Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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TRO: Human Rights & the Humanitarian Situation

TRO calls on the Human Rights Council to take action by demanding that the GoSL comply with its obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law to protect civilians and allow access by humanitarian aid agencies to populations in need of relief.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

10 December 2007

HUMAN RIGHTS DAY 2007: Human Rights and the Humanitarian Situation in Sri Lanka

On this Human Rights Day 2007 (December 10), the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Tamils Rehabilitation Organization (TRO), on behalf of the people of the NorthEast of Sri Lanka, petitions the Sixth Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) to take immediate action to stem the rapidly deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka.

LACK OF ACTION BY THE UN HRC

The Human Rights Council has failed during past sessions to take any action against the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and the human rights and humanitarian situation has continued to spiral downwards.  

TRO calls on the Human Rights Council to take action by demanding that the GoSL comply with its obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law to protect civilians and allow access by humanitarian aid agencies to populations in need of relief. The establishment of a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights field office in the country would go a long way towards this end.

GoSL IMPUNITY

The GoSL continues to violate international human rights and humanitarian law with impunity. In the past two years the GoSL has arbitrarily denied and restricted access by humanitarian aid agencies, conducted military offensives that involved deliberate and indiscriminate attacks on civilians and civilian institutions, and impeded the functioning of and eventually banned TRO, the largest and most effective local NGO in the NorthEast, without affording TRO the "due process" of law.

Since coming to power, the current President's regime has been trying to restrict all TRO humanitarian, reconstruction, and development programs in government-controlled areas and has continually put obstacles in the way of TRO relief activities in other areas of the NorthEast. The banning of TRO will result in a further restriction on humanitarian relief to the Tamil people

CIVILIANS HARDSHIPS

Civilians in the NorthEast continue to face immense hardship as a result of these military offensives and GoSL-imposed restrictions and embargoes on humanitarian relief, food, fuel, and medicine to the LTTE controlled Vanni. Additionally, the Jaffna peninsula remains an "open prison" since the closure of the A9 highway by the GoSL on 11 August 2006. This has limited the supply of food to over 500,000 people in the peninsula.  

ATTACKS ON CIVILIANS

Civilians have been killed as a result of deliberate and indiscriminate aerial bombardment, shelling and claymore mine attacks throughout the NorthEast. A large number of civilians have been killed as a result of these violations of international humanitarian law. The latest of these occurred on 27 November when 11 persons, including seven (7) school girls, were killed when the van they were travelling in was hit by a Sri Lanka Army Deep Penetration Unit (DPU) claymore mine attack. This attack was the latest by the DPU on medical personnel (ambulance) and humanitarian workers. (http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=23943)

DISPLACEMENT, FORCED RETURN, COLONIZATION & HIGH SECURITY ZONES

Currently 208,000 persons have been displaced since April 2006 with over 20,000 persons being forcibly displaced due to GoSL bombing and shelling since September 2007. ("IDP and Returnees by District", UN OCHA, 31 Oct 2007)

In addition to those displaced since April 2006 there are many thousands who remain displaced by the conflict prior to April 2006 and by the 2004 tsunami. A more accurate picture of the Internally Displaced Persons' (IDP) situation emerges when these other IDPs are included in the total IDP figures:

NorthEast Total

270,217

East Total

76,089

North Total

194,128

Batticaloa

56,436

Amparai

6,397

Trincomalee

13,256

Mullaitivu

117,104

Kilinochchi

27, 040

Vavuniya

9812

 

Instead of assuring the safety of these civilian IDPs, the GoSL has on numerous occasions forced IDPs to return to their homes in contravention of international standards, which stipulate that any such returns must be voluntary and the security of the IDPs must be ensured.

The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) has reported that thousands of IDPs in areas west of Batticaloa "have felt pressured to return" to their original homes despite their unwillingness to do so owing to security and other concerns. ("SLMM Weekly Monitoring Report", 19-25 November 2007)

The GoSL has also prevented IDPs from resettling on their own lands by declaring vast tracts of land in Muttur and Sampoor to be High Security Zones (HSZ) or Special Economic Zones (SEZ). Other areas have been subjected to state sponsored colonization by persons from outside the NorthEast.

The IDPs in the East live in an area that the GoSL claims to have liberated but the people still live in IDP camps with the threat of war, killings, abductions and no livelihoods.

ATTACKS ON TRO PERSONNEL & OFFICES

In January 2006 paramilitary groups, known to be working with and under the direction of the GoSL, abducted, raped, tortured and killed 7 TRO humanitarian workers. The evidence of these paramilitary groups' affiliation with and control by the Sri Lanka armed forces is irrefutable and TRO holds the GoSL responsible for these deaths.

Additionally, TRO offices in GoSL-controlled areas have been attacked numerous times by paramilitary groups and persons in "military fatigues." The Jaffna and Batticaloa TRO Offices were ransacked and set afire and the vehicles and office equipment destroyed. A staff member was killed in the final attack on the Batticaloa Office. These events usually occurred during curfew times and within 100 yards of Sri Lanka Police and Army checkpoints and therefore had to have involved the Sri Lanka Armed Forces. Sri Lanka Armed Forces and Police have also intimidated and threatened TRO staff at the office and in their homes

FREEZING OF TRO SRI LANKA BANK ACCOUNTS

When these actions did not bear results and TRO continued, despite the threats and harassment, to function in GoSL areas and deliver vitally needed humanitarian relief and development, the GoSL froze the TRO bank accounts.  

V. Sivanadiyar
TRO President
Kilinochchi Head Office

-ENDS-