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HRW report on civilians in Sri Lanka’s Vanni region

Human Rights Watch publicou hoxe un informe sobre a situación dos civís atrapados entre o exército de Sri Lanka e a guerrilla tamil. Os dous bandos son responsables de violacións dos Direitos Humanos. O informe leva por título “Besieged, Displaced, and Detained: The Plight of Civilians in Sri Lanka’s Vanni Region”. Copio un extracto da súa introducción:

Several hundred thousand ethnic Tamil civilians are currently trapped in intensifying fighting between the Sri Lankan armed forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the LTTE’s northern stronghold, known as the Vanni. As the LTTE has lost ground to advancing government forces, civilians have been squeezed into a shrinking conflict zone. The encroaching fighting has left many homeless, hungry, and sick, and placed their lives increasingly in danger.

The war in northern Sri Lanka receives little attention in the international media, in part because foreign journalists have not had independent access to the Vanni since fighting intensified in mid-2007. Independent human rights monitors are similarly prevented by the government and the LTTE from going to the area. As a result, the continuing suffering of the people of the Vanni remains largely unknown to the rest of the world.

This report details the Sri Lankan government’s responsibility for the plight of displaced civilians in the Vanni, focusing on the humanitarian crisis created by sweeping government restrictions on humanitarian access and the government’s policy of indefinitely detaining virtually all civilians fleeing from LTTE-controlled areas in military-guarded camps.

The LTTE has forcibly blocked civilians in areas under its control from crossing into government-held territory, compelling them to move with retreating LTTE forces. As a result, only about a thousand civilians from the Vanni have managed to reach non-combat zones-and most of these, including many families, have been detained in government camps. The LTTE also has continued to force civilians, including children, to join LTTE ranks and to carry out abusive forced labor.

In September 2008, Sri Lankan Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa ordered the United Nations (UN) and international humanitarian agencies to leave the Vanni. This policy has drastically worsened the plight of the civilian population, significantly reducing prospects that essential food, shelter, water, sanitation, and health care would reach affected individuals. Cyclone Nisha, which hit the area to devastating effect in late November, had a greater impact because of these restrictions.

With humanitarian and civilian movement in and out of the Vanni greatly restricted by both the Sri Lankan authorities and the LTTE, affected communities find it increasingly difficult to obtain desperately needed humanitarian assistance.

While the government claims the withdrawal of UN and humanitarian agency staff was necessary to ensure their safety, such agencies work in many conflicts around the world where their security is at greater risk. Sri Lankan officials also have shown overt hostility to outside agencies and humanitarian staff in recent months, suggesting that political considerations or a desire to remove independent observers from the scene might also have been behind the ouster. Human Rights Watch recognizes that continuing fighting in the region raises legitimate security concerns, but urges that UN and humanitarian agencies be allowed to make their own, professional assessments of the risks. Instead of a blanket ban, any restrictions should be implemented on a case-by-case basis and only where there is a situation-specific reason for the restriction. The government should urgently engage in good faith discussions with the UN and humanitarian agencies about allowing them back to assist civilians in need.

Civilians seeking to flee the fighting in the Vanni also continue to be fearful of their treatment by government authorities. The Sri Lankan government has established a policy of detaining civilians fleeing LTTE-controlled areas in search of safety. Most of the families and individuals stopped while crossing into government-controlled areas have been detained indefinitely in military-run camps. Virtually all Vanni residents are ethnic Tamils who have relatives-by choice or compulsion-in the LTTE. […]


23 Decembro 2008 - Posted by | Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, Politics, Sri Lanka

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