ needs continue to grow, Action Against Hunger decided to resume its activities in the conflict zone.

At what stage is the investigation?

As part of the criminal investigation, post-mortem reports were submitted to the magistrate in charge of the case during two hearings held in November. The bullets found in the victims’ bodies during the post-mortem - carried out in October in presence of an Australian observer - were also submitted to the magistrate. The magistrate must now set a date to examine this evidence which should be carried out by Sri Lankan experts in presence of Australian observers. The next hearing will take place on 6th December 2006.

Meanwhile, the President of the Republic of Sri Lanka, M. Mahinda Rajapakse, has created a commission to investigate the serious human rights violations committed in Sri Lanka. The commission will be made up of 8 Sri Lankan representatives as well as international observers. The commission is due to investigate fifteen serious human rights violations committed since August 2005 – including the massacre of ACF staff in Muttur – and is due to start its activities in Mid-December. Such an initiative could demonstrate a will to ensure transparency while respecting the sovereignty of the Sri Lankan State, at least if 1.) the commission’s independence and liberty of action is effectively guaranteed, 2.) the witnesses’ protection is ensured, 3.) the terms of reference of the international observers are made public and they guarantee their freedom of action and of expression regarding the way investigations are conducted. Action Against Hunger also urges for the Human Rights Council in Geneva to be regularly informed about the commission’s work.

More and more urgent humanitarian needs

In response to the fast deterioration of the humanitarian situation and in line with its mandate, Action Against Hunger has decided to resume its activities in Sri Lanka. After the Muttur massacre, Action Against Hunger announced the suspension of all its projects in the country. Action Against Hunger will reopen a base in Batticaloa soon, one of the areas most affected by the conflict with more than 75,000 internally displaced people and where cases of malnutrition have been identified. As the fighting continues and humanitarian aid is scarce, Action Against Hunger will implement programs in several emergency camps. These programs are aimed at providing food and responding to the basic needs of at least 14,000 people, as well as supplying drinking water and increasing the hygiene conditions of more than 6,000 displaced people.