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HRW asks Lanka not to detain fleeing civilians from Vanni

[PTI, Thursday, 25 December 2008 14:18 No Comment]

A leading rights watchdog has asked Sri Lankan government to stop arbitrarily detaining civilians fleeing fighting in the northern Vanni region and allow humanitarian agencies to return to provide desperately needed aid.

In a new 49-page report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) blames Sri Lankan government for the severe shortages faced by 230,000 to 300,000 displaced persons trapped in the Vanni conflict zone.
"They face severe shortages of food and other essentials because of government restrictions on humanitarian assistance. Individuals and families who have managed to flee areas controlled by the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have been detained in poor conditions in army-controlled camps," it said.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians are trapped in a war zone with limited aid because the government ordered the UN and other aid workers out, said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
"To add insult to injury, people who manage to flee the fighting end up being held indefinitely in army-run prison camps." The report is based on research conducted by Human Rights Watch in northern Sri Lanka from October through December 2008. In-depth interviews, HRW said, were conducted with officials from United Nations agencies and humanitarian organisations, diplomats, religious leaders, and civilians affected by the conflict, among others.

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