Muttur Massacre: ACF Denounces Ineffective Legal Procedures in Sri Lanka

ACF demands an international inquiry into the '06 assassination of its 17 aid workers

On August 4, 2006, 17 members of Action Against Hunger / ACF-USA were brutally executed while carrying out humanitarian programs in Muttur, Sri Lanka—the most heinous crime ever committed against a non-governmental organization. Following these atrocities, several legal proceedings were initiated in Sri Lanka, but today, after nearly two years of effort, ACF is forced to recognize the failure of these procedures and the blatant lack of will of the Sri Lankan government to establish the truth.

As a result of these failings, Action Against Hunger has officially left the country, withdrawing from all legal proceedings currently underway in Sri Lanka. ACF sees the launching of an international inquiry as the only reliable means for identifying the perpetrators, and ACF is committed to publicizing the full range of obstacles encountered over the past two years of legal proceedings at the national level.

Obstructionism, Smokescreens, & Politicized Proceedings

Following the massacre of Muttur, ACF has closely followed three separate judicial proceedings. Two years into these investigations, the search for truth has been a casualty of obstructionism, the intrusion of politics into the judicial process, a lack of transparency, and even errors. In a recent ACF advocacy report, “The Muttur Massacre: A Struggle for Justice,” ACF publicizes the hurdles that routinely compromised—and ultimately discredited—the possibility of obtaining the truth from Sri Lanka’s national institutions. Only an international investigation can ensure any semblance of truth and guarantee that those responsible are held accountable. ACF calls on France, the European Union, Sri Lanka, and the member countries of the “Tokyo Conference” (USA, Norway, European Union, Japan) to launch an international inquiry into these matters given the severity of these crimes and their importance for international humanitarian law.

Justice for Muttur: A Public Outreach Campaign

To launch the “Justice for Muttur Campaign,” Action Against Hunger mobilized a public awareness event on June 17th in front of a highly visible symbol of human rights in Paris, France (the Parvis des droits de l’Homme). To dramatize and underscore the savagery of the massacre lest we forget the victims and their families, 17 volunteers wearing ACF t-shirts lined up to symbolize the horrific last minutes when 17 ACF aid workers were murdered in 2006.

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The Muttur Massacre At a Glance

On August 4, 2006, 17 Action Against Hunger aid workers were murdered in the town of Muttur, north-eastern Sri Lanka. Lined up execution style and shot one by one, the assassination of humanitarian workers indicates that it was an intentionally act of violence. The massacre is the gravest crime carried out against a non-governmental organization and is comparable to a war crime under international law.

Recent events indicate a rise in security threats to humanitarian workers, and nothing symbolizes this deterioration like the 2006 murder of Action Against Hunger’s 17 employees in Sri Lanka—humanitarians whose civilian status offered them no protection. The international community must not tolerate such crimes and must address this shrinking of humanitarian space. This press dossier provides background on the events that have unfolded in Sri Lanka since the shocking assassinations of our staff.

On August 4, 2006, 17 ACF employees were killed in cold blood while assisting local populations in Sri Lanka—an unprecedented event in humanitarian affairs. After 18 months and three Sri Lankan investigations—proceedings wracked by inertia, inadequate guarantees of independence, and a lack of respect for international standards—ACF bitterly observes that these proceedings have proven ineffective and calls for an international investigation. This detailed advocacy report outlines our assessment.