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U.N. Security Council Must Demand Immediate Access and Accountability in Sri Lanka, Says Amnesty International – PRNewswire

[MISC, Friday, 5 June 2009 05:54 No Comment]

Ahead of Friday’s U.N. Security Council briefing by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on his visit to Sri Lanka, Amnesty International urged the Security Council to demand that Sri Lanka provide full access to humanitarian organizations and establish an international inquiry into possible war crimes committed by all sides to the conflict.

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"It is unacceptable for the Sri Lankan government to deny full and unimpeded access to the United Nations and other humanitarian and human rights organizations," said Yvonne Terlingen, head of Amnesty International’s Office at the United Nations.

"The U.N. Secretary-General accepted assurances from the government on access for humanitarian agencies while he was in Sri Lanka and with each day that passes the credibility of the United Nations is eroded."

In a joint statement with the U.N. Secretary-General the Sri Lankan government professed its "strongest commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights."

Nearly 300,000 people displaced by the conflict are now held in military-run internment camps without access to basic needs or protection from serious human rights violations. Amnesty International has received reports of family members searching in vain for relatives forcibly separated from them after they exited the conflict area. Young men are also reportedly taken away from the camps by pro-government paramilitary forces and are at high risk of torture and other ill treatment or enforced disappearance.

The Sri Lankan government is also detaining some 9,000 suspected Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) without legal safeguards or notice to their families.

Sri Lankan authorities have imposed numerous obstacles in the way of humanitarian aid organizations, including preventing them from transporting goods into the camps with more than one vehicle at a time. The United Nations stressed on June 1 that "more access is needed."

"The Security Council must demand that the government of Sri Lanka gives immediate and full access to the United Nations, and other humanitarian and human rights organizations," said Terlingen. "In addition, the government must facilitate the deployment of U.N. human rights monitors to provide safeguards against violations."

Amnesty International is also calling on the Security Council to demand an international, independent inquiry into the evidence of serious abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law, including war crimes, perpetrated by the Tamil Tigers and the government. Alternatively, the U.N. Secretary-General should establish such an investigation under his own mandate.

The need for an international inquiry is underscored by the lack of clarity about the number of civilians killed during the fighting. There is evidence, including in the United Nations’ own data, that as many as 20,000 people, many of them civilians, may have been killed during the conflict. The U.N. Secretary-General has called these figures "unacceptably high."

According to testimonies, the LTTE were responsible for using civilians as human shields, but there is evidence that most civilians were killed as a result of shelling. The Sri Lankan military continued to use heavy weapons despite promising on February 24 and again on April 27 that it would stop using them. The firing of artillery into an area with a high concentration of civilians (such as the "no-fire zone" in the final weeks of the military campaign) violates international humanitarian law.

For a full text of Amnesty International’s letter to the Security Council see:

http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/IOR40/005/2009/en

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.2 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

For more information, please visit: www.amnestyusa.org

SOURCE Amnesty International

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