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Country Reports

Sri Lanka

The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka has not signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions. It participated in just one meeting of the Oslo Process, in Vienna in December 2007, but did not make an intervention.

Sri Lanka is party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW), but has not ratified Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War. Sri Lanka has not been an active participant in CCW discussions on cluster munitions in recent years.

Sri Lanka is not believed to have produced cluster munitions. Sri Lanka has denied that it possesses cluster munitions, although there are some indications that it may.[1]

There have been media reports of Sri Lanka using cluster munitions on its own territory against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2008 and 2009, but Sri Lanka has denied the claims, and there has been no confirmation or compelling evidence of such use.[2]

In February 2009, Sri Lankan forces were accused of using cluster munitions against the LTTE, and specifically targeting the Pudukkudyirippu hospital.[3] A UN spokesperson initially said the hospital had been hit with cluster munitions, but after further investigation retracted the statement.[4]

The Sri Lankan government’s Media Center for National Security posted the following statement on its website on 4 February 2009: “The Government wishes to clarify that the Sri Lanka army do not use these cluster bombs nor do they have facilities to use them. The Sri Lanka army use no such lethal munitions against innocent civilians in their war against terror. Furthermore cluster bombs are banned in the UN convention and Sri Lanka being a party to this convention respects these laws.”[5]

On 5 February 2009, the Ministry of Defence website posted a statement saying Sri Lanka never fired cluster munitions and never brought them into the country.[6] Military spokesperson Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara was quoted stating, “We don’t have the facility to fire cluster munitions. We don’t have these weapons.” [7]

On 18 February 2009, the CMC wrote a letter to Sri Lankan President Rajapaska asking the government to officially state whether Sri Lanka possesses cluster munitions and to provide “clarification on whether Sri Lanka has imported either cluster bombs for use in Kfir attack aircraft or 122mm cluster rockets for RM-70 rocket launchers.”[8] As of mid-April 2009, Sri Lanka had not responded.

[1] For example, in July 2007 when the LTTE claimed to have shot down a Kfir bomber, Sri Lanka Air Force sources were cited as saying that in fact the debris was from a cluster bomb from a MiG-27 attack aircraft that “disintegrated upon impact.” “It was a cluster bomb, not Kfir,” Sunday Times Online, 15 July 2007. Media reports have indicated that Sri Lanka has sought to purchase cluster bombs. See for example, “Sri Lanka to purchase defence equipment from Pakistan,” LankaNewspapers.com, 30 December 2006; and “Sri Lanka looks for high-tech weapons,” Agence France-Presse, 13 September 1999. Sri Lanka possesses both aircraft and rocket launchers capable of deploying cluster munitions.

[2] “Tamil Tiger political chief urges UN to probe Sri Lankan government’s war crimes,” BBC Monitoring South Asia, 15 March 2009; “Sri Lanka Cluster Bomb Claims,” TV news report, Sky News, 4 February 2009, news.sky.com; and “TNA MP urges global community’s awareness on Sri Lanka’s use of cluster munitions,” TamilNet, 3 December 2008, www.tamilnet.com.

[3] “U.N. cites Sri Lanka cluster bomb use: The U.S., EU, Norway and Japan join in a plea to the Tamil Tiger rebels to end their failing separatist struggle and avoid more deaths,” Los Angeles Times, 4 February 2009.

[4] “UN accepts Sri Lanka has not used cluster bombs – website,” BBC Monitoring South Asia, 5 February 2009; and Walter Jayawardhana, “UN Spokesman Accepts Sri Lanka Never Had Cluster Bombs,” Ministry of Defence, 5 February 2009, www.defence.lk.

[5] The reference to the UN convention is apparently the CCW, which does not, however, ban cluster munitions in any way. Media Centre for National Security, “Government denies the attack on Pudukuduerippu hospital or using cluster bombs,” 4 February 2009, www.nationalsecurity.lk. The Media Centre for National Security is the government of Sri Lanka’s agency for disseminating all national security and defense-related information to the media and public.

[6] The statement lacked clarity in English, declaring: “Sri Lanka has categorically denied that it had neither fired cluster munitions nor it had any ever bought cluster bombs into the country.” Walter Jayawardhana, “UN Spokesman Accepts Sri Lanka Never Had Cluster Bombs,” Ministry of Defence, 5 February 2009, www.defence.lk.

[7] Walter Jayawardhana, “UN Spokesman Accepts Sri Lanka Never Had Cluster Bombs,” Ministry of Defence, 5 February 2009, www.defence.lk.

[8] CMC, “Open Letter to Sri Lanka: Join Convention on Cluster Munitions,” 18 February 2009, www.stopclustermunitions.org.