CWS has joined joined Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand in appealing for an end to the unlawful violence in Sri Lanka that has caused a humanitarian crisis in recent months.
An open letter sent today by Amnesty International New Zealand, Council of International Development (CID), Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, Christian World Service, and Ghandhi Illam New Zealand Trust has urged Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully to join the international community’s latest call for an immediate ceasefire and peace talks between the Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and for both parties to allow access for humanitarian aid.
More than a quarter of a million people have been trapped in the north-eastern part of Sri Lanka since clashes between the Sri Lankan Government and LTTE have intensified since August last year. “Hundreds of civilians have lost their lives and 300,000 people are trapped between the opposing factions, both of whom are guilty of indiscriminate attacks against civilians. They are facing acute shortages of food, shelter and access to medical care,” says Margaret Taylor, Amnesty NZ’s spokesperson.
The letter to McCully highlights the human rights violations committed by both sides of the conflict. It also condemns both sides for preventing access to humanitarian aid (including adequate medical assistance), as well as the Sri Lankan government’s restriction on media access to conflict areas making it almost impossible to verify what is happening on the ground.
“In a war without witnesses, it is the civilians who are paying the price for both parties’ disregard for international humanitarian law,” says Taylor.
To read the full letter, visit www.amnesty.org.nz
The open letter calls for both the Sri Lankan Government and LTTE to:
– Immediately declare a ceasefire and commence negotiations for a political settlement to prevent any further displacement of civilians;
– Create humanitarian corridors to enable access to the quarter of a million trapped civilians with no food, water nor medical assistance;
– Ensure that civilians fleeing the conflict zone have unimpeded access to safe areas, including to Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps’;
– Allow immediate unimpeded access for the United Nations and international NGOs to the IDP camps to prevent any human right abuses;
– Allow access for international, independent monitors to be deployed as a matter of urgency, and including media to the Wanni region and the IDP camps.
Verifying any account of how many people have been killed or wounded in this latest conflict is next to impossible since the war zone is sealed off to independent observers. The International Committee of the Red Cross, the only aid agency with a permanent presence in the war zone, has said hundreds have been killed and injured in the past few weeks, but has not given an exact figure. Amnesty International research documents some 70,000 people have been killed in the fighting since 1983.
The United Nations, European Union, Norway, India, United States and Britain have called on both sides to declare a ceasefire and commence negotiations for a political settlement. The Australian Government has contributed $5 million in additional humanitarian assistance and called on all those involved in the fighting to make protecting civilians an absolute priority.
26 February 2009