Thirteen years ago, 17 Action Against Hunger aid workers were executed in Muttur, Sri Lanka. These men and women, despite the fact that they were properly identified as humanitarian workers, were murdered in their offices on August 6th, 2006, as they worked to provide assistance to survivors of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Since then, government authorities have taken no action to bring those responsible for the murders to justice. Action Against Hunger continues to demand the prosecution of the perpetrators.
Rarely have humanitarian workers been targeted with such violence. This assault, led by some members of the Sri Lankangovernment forces, constitutes a war crime, as the Geneva Convention rules that, during wartime, civilians and aid workers’ protection remains an uninfringeable principle of international humanitarian law.
“17 Action Against Hunger humanitarian workers—whose sole objective was to support the people of Sri Lanka—were assassinated 13 years ago,” says Dr. Charles Owubah, CEO of Action Against Hunger. “This tragedy reminds us that humanitarian workers are still threatened in conflict areas, as are civilians. Action Against Hunger stands with the international community in advocating for stronger protections to access people in need. We demand accountability and justice for violations of international humanitarian law."
This tragedy is unfortunately not an isolated event. On August 19th, World Humanitarian Day, we will pay tribute to all those who have perished in the field and to those who continue to provide assistance to millions of people throughout the world, despite the risks.
Today and every day, we remember our 17 colleagues, and all of the friends our humanitarian community has lost. We call on all parties to armed conflicts—and those who influence them—to uphold international humanitarian law and to allow humanitarian aid to be delivered to communities in need, safely. We also urge world leaders to do everything possible to meet their duty to protect civilians and aid workers.
Thirteen years after the massacre, we do not forget and we will not give up on our search for justice. We honor the sacrifice and the memories of:
M. Narmathan, 23 years old, Water & Sanitation Technician
R. Arulrajah, 24 years old, Water & Sanitation Technician
S. Koneswaran, 24 years old, Driver
M. Rishikesan, 24 years old, Water & Sanitation Technician
R. Sivapiragasham, 25 years old, Hygiene Promotion Moderator
G. Kavitha, 27, Hygiene Advisor
T. Pratheeban, 27 years old, Water & Sanitation Technician
A. Jaseelan, 27 years old, Water & Sanitation Technician
K. Kovarthani, 27 years old, Hygiene Promotion Moderator
V. Kokilavathani, 29 years old, Hygiene Promotion Moderator
Y. Kodeeswaran, 30 years old, Food Security Technician
A.L.M. Jawffar, 31 years old, Water & Sanitation Technician
S.P. Anantharajah, 32 years old, Program Manager
I. Muralitharan, 33 years old, Driver
G. Sritharan, 36 years old, Water & Sanitation Technician
M. Ketheswaran, 36 years old, Water & Sanitation Technician
S. Ganesh, 54 years old, Driver