UN Reporting Civilian Casualties: Sri Lanka vs. Gaza

I have posted before on the dramatic difference between media coverage of Israeli actions against Palestinians (and the attendant civilian casualties) and that of other conflicts, as, for example of the US in Afganistan. Now we have a case where a UN official protested a “civilian bloodbath” and the Sri Lankan government called his superior on the carpet for insulting the government in their legitimate pursuit of Tamil Tigers.

At the same time, the Sri Lankan government arrested and deported a British newsteam for having “consistently filed fabricated stories and had tarnished the country’s image.” For some countries, blackening their face with negative stories, however true, is more than enough cause to ban the press.

sri lankan press freedoms latuff

Sri Lankan minister blasts U.N. comments

(CNN) — Sri Lanka summoned a U.N. official to protest remarks by an agency spokesman about a civilian “bloodbath” in the government’s war against Tamil militants, Foreign Ministry sources told CNN Tuesday.

sri lankan casualty
A photo supplied by a humanitarian group on Sunday shows civilians allegedly injured in government shelling.

The Foreign Ministry expressed its displeasure to Amin Awad, acting resident representative of the United Nations in Sri Lanka, about comments by U.N. spokesman Gordon Weiss in Colombo.

Weiss told CNN on Monday that hundreds of civilians died during weekend fighting because the Sri Lankan army had surrounded rebel fighters in the country’s north, putting residents in the crossfire.

Note that “hundreds of civilians” dying over the weekend approximates the totals for the entire four weeks of Operation Cast Lead., yet another illustration of the disparity in casualties between the conflict involving Israel and other conflicts.

“The U.N. has been warning for weeks that this precise situation would result in a bloodbath and, indeed, that seemed to have come to pass,” Weiss said, adding that rebels had “refused to let 50,000 to 100,000 civilians go in order to force a government assault.”

How many UN officials in Gaza emphasized that Hamas used civilians as hostage-shields?

A Foreign Ministry source said Awad agreed to report the protest about Weiss’ remarks to his headquarters.

Mahinda Samarasinghe, Sri Lanka’s minister of disaster management and human rights, initially said Weiss would be summoned to explain his remarks, but this did not happen because of diplomatic protocol, a source told CNN, noting that he is a junior official at the U.N. office in Colombo.

As for Weiss’ remarks, Palitha Kohona, Sri Lanka’s foreign secretary, said U.N. officials posted to a host country cannot make such comments.

Well I guess that proves that Gaza isn’t occupied, otherwise the UN couldn’t report Israeli violations, real or imagined.

In Monday’s interview, Weiss said “verification is, of course, the part of the problem, because humanitarian agencies are denied access to the region.

U.N.: Hundreds killed in Sri Lanka weekend fighting
British journalists held in Sri Lanka deported
Sri Lanka: Troops close in on rebels

“Our understanding is that very heavy fighting took place over the weekend and there were many hundreds of civilian deaths and many, many more beyond that injured.”

Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary-general, issued a statement Monday saying he was “appalled at the killing of hundreds of civilians in Sri Lanka over the weekend.

Ban expressed his concern over the use of heavy-caliber weaponry in civilian areas by the combatants and made note of what he said is “reckless disrespect” by Tamil Tigers for civilian safety.

“Thousands of Sri Lankans have already died in the past several months due to the conflict, and more still remain in grave danger,” Ban said.

Rebel claims of civilian deaths have been considerably higher than those provided by the United Nations. Lawrence Christy, the head of the Tamils Rehabilitation Organization, said more than 3,200 civilians died in fighting from Sunday evening until Monday morning, the rebel Web site Tamilnet.com reported.

Interesting that, unlike in the Palestinian territories, the UN does not automatically report the numbers provided by the “resistance.”

The Sri Lankan government has denied the allegations and accused the Tamils of “taking the whole world for a ride with its well-engineered propaganda ploys,” while turning their weapons on civilians trying to flee the combat zone.

Accounts vary widely about how many have been trapped by the fighting. As recently as last week, a military spokesman put the number at 10,000 to 15,000 civilians.

CNN could not independently verify the accounts, because the government does not allow the news media independent access to areas where it is fighting the rebels.

Government troops have closed in on rebel forces in a shrinking section of the country’s north. More than 196,000 people have fled the battle zone, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said heavy fighting on Tuesday made it “impossible” for its employees to evacuate wounded and sick people and to deliver 25 metric tons of food for what it said were thousands of civilians stranded there. A metric ton is 1,000 kilograms, or 2,025 pounds.

“Lack of security forced our ferry to stay offshore for the entire day today, only kilometers from the conflict area,” said ICRC’s head of delegation in Sri Lanka, Paul Castella, in a written statement.

The ICRC said its chartered ferry was able to reach the area on Saturday to offload food and medical supplies and to evacuate more than 500 wounded and sick patients and their relatives.

A day earlier, fighting had prevented the ferry from approaching the shore. “The plight of the people remaining in the combat area is desperate,” Castella said. “We need unimpeded access to them in order to save lives.”

The aid agency said it has been able to evacuate nearly 14,000 people from the area and deliver more than 2,350 metric tons of food and other items.

Tamil Tiger rebels have been fighting for an independent state in Sri Lanka’s northeast since 1983.

As many as 70,000 people have been killed since the civil war began, and the Tigers have been declared a terrorist organization by the European Union and more than 30 countries, including the United States.

Latuff, who delights in skewering (dare I say, slandering) Israel is at least aware of the problem:

world sleeps while sri lankans die latuff

But he apparently doesn’t put it together that his and the “world’s” virulent anti-Zionism is the soporific by the bedstand.

My personal sense is that Latuff definitely gets more “enthusiastic” about his anti-Israel cartoons, despite the disparity in the casualty counts:

Are we waking up? If so, slowly.

8 Responses to UN Reporting Civilian Casualties: Sri Lanka vs. Gaza

  1. Barry Meislin says:

    You’re forgetting something, and therefore, you doth protest too much.

    The goal is not the destruction of Sri Lanka, nor the destruction of Tibet, nor the destruction of Darfur, nor the destruction of Chechnya, nor the destruction of Zimbabwe, nor the destruction of S. Africa, nor the destruction of the Iran’s Ba’hais, or the destruction of Egypt’s Copts, or Lebanon’s political body, or Algeria’s citizenry, or Kurdish rights, etc.

    Hence none of what happens in these places or to these peoples is of any real importance.

    The goal is the destruction of the State of Israel.

    Hence anything that leads to the destruction of Israel (and its supporters) must be magnified. Events must be distorted. History must be twisted. Facts must be invented. Lies must be repeated ad nauseum. And hatred of Israel and its supporters (and Jews) must be spread to the four corners of the earth.

    All under the rubric of “virtue”, of “justice,” of “morality.”

    Of “the good.”

    It’s merely a question of setting priorities for a better world. (And we’ve been there before.)

    We’re watching a catastrophic train wreck, in slow motion, as it’s about to happen. And rather than acting to stop it, people are promoting it, encouraging it, cheering it on. (For this train wreck is all for the good….)

    Keeping in mind that anti-Semitism is the height of morality and anti-Zionism is the essence of virtue. And the destruction of the State of the Israel is the supreme virtue. And nothing else really matter in light of this most Godly of efforts (even for the godless).

    (And, of course, the Jews only have themselves to blame….)

    You seem to believe that people actually care about averting this disaster (which for so many, will be the happiest day of their lives—collateral destruction notwithstanding).

    You doth protest too much.

  2. [...] See the original post here: Augean Stables » UN Reporting Civilian Casualties: Sri Lanka vs. Gaza [...]

  3. oao says:

    Keeping in mind that anti-Semitism is the height of morality and anti-Zionism is the essence of virtue. And the destruction of the State of the Israel is the supreme virtue. And nothing else really matter in light of this most Godly of efforts (even for the godless).

    all the rest is commentary.

  4. [...] and criticism. If the media used the same standards of sensitivity that they apply to Israel on any of the 70 other conflicts, their (moral) equipment would blow its fuses. If I were Jewish, I would be told I’m paranoid for [...]

  5. [...] has been trying very hard to minimize civilian casualties; indeed, as macabre a calculation it is, when it comes to the ratio of combatants and civilians killed, there is no army with a better record than the [...]

  6. [...] Lanka und der Unmenschenrechtsrat. Ebenfalls lesenswert sind die englischsprachigen Beiträge bei Augean Stables. Beschlagwortet mit:Gaza, Israel, UN Noch keine Kommentare « Was Obama in [...]

  7. The Lion says:

    Greetings, western visionaries. I hail from the country that truly liberated from Terrorists. Sri Lanka.

    You see the true idea of the story is a scam and I see no blood bath of civilian on this country after 20th of May. After Mr.Velupille Prabhakaran has gone for his appointment with god, there were no such baths here as there were no one intrested on.

    But what makes me surprices is that when Mr. Prabha and his blood thirsty clan kills children of Sri Lanka and innocent Civillians who were trying to escape from his visious bath plans, there were no cartoons or what so ever to be stopping or just commenting on the stories.

    For example you can take the Aranthalawa Bikkhu Assasination or Dehiwala Blast or the Videos of the last few days of Mr. Prabha’s on wanni.

    Please explain why you dont consider it as such a blood flore and this as one.

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