U.N. funding Sri Lanka internment camps, withholds casualty numbers - ICP

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 10 March 2009, 12:28 GMT]
"The UN on Monday acknowledged that it is funding camps in Sri Lanka from which people cannot leave, and that it has compiled casualty figures from the fighting which it will not release," correspondent Matthew Lee of Inner City Press (ICP), who has been reporting on UN issues on Sri Lanka, said in a report. "Inner City Press, which two weeks ago published a local count of 1800 civilians killed since January, on Monday asked UN's relief coordinator John Holmes to confirm that the UN now has a count of 2300," said the report, but accused U.N.'s Holmes of withholding the figures.

Exceprts from Lee's report follows:

John Holmes
"Holmes said the UN has "done some of our own attempt" at a count, but "cannot verify them" and therefore will not release the figures. By contrast, the UN repeatedly uses a 300,000 figure for deaths in Darfur, regarding which many questions of verifications have been raised. The UN and Holmes are in the midst of protesting the expulsion and lay-off of half of the humanitarian workers in Darfur. But there is no humanitarian or media access at all to the conflict zone in Sri Lanka.

PDF IconUN's press meet with Holmes

"Some say, if the UN benefits Sri Lanka's government by refusing to release civilian casualty numbers in a zone the government blocks them from entering, more figures like Sudan's Omar al-Bashir will just keep the UN and the NGOs out, and count on the UN's on-again off-again concern about full verification.

PDF IconUN funds Sri Lanka's internment camps

"For two weeks, Inner City Press has asked at the UN whether international aid funds will be used for detention camps in which those fleeing the conflict zone in Sri Lanka will be detained, until the end of 2009 or longer. Holmes on Monday confirmed that the UN has "offered to assist transit camps" or "semi-permanent camps," and as to funding as so far "make no links between the two." He said that in the long run, the UN would be hard pressed to fund camps that violated international standards. But he said the UN wouldn't want to "punish those in the camps." So would the UN just keep on paying, for detention camps?"


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