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INDICTMENT AGAINST SRI LANKA

Sri Lanka's Genocidal War - '95 to '01

Non Governmental Organisations call for action to prevent humanitarian crisis....

Asian Human Rights Commission  
Media Release - 9 May 2000

An international coalition of aid agencies and human rights organisations has called for urgent action by the United Nations and member governments to avert an impending humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka. The call comes as the Sri Lankan Government yesterday rejected a temporary ceasefire offer in the northern Jaffna peninsula by the armed opposition Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The LTTE offer was conditional on the evacuation of 40,000 Sri Lankan Government personnel who are under siege and relatively isolated but are reportedly being reinforced with new weaponry to defend Jaffna and the nearby Palali air base.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is requesting that all Asian Governments support urgent UN action to avert the immediate threat to the lives and security of 500,000 civilians and also the combatants of both sides due to fighting in the Jaffna peninsula.

Launching the statement in Asia, Mr. Wong Kai Shing, AHRC Executive Officer, said "The international community should urge all parties to agree to an immediate cessation of military activity in the peninsula, given that 17 years of fighting has proven no military solution is viable. A cease-fire could strengthen existing offers of help towards peace negotiations by third party mediators such as the Norwegian government. AHRC urges all parties to the conflict to begin immediate dialogue to resolve the present crisis in a manner that ensures compliance with international humanitarian law and minimises the risk to both civilians and combatants."

He added, "The urgent need now is to concentrate on getting those in danger out safely and preventing the burgeoning violence in the south, rather than escalating the violence in the north. Indications are that disgruntled groups are already mobilising and are on the verge of taking vengeance on minority Tamils living in the South. There is a very real possibility that the situation will degenerate into chaos, once again creating situations such as the events of July 1983 or the 1988-92 program of mass disappearances. To prevent this scenario, AHRC has asked President Kumaratunga to issue a nation-wide address to urge restraint amongst the law enforcement officials, civilians, armed forces and the various political, racial and religious groups in Sri Lanka."

The NGO statement also calls for:

Mr. Wong explained, "In our experience, the best means by which to prevent the chaos that the current events in Sri Lanka proscribe is for UN-sponsored Human Rights Monitors to be brought in expediently across the entire country. An urgent visit to different parts of the country by Mrs. Robinson would no doubt discover the value of dispatching monitors to prevent violations of human rights in both the military zone and the towns and cities of the rest of the country."

The Humanitarian Crisis in Sri Lanka: A Joint Statement and Call for Action by Non-Governmental Organisations was issued by: the Australian Council for Overseas Aid; Conciliation Resources-UK ; Asian Human Rights Commission – Hong Kong ; Bread for the World – Germany; Catholic Agency for Overseas Development –UK; Asia Pacific Center for Justice and Peace –USA ;International Working Group on Sri Lanka – UK and the Life and Peace Institute – Norway.

Asian Human Rights Commission Unit D,7 Floor,
16 Argyle Street Mongkok Commercial Centre
Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR
Tel: +(852)-2698-6339
Fax: +(852)-2698-6367
E-mail: ahrchk@ahrchk.org 

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A Joint Statement and Call for Action by Non-Governmental Organisations
The Humanitarian Crisis in Sri Lanka

The conflict between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE) has resulted in the deaths of over 65,000 people. Since 1983, 1 million people have been internally displaced and a further 600,000 refugees have fled the country.

We, as organisations working in the war zones and actively involved in seeking a negotiated and peaceful end to the conflict, are deeply concerned by the grave and immediate threat to the lives, security and basic humanitarian needs of 500,000 civilians currently caught in the fighting between the military forces of the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE in the Jaffna peninsula in the north of Sri Lanka.

Furthermore, we wish to express our concerns for the safety of 40,000 personnel of the Government of Sri Lanka stationed in the Jaffna Peninsula.

We call upon the Secretary General of the United Nations to urge the parties to the conflict to resolve the immediate crisis in Sri Lanka in a manner that ensures compliance with International Humanitarian Law and reduces to an absolute minimum the risks to life and security of civilians and combatants alike. the Secretary General of the United Nations to urge the parties to the conflict to resolve the immediate crisis in Sri Lanka in a manner that ensures compliance with International Humanitarian Law and reduces to an absolute minimum the risks to life and security of civilians and combatants alike.

We propose that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights immediately undertake a visit to Jaffna and Colombo to assess the current situation throughout the entire country. that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights immediately undertake a visit to Jaffna and Colombo to assess the current situation throughout the entire country.

We request that the European Union agree financial support for this visit and for any further recommendations which may arise. that the European Union agree financial support for this visit and for any further recommendations which may arise.

We urge the nations of the international community to communicate with all the parties to the conflict including the Government of Sri Lanka, the parliamentary parties and the LTTE, the need to resolve the present crisis in Sri Lanka in a manner that reduces to an absolute minimum the risks to life and security of civilians and combstants. the nations of the international community to communicate with all the parties to the conflict including the Government of Sri Lanka, the parliamentary parties and the LTTE, the need to resolve the present crisis in Sri Lanka in a manner that reduces to an absolute minimum the risks to life and security of civilians and combstants.

The international community must seek respect, by all parties, with the relevant provisions of International Humanitarian Law to ensure that : respect, by all parties, with the relevant provisions of International Humanitarian Law to ensure that :

all civilians in Jaffna Peninsula are safe from any form of violence to life, murder, cruel treatment, taking of hostages, outrages upon personal dignity, humiliating and degrading treatment by the armed forces of either side;

all civilians in the areas under the de facto control of the LTTE remain safe from any form of punishment without previous judgement pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all judicial guarantees;

members of the armed forces of both parties who have laid down their arms or are placed hors de combat shall, in all circumstances,be treated humanely;

all civilians are provided with adequate access to essential items, including supplies of food, water, fuel, and medicines.

By these actions the international community may assist to create conditions which will allow access for medical and emergency supplies to provide care for the wounded and sick and the respectful burial of the war dead of all parties.

Impartial bodies such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and the relief agencies currently working in Jaffna may offer their services to the parties of the conflict. Such services will require the financial support of the donor countries for the provision of relief supplies and to supplement current personal levels if required.

It is essential that there be effective monitoring of the humanitarian situation and adherence to International Humanitarian Law by the parties to the conflict. that there be effective monitoring of the humanitarian situation and adherence to International Humanitarian Law by the parties to the conflict.

The visit of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should therefore investigate the possibility of establishing a monitoring team throughout Sri Lanka. A monitoring system may be convened under the auspices of the United Nations, multi-national bodies from the region, the Commonwealth or the European Union as is felt appropriate and agreed in discussions with the parties to the conflict. Such an initiative must agreed with the LTTE and apply to areas of the country under their de facto control.

Any political commitment to these measures will require a commensurate financial commitment from the international community.

We urge a swift response to provide transportation, coordination and care for the wounded and sick, if the Government of Sri Lanka requests the international community to assist an evacuation of its personnel from the Jaffna peninsula.The international community should endeavour to use all channels of communication to ensure that any evacuation takes place with full adherence to International Humanitarian Law and to agree modalities to provide monitors to ensure strict adherence. a swift response to provide transportation, coordination and care for the wounded and sick, if the Government of Sri Lanka requests the international community to assist an evacuation of its personnel from the Jaffna peninsula.The international community should endeavour to use all channels of communication to ensure that any evacuation takes place with full adherence to International Humanitarian Law and to agree modalities to provide monitors to ensure strict adherence.

As organisations who have worked for many years in all areas of Sri Lanka we recognise that the current situation in the Jaffna peninsula may have serious political and humanitarian implications in the rest of the country.

We therefore propose that the international community use its good offices with both the Government of Sri Lanka and all parliamentary parties, including the parliamentary Tamil parties, to ensure that the above modalities are made in the spirit of a bi-partisan approach to the long-term resolution of the conflict. A bi-partisan approach may pre-empt the possibilities of increased tensions in the country leading to inter-ethnic violence. that the international community use its good offices with both the Government of Sri Lanka and all parliamentary parties, including the parliamentary Tamil parties, to ensure that the above modalities are made in the spirit of a bi-partisan approach to the long-term resolution of the conflict. A bi-partisan approach may pre-empt the possibilities of increased tensions in the country leading to inter-ethnic violence.

We have witnessed the dangers of such violence in Sri Lanka in 1983 and again in 1988-92. The Government of Sri Lanka must be confident of the support of all parliamentary parties within the country and of the international community if it is to prevent any extremist political, religious or racial groups from manipulating the current situation for their own ends to instigate ethnic violence.

It is imperative that such support be discussed at the upcoming meeting of the Aid Consortium in Paris. This meeting must now incorporate a full debate on humanitarian and peace issues. The Framework on Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation currently being prepared for the Government of Sri Lanka by the World Bank must specifically focus on methods to support a long-term peace process in Sri Lanka. that such support be discussed at the upcoming meeting of the Aid Consortium in Paris. This meeting must now incorporate a full debate on humanitarian and peace issues. The Framework on Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation currently being prepared for the Government of Sri Lanka by the World Bank must specifically focus on methods to support a long-term peace process in Sri Lanka.

We welcome and encourage the current initiative of Government of Norway, at the invitation of both the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, aimed at peaceful and negotiated resolution to the conflict. the current initiative of Government of Norway, at the invitation of both the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, aimed at peaceful and negotiated resolution to the conflict.

We request that the international community take all decisions in relation to Sri Lanka with the view to supporting the Norwegian initiative and seeking further possibilities for confidence building measures between the warring parties. Particularly at this time of crisis, which threatens an unprecedented escalation of the war, it is vital that any decisions on financial or military transfers to any party to the conflict be meticulously scrutinised in this light. that the international community take all decisions in relation to Sri Lanka with the view to supporting the Norwegian initiative and seeking further possibilities for confidence building measures between the warring parties. Particularly at this time of crisis, which threatens an unprecedented escalation of the war, it is vital that any decisions on financial or military transfers to any party to the conflict be meticulously scrutinised in this light.

The international community must also engage with all parties to the conflict to ensure that freedom of expression is protected for all people living in all areas of Sri Lanka. Emergency measures should not exceed the limitations established in International Law. We unreservedly believe that the free flow of continual, accurate and reliable information is essential to monitoring respect for the full range of human rights and humanitarian norms. Moreover, fully inclusive debate and analysis need to be guaranteed as a prerequisite for a political solution to the conflict. engage with all parties to the conflict to ensure that freedom of expression is protected for all people living in all areas of Sri Lanka. Emergency measures should not exceed the limitations established in International Law. We unreservedly believe that the free flow of continual, accurate and reliable information is essential to monitoring respect for the full range of human rights and humanitarian norms. Moreover, fully inclusive debate and analysis need to be guaranteed as a prerequisite for a political solution to the conflict.

To summarise, we are taking immediate action to mobilise the international community to ensure sufficient and sensitive political and financial assistance to respond to this crisis:

o The Secretary General of the United Nations to urge the parties to the conflict to resolve the immediate crisis in Sri Lanka;

o The United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights to make an on-site assessment throughout the country;

o The European Union to fund this visit;

o All nations of the international community to communicate concerns to the parties to the conflict;

o Establishment of effective human-rights monitoring systems throughout Sri Lanka;

o Adherence to International Humanitarian Law and other humanitarian norms by all parties to the conflict;

o Financial support to the ICRC and humanitarian agencies so that they may care for the wounded and sick of all parties in the Jaffna peninsula;

o Essential humanitarian supplies for all civilians affected

by the conflict;

o All measures to prevent inter-ethnic violence throughout the country

o If required, urgent assistance to the Government of Sri Lanka to evacuate personnel form the Jaffna Peninsula;

o Communication with all parliamentary parties to ensure a bi-partisan approach to the immediate crisis and the longer term peace process;

o Support for all initiatives aimed at facilitating a de-escalation of the conflict and leading to a negotiated peace process in Sri Lanka;

o Consideration of all humanitarian and peace considerations at the forthcoming meeting of the Paris Aid consortium;

o Consideration of financial and military transfers in the light of the dangers of contributing to an escalation of the conflict;

o Support for the free flow information to ensure the monitoring of respect for the full range of human rights and humanitarian norms throughout the country.

Statement ends

Statement jointly agreed by 

 

continued 

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