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Amnesty makes fresh call to free S.Lanka displaced

[AFP, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 07:11 No Comment]

Amnesty International on Monday made a fresh appeal for the release of tens of thousands of war-displaced Sri Lankan Tamils locked behind military-run camps in the island’s north.

The London-based rights watchdog said their "unlock the Camps" call was being issued at the start of their international council meeting in Turkey and urged the Sri Lankan government to give freedom of movement to camp detainees.

Some 300,000 men, women and children displaced during the final stages of the war between security forces and Tamil Tiger rebels continue to be held inside what the government calls "welfare villages."

"With no independent monitors able to freely visit the camps, many people are unprotected and at risk from enforced disappearances, abductions, arbitrary arrest and sexual violence," Amnesty said.

It noted that the inmates of the camps were not allowed to talk freely to aid workers or the occasional visitor, allowed by the military under strict supervision.

Except for medical emergencies, the Sri Lankan government does not allow people to travel outside the camps as the military insists that it wants to weed out suspected rebel fighters.

Some 10,000 suspected rebels have been rounded up since the war ended in mid-May and the government estimates the number could climb to 20,000 in the coming weeks.

Amnesty urged the government of neighbouring India to monitor the distribution of international aid pledged to Sri Lanka and called on the Colombo-based government to allow civilian authorities to manage the camps.

"The Sri Lankan authorities are still not addressing properly the needs of the newly displaced. The camps are overcrowded and unsanitary," Amnesty said.

While some progress had been made on providing basic needs, Amnesty said much needs to be done on the right to health, food, water, family reunion and access to relatives.

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