Respect International Humanitarian Law, urges Hospital Director

[TamilNet, Friday, 03 November 2006, 00:03 GMT]
Dr.Sathanandan, Director of Kilinochchi General Hospital at Anandapuram which was subjected to Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF) aerial bombardment on Thursday afternoon at 2:45 p.m.appealed to all parties to respect the International Humanitarian Law and avoid targeting hospitals, in an interview to the TamilNet, Thursday. "The humanitarian law calls on States both “to respect” and “to ensure respect” the Conventions," Dr Sathanandan said, adding that hospitals attend to the most urgent humanitarian needs of people and should be safeguarded from all forms of violence.

Dr. Sathanandan
Dr.Sathanandan, Director of Kilinochchi General Hospital.
Excerpts of the interview follow:

Q: Doctor could you tell what happened today morning soon after the bombs fell?
A: At the time of bombing there were about 700 out patients and 300 in-patients at the hospital. Soon after the bombs exploded, there was widespread panic in the hospital and during confusion many patients were escorted out by their relatives.

In addition, many who were receiving intravenous treatment pulled out the tubes and ran out of the hospital. It was all a sad human tragedy.

All hospital services came to a standstill and patients have been deprived of medical treatment. As a result of the bombing close to the hospital, three patients and three employees of the hospital have suffered minor injuries, while five civilians have been killed.

Today’s bombing which took place at a distance of about 150-300 metres from Kilinochchi hospital boundary has damaged some of the hospital quarters, and fragments of the bombs and other bomb impacted materials are strewn around the hospital premises.

Many nurses and other hospital employees, after settling the remaining patients, left the hospital to their homes seeking saftey.

Q: How are the patients in immediate medical needs coping with the situation?
A: In our facilitly 15 to 18 child birth takes place on the average daily. As a result of today’s attack several expectant mothers have gone into smaller hospitals in the region.

Some in the maternity wards and those who have been scheduled for surgery today are still in the wards but the patients are fearful of further attacks.

This being the major hospital in the region, health services for the region have been temporarily but severely curtailed because of the bombing.

Q: What happened to the casualties?
A: Five civilians, which included two students, their father, uncle and an aunt were killed when their house 500 metres east of the hospital was destroyed. Their bodies have been brought to the hospital.

Q:You have earlier appealed to the International Committee of the Red Cross to have the hospital declared as a safety zone. Has any action been taken in this regard?
A: When we made this request we were informed that flying the Red Cross flag in hospital premises is sufficient for the area to be treated as a safety zone as per Geneva Conventions and under International Humanitarian Law. We complied with this requirement and felt confident that the hospital will not be targeted.

Q:When do you think situation in the hospital turn to normal?
A: It is very doubtful, whether the hospital can continue to function effectively in future unless warring parties guarantee safety of the patients and hospital staff. The hospital premises, where humanitarian services are provided to sick and injured, should be respected as a violence-free zone..

Q: What is your message to the warring parties and to the International Community?
A: We request the International Community to impress on the parties to the conflict to respect hospitals as violence-free zones and to stop perpetrating all forms of violence within hospital premises. International community and human rights institutions should not hesitate to condemn anyone who violates international humanitarian laws especially if they endanger patients and medical staff.


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