On June 7, 2007, 376 ethnic Tamils staying in Colombo 'who could not explain their reasons for being in the city' to the satisfaction of the Sri Lankan authorities were sent 'back' to their homes by the Sri Lankan Police. The evicted were sent back to Jaffna, Vavuniya, Trincomalee and Batticaloa, where they are originally from, in several buses with a police escort. However the buses only went as far as the town of Vavuniya and the evicted Tamils were forced to stay in a detention camp. The government had to backtrack because this case caused a big controversy for several reasons. One being that, internationally and locally, the act of deporting Tamil people to the north would give ammunition to justify the case for an Independent State for the Tamils – as the Government was effectively accepting the argument for a homeland for the Tamils in the north and east by deporting them there.
The Sri Lankan Armed Force's operation to capture the Vanni, which started in January 2008 can be regarded as a massive case of forced transfer of the population.
1. From the beginning of Government of Sri Lanka's (GoSL) Vanni operation, air raids and food and medicine restrictions were used to push the Vanni civilian population to move to the GoSL controlled area (effectively to surrender to the Sri Lanka Army, considered as their tormentor in the context of this ethnic based military onslaught).
2. As the advancing Sri Lankan forces managed to get the civilian population in their artillery range, they started to use - apart from air raids - artillery shelling, multi barrel rocket launcher attacks against the civilian population, to increase the pressure.
3. GoSL has declared its first 'No Fire Zone' (NFZ) on January 21. The Safe Zone borders a four kilometre stretch of the A-35 Puthukkudyiruppu (PTK)– Paranthan main road from Udayarkattu junction to the Yellow Bridge on the south and extends northwards to Iruthumadu and Thevipuram. The demarcated area touches the A-35. By declaring the NFZ (which itself was considered as one of the most dangerous place in the world by international human right organisations and media at the time) GoSL also declared that everything out of the NFZ was a legitimate target - including hospitals (this was explicitly stated on international media by the Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse)
4.This no fire zone game gave a chance to GoSL to justify their tactic to destroy all civil objects outside the no fire zone and to forcefully (using air raids, multi barrel, shell, artillery, and food and medicine restrictions) transfer the whole population by extracting them from their traditional habitations. There are many reports from international media and human rights organisations on civilian killings (see for example Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reports).
5. After herding the whole population into the NFZ in PTK, GoSL announced their new eight square mile NFZ in a coastal strip stretched to Vaduvakal on Feb 12. And GoSL also announced the annulling of first NFZ and gave 48 hours to leave that area. The civilians were forced to pack and leave again without any transport facility within 48 hours. There are reports that the Sri Lankan Army started attacking even before the deadline allocated by them had elapsed, causing extra deaths and and casualties.
6.The declared area of 8 Square miles was squeezed by the advancing army till it become tiny patch.
7. After May 19 the survivors of population of the Vanni were herded to Vauniya detention camps.
Effectively the whole process of the war which started in the the Vanni in January 2008 has been a forced transfer of the Tamil population that lived, in their own houses in an area of over 10,000 Square km, into an internment camp of the size of a large football stadium.
The above is in contravention of 'Customary International Humanitarian Law' (March 2005), relating to 'Displacement and Displaced Persons'. The relevant parts are given below.
Rule 129. B. Parties to a non-international armed conflict may not order the displacement of the civilian population, in whole or in part, for reasons related to the conflict, unless the security of the civilians involved or imperative military reasons so demand. [IAC (A)/NIAC (B)]
Rule 130. States may not deport or transfer parts of their own civilian population into a territory they occupy. [IAC]
Rule 131. In case of displacement, all possible measures must be taken in order that the civilians concerned are received under satisfactory conditions of shelter, hygiene, health, safety and nutrition and that members of the same family are not separated. [IAC/NIAC]
Rule 132. Displaced persons have a right to voluntary return in safety to their homes or places of habitual residence as soon as the reasons for their displacement cease to exist. [IAC/NIAC]
Rule 133. The property rights of displaced persons must be respected. [IAC/NIAC]