The Muthur Massacre: ACF Questions the Facts

Colombo, June 22th, 2007. Ten months after the unprecedented massacre of 17 ACF humanitarian aid workers in Muthur Action Against Hunger (ACF) is questioning whether the investigation will lead to an indictment against those responsible:

– On the 6th of June, a hearing was held at the Magistrate Court of Kantale (East of Sri Lanka) regarding the unprecedented massacre of 17 ACF aid workers.

Following the request of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID- in charge of the investigation) to suspend further hearings, the Magistrate has decided that the hearings will no longer be held on a monthly base, and will be done every 3 months. These hearings allow the Magistrate to follow and assist in the development of the investigation, and are thus critical for the process.

– At the same time, the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (CoI) is holding in camera hearings concerning the killings of the ACF workers. These hearings are held in the context of the investigation phase of the CoI procedure and are, therefore, not open to the public. An ACF representative was regrettably denied permission to attend these hearings as an observer. ACF intends to follow this process when permission is finally granted.

– During the second autopsy (last October), some items have been found and the results of the investigation conducted by the Sri Lankan experts are not consistent with the one expressed in the Australian forensic report. The ballistic examination has been thereafter conducted without an international observer. The attendance of an international observer in this ballistic investigation would have enabled the clarification of this specific point.

– Although the killings took place in a town of several thousands of inhabitants, no direct witness has come forward to testify during the current stage of the investigation. The lack of a witness protection program within the judicial Sri Lankan system inhibits the availability of this testimony.

[A goat wandering near the office of ACF, Muthur]

– The International Independent Group of Eminent Persons, in charge of observing the procedures and assessing the respect of the international standards during the CoI investigation and inquiry process for 16 alleged serious violations of human rights, released this week a statement questioning the effectiveness of the Commission of Inquiry.

The Muthur massacre: a significant tragedy

Beyond the human tragedy, the Muthur massacre is representative of the situation in Sri Lanka: that civilian populations and aid workers are the first victims of this conflict. The recent killing of two Red Cross workers further reminds us of this.

“As humanitarian aid workers, we have to remind all those involved in the conflict, the principles on which our action is based: impartiality, neutrality and independence. (.) Today, I sincerely want the culprits and those responsible for this outrageous massacre – whoever and wherever they are – to be identified. Impunity would only increase our indignation” concluded, Francois Danel, ACF General Director during his lecture at the European Parliament on June

Action Contre la Faim (Action Against Hunger / ACF) was created in 1979 in France and represents a network of international headquarters in Paris, New York, London, Madrid, and Montreal with more than 5000 persons all over the world. The organization provides water, food, non-food items and nutritional support in emergency situations including natural disasters and conflicts, and follows up these activities with post-emergency rehabilitation. In 2005, the ACF international network has delivered aid to more than 4.2 millions of persons.

ACF has carried out humanitarian projects in Sri Lanka since 1997.

[Full Text of Press Release]

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