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Modus Operandi

En librairie

Transformation de conflit, de Karine Gatelier, Claske Dijkema et Herrick Mouafo

Aux Éditions Charles Léopold Mayer (ECLM)


Fiche d’analyse Dossier : Nonviolent Peaceforce in action: an overview

Brussels, novembre 2007

The activities developed by NP in Sri Lanka

The activities that are used to implement the NP strategy in Sri Lanka.

NP uses peace building and peace keeping methods developed around the world by its 60 member organisations, to provide support to local organizations and individuals working to transform violence and expand peace. NP leverages the greater freedom enjoyed by internationals, who are South-North balanced and live in volatile areas 24 hrs/day, to help locals address long standing conflicts and poorly functioning institutions.

NP trained civilian Field Team Members (FTM) work in several sites throughout Sri Lanka. FTMs apply proven methods of non-violent action to support, amplify and protect local peace efforts, including reconciliation work among conflicting parties in Sri Lanka (especially in Jaffna, Trincomalee and Batticaloa areas) with the following objectives and activities.

Objective 1:

To reduce tensions and the level of, and potential for, violence in the Northern and Eastern areas in which NP teams work by improving the conditions necessary for non-violent conflict resolution and by assisting Sri Lankans working to deter the resumption of violence.


  • Monitoring (human rights) situation in close relationship with local and international actors such as the Human Rights Commission, FCE and the SLMM, gather information and identify trends and triggers for violence.

  • Developing response strategies based on impact assessments such as international protective presence in communities and during festivals or elections, patrolling and accompaniment.

  • Raising awareness about the security situation and mobilizing actors, if necessary.

  • Acting as facilitators upon requests by local actors.

  • Establishing relationships and work with community based organizations and leaders.

  • Sustaining relationships with high level actors such as LTTE and the GoSL and keeping communication channels open.

  • Developing and encouraging strategic alliances, identifying non-violent alternative approaches and facilitating local peace initiatives, especially those that are multi-ethnical.

  • Advocating conflict sensitive approaches by international relief and development agencies and assisting them in such processes.

Objective 2:

To improve the safety and (human) security of vulnerable groups such as women and children and IDP’s.


  • Demonstrating visible presence in the communities at risk and at places of increased tensions or those vulnerable to hostile acts.

  • Visiting vulnerable groups who are (potential) victims of hostilities.

  • Working with vulnerable groups to identify actions/strategies that they can do to advocate for or increase their own security.

  • Witnessing and raising awareness of violence and hostile acts.

  • Accompanying vulnerable individuals as needed, as they take action to redress various situations.

Objective 3:

To support local individuals and groups who address conflict issues in non-violent ways, providing the space and the environment for constructive engagement at the community level and allowing their capacity to increase and become sustainable.


  • Providing a safe place for groups to meet.

  • Facilitating the communication between rival groups.

  • Connecting peacemakers to resources.

  • Serving as non-partisan observers during meetings and acting as facilitators upon request.

  • Encouraging the development of local mechanisms that can channel or manage conflict more permanently.

  • Supporting peace activists to hold government and other official institutions accountable for human rights violations and their redress

  • Accompanying peace activists or local monitors in need of protection.

  • Building local capacities by developing and encouraging strategic alliances and facilitating local peace initiatives, especially those that are multi-ethnic.

Objective 4:

To facilitate the work and coordination of local and international development and reconciliation workers who are unable to address the local conflict situations.


  • Functioning as a soundboard for local peace and development initiatives.

  • Linking local actors with those international agencies providing rehabilitation services.

  • Accompanying aid workers in need of protection.

  • Coordinating and facilitating security meetings among international agencies.

  • Encouraging agencies and NGO’s to integrate violence prevention, protection and security measures in their activities.

  • Early warning to conflicts and potential conflict stimulated by development and reconciliation work.

Activities are responsive to the local needs and many of the activities and tactics are employed in complex situations. The following stories are specific examples of incidents and the activities used by Nonviolent Peaceforce in Sri Lanka over the past couple of years.

The armed forces received strong criticism when a Sinhala mob began a rampage through the business area of Trincomalee minutes after the bomb explosion on a vegetable market on April 12th 2006. Over 30 shops were burned, the majority belonging to Tamil people, as the armed forces and police stood by and watched it happen. The speed with which the violence erupted after the explosion seems to indicate an element of pre-planning.

The Nonviolent Peaceforce Trincomalee team was quickly on the scene after the explosion and riots and spoke to various people who witnessed the scene. The riots lasted for several hours and spread afterwards to border areas between Tamil and Sinhalese people. Many people fled to places of safety such as temples, schools and churches. On the way to provide protective accompaniment to some of these places, the Trinco Team was attacked by a mob of angry youth 10 meters from a military checkpoint, but the team was able to get away to safety. In general, there are negative sentiments towards INGOs by the Sinhala community who believe the international organizations favor the Tamil people. In the days after, the Trinco team provided accompaniment to local humanitarian groups that delivered aid to those displaced included Sinhala people. It was also able to reach out to the gang that attacked them and engage in a peace gathering with other groups.

During the period March - April 2006, the fear among and animosity between the ethnic groups could be felt throughout Trincomalee. Regardless of the imposed curfew explosions were going off and it soon became obvious that neither the police nor the armed forces could no longer control the communal violence between Tamil and Sinhala people. At the request of the civilians living in a certain area who felt that the armed forces increased the tensions by putting up new sentry points and increasing their presence in a neighborhood already fearful of the army, the NP Trinco team engaged with the army commander and mediated an agreeable solution to all involved. Shortly after this positive result, the NP Trinco team found itself in a difficult situation at a church with people seeking safety from the violence. White vans, notorious for abducting people in Batticaloa, were trying to enter the church compound in Trincomalee. In a coordinated effort with the Colombo office, which made contact with the authorities, people inside the church soon received protection from police and Air Force soldiers.

In the same period, the NP Mutur team received calls for help from members of the Mutur Peace Committee. A claymore mine attack that killed a home guard, sparked army round-ups in the area followed by home guards retaliating against Tamil villagers. The home guards started burning and looting their houses, beating them with sticks and bats and killing one Tamil man. The Mutur team accompanied members of the Peace Committee to the area to assess the damage and document the atrocities including reports of sexual abuse. In collaboration with the Peace Committee the team spoke with the authorities and security forces and discussed the situation with Tamil and Sinhala community. The fact that the Mutur Peace Committee was able to play a bridge building role, facilitating the communication between parties involved is highly significant and shows the commitment of its members during such difficult circumstances.

In general, there has been a failure on the part of the media to provide the people living outside of the north-east with an accurate picture of the sufferings they are undergoing. Only through fact-finding missions by civil society groups into events such as the ethic violence in Trincomalee the facts are adequately reported. The Trinco and Mutur teams were able to facilitate such visits by civil society actors including human rights activists whilst in Colombo NP raised awareness about the events at various forums observed by local and international actors.

The so-called preventative approaches by NP are substituted by crisis management methods. A key element of such a strategy is communication, information gathering and dissemination and rumor control and keeping channels open between communities and between groups and authorities. At the same time, NP conducts regular risks assessments to ensure that it can still safely operate and close relationships with all actors involved including the strong ties in the communities serve as crucial conditions in this process. NP can only function effectively if it is accepted by the communities and by the actors involved.

After a brutal murder in May 2006 of a family including a 4-year old and a baby and several other people in small community of one of the Kayts islands in the Jaffna peninsula, the team provided protection to hundreds of people from the community who had fled in fear to the nearby local church. For more than a week, the Jaffna team was visibly present, thus served as a deterrent at the church increasing confidence and accompanied others to safe places. At the moment, it is facilitating the safe return of the displaced back to their homes.

In early 2007 the searching for safe places remained a priority in Batticaloa, the Colombo Response Team helped try to set up an informal network that can assist. NP Batti continued visiting IDP camps and participated in the distribution of leaflets in the camps explaining the rights that they have in the return to their homes as part of the empowerment and strengthening of the vulnerable groups. The local networks that NP are trying to mobilize are gradually getting bigger but the willingness to take on or even discuss sensitive issues is still very low. The increase of the fighting is also affecting the mobility and communication of the teams.

In Jaffna the situation remained tense in 2007, especially after LTTE planes targeted Palaly airport. Massive cordon searches by the army and navy ‘to find LTTE suspects who have infiltrated Jaffna take place on a daily basis. NP Jaffna’s role is clear, it facilitates the monitoring and documentation of human rights violations by working side by side with several human rights defenders. NP Jaffna is also gradually trying to expand the security and protection network.

In March 2007 daily incidents of violence continued to affect the lives of all who live and work in Jaffna and the large military presence remained in the streets. There were some periods of normalcy during the daytime hours, but night time remained tense. Curfew remained in effect for 8-10 hours each night, although NP was able to renew its monthly curfew pass which allows both international and national staff to travel from the office to their residences during restricted hours, in general night-time travel was minimized overall, in keeping with NP security procedures.

During this period there were continuous large-scale field troop movements and gradual increases in the exchange of heavy artillery firing, with periodic aerial bombing. The seas in the North were a frequent site of clashes as well, and the fishing industry is enormously affected by imposed restrictions on fishing hours and access to the sea in certain areas. The threat of—and fear of—suicide bombers, on land and sea, resulted in frequent ‘cordon and search’ operations in which many people are rounded up and put through an interrogation process by the security forces. Two known suicide missions were thwarted so far this year in Jaffna, and there have been a number of claymore attacks as well.

The work of the team in this environment is to focus on supporting local human rights defenders and helping to increase their space to do their important work. This includes accompanying partners to meetings, presentations and trainings on human rights, prison visits to those caught up in the violence, case follow-ups on specific incidents, and other information sharing. Visits to the prison reveal a number of troubling circumstances. More than 65 threatened youth and men were voluntarily “surrendered” through the Human Rights Commission in Jaffna out of fear of being killed or abducted. Once in the system, their lack of rights under the Surrenderee Act and the conditions under which they are kept are worrisome. Under Presidential Directives to the Commission for Rehabilitation, who oversee this year-long “rehabilitation” program, the magistrate court will not be granting any requests by a “surrenderee” for voluntary release. The surrenderees do not have separate accommodations and are being housed with the regular prison population and, therefore, subject to all the prison conditions, lack of services, unhealthy conditions and proper care, and abuses that were pre-existing in the facility.

NP Jaffna team continued to provide presence in vulnerable areas, especially for those communities identified as vulnerable with whom NP has previously worked, and they are also focused on the human security, conflict and other issues of 9 of the 23 IDP camps operating in the District

In Valachennai and Batticoala, the teams focused on monitoring the security and human rights situation for civilians in general, and for the IDPs in particular, including their right to participate in the decision about when to be returned in safety and dignity to their original home. The teams made regular visits to all of the IDP camps in the areas of our offices, maintaining relationships with the camp management and the government servants in charge of the camps, attending all the coordinating meetings to share information and concerns and gaps, assisting in the distribution of information regarding the rights of IDPs, and connecting individuals and families with needed resources where possible.

The teams also responded to reported incidents of violence, such as Batticaloa Team’s quick response to a claymore attack which killed 11 persons including 4 policemen and resulted in the immediate roundup of some 80 people, both staff and students, or a response to reports of attempted abductions at an IDP camp. If there are civilian injuries in our areas, the teams often go with civilian actors to visit the families, such as visiting the families in Valaichchenai whose relations died in the claymore attack at the Oddamavadi market. In some cases teams are able, at the least, to make phone calls to various contacts in the Security Forces, the Police, the Human Rights Commission, and to other protection agencies, to alert them to a situation and to the fact that the situation is known and is being monitored. Such quick communication can be important in how people are treated by the authorities during and after a violent incident, it can also draw in quick allies in the district or outside of the district with whom we have a relationship. Unfortunately, communication capability has been enormously diminished since the government turns off the mobile signal during times of military campaigns, which heightens the teams’ security concerns as they are unable to readily contact others outside of NP in times of crisis or active violence, as well as our own local staff, who don’t have land lines.