In early 2009, during the closing weeks of the Sri Lankan civil war, the Tamil Tigers—a militant group that had waged a bloody, decades-long campaign to win independence for Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority—herded 300,000 Tamil civilians into a shrinking redoubt on the island’s northeast coast, forcing them to serve as human shields against the encroaching Sri Lankan army. The army responded by bombing and shelling tent encampments and makeshift schools and hospitals while denying the refugees access to food, water, and medical supplies. Terrorized families were smashed by artillery if they stayed in this cage and shot by one side or the other if they tried to escape. The general outlines of this story are familiar. But Weiss, a UN official in Colombo at the time, provides harrowing details, as well as insight into the decades of brutal conflict that brought the two sides to the point where they were willing to commit war crimes. The perpetrators on one side are dead. Those on the other continue to govern Sri Lanka and to resist all attempts to demand accountability.
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