Since January 2009, the conflict between the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) and Sri Lankan government forces has escalated. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has issued 21 publications on the fighting, roughly equal to the number of HRW publications on the January 2009 Gaza war. (This attention to Sri Lanka by HRW is unprecedented and was apparently taken in response to NGO Monitor’s reports showing the disproportionate focus on Israel.) As during the Gaza conflict, HRW has accused “both sides” of “war crimes” violations, including “indiscriminate” attacks by the government forces, and called for “independent international investigations.”
However, although the LTTE and Hamas are considered terror organizations by the US, the EU, and others, and commit similar offenses of international humanitarian law, HRW does not use the same rhetoric for both groups. For instance HRW alleged that “the LTTE has deployed their forces close to civilians, thus using them as “human shields”…and recruited children for their forces” (emphasis added). But, in Gaza, HRW refused to label the same tactics as “human shields” and claimed (without credibility) that it “found no evidence of Hamas using human shields in the vicinity at the time of the attacks,” despite detailed evidence to the contrary.
Similarly, HRW condemned the LLTE for:
“utter disregard for the international laws of war, they have scooped up civilians to be used as combatants, provide labour to build trenches and bunkers, and now to serve as human shields. These are Tamils, the people that the LTTE claims to represent and protect – yet, it is deliberately putting them in danger. “
The same condemnation is appropriated for Hamas, including its “reckless and cynical use” of civilian infrastructure as a primary fighting tactic (as stated by UN official John Holmes): the firing from populated areas, placing women and children on the roofs of targeted buildings, storing weapons in schools and mosques, hiding in bunkers beneath hospitals, and other activities that endanger the civilians of Gaza. Yet, HRW does not direct this type of language at Hamas, instead blaming Israel alone for “disproportionate and indiscriminate” civilian deaths and providing further evidence of the biases of HRW’s Middle East division and advisory board, as documented by NGO Monitor.