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S Lanka judge rebuffed over camps

[BBC, Friday, 5 June 2009 16:21 2 Comments]

A Sri Lankan minister has said that a top judge is "entitled to his own opinion" after criticising conditions in camps for displaced Tamils.

Chief Justice Sarath Silva had said people in the camps were living in immense distress.

Thousands of people have been housed the camps before and after the end of the war against Tamil rebels in May.

Aid agencies and the UN have expressed concern about their plight and have demanded better access to them.

‘Pathetic situation’

The Human Rights Minister, Mahinda Samarasinghe, told the BBC that Chief Justice Silva had simply expressed his own point of view after his first visit to the camps, where more than a quarter of a million Tamils are detained.

The top judge, who is about to retire, said in a speech on Wednesday that there were no words to describe the displaced people’s suffering and grief, as he put it, and their pathetic situation.

"I was unable to console them," he said.

He said there were queues of 50 to 100 yards (metres) for the toilet, and people living 10 to a tent.

The judge said that people were beyond the protection of the law.

But Mr Samarasinghe said this was not the case and that anyone, even those in the camps, had access to free legal counsel.

He said he agreed with some of the chief justice’s criticisms of toilets and tents – facilities which, he said, were the responsibility of the UN children’s fund (Unicef) and its refugee agency (UNHCR).

But a Unicef spokesman, James Elder, rebuffed the minister’s allegation.

He said that ultimate responsibility for the camps rested with the government, and that the UN’s support had been greatly hindered by the government’s restrictions on access to the camps.

Mr Elder said that if the government would let more of the camp occupants leave to stay with host families, many congestion problems would be instantly solved.

[Full Coverage]

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  • ssam perera said:

    all the people are mad including me.with out problems this world will not keep alive.dont blame anyone.mind your own business.

  • fdimul said:

    When is the International Community is going to take action instead of crocodile tears. Even today tamilians are being killed in 100′s in Srilanka.