Amnesty wants Sri Lanka camps unlocked, war crimes probes

[TamilNet, Monday, 10 August 2009, 17:02 GMT]
Amnesty International Monday called for “the immediate release of 285,000 innocent Tamil civilians - including an estimated 50,000 children - being held in cramped and squalid camps” by Sri Lanka’s hard-line government. Amnesty called on the United Nations, Sri Lanka’s donors and rest of the international community to monitor the camps, push for unimpeded access for aid agencies, rights monitors and journalists and to take initial steps towards on international inquiry into war crimes. Amnesty noted that in Menik Farm – the most presentable of the camps - the equivalent of the population of the town of Bournemouth live, eat and sleep in an area size of Wembley Stadium.

Military supervised internment camp in Vavuniyaa (Photo: The Times, UK)
Military supervised internment camp in Vavuniyaa (Photo: The Times, UK)
“The camps - each surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by security forces - were set up during the recent Government offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam,.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said: “The largest camp - Menik Farm - is horrendous. It holds about 160,000 people in an area smaller than one square kilometre.”

“That's like the entire population of Bournemouth having to live, eat and sleep in an area the size of Wembley Stadium.”

“The people we are talking about here are doctors, teachers, farmers - ordinary people with ordinary lives. Yet, they are being held in horrendous conditions for no reason other than that they previously lived in areas held by the Tamil Tigers.”

“There is a lack of running water, limited access to toilets and restricted communication with the outside world,” she said.

“Aid workers in the camps are not even allowed to talk to the residents of the camp. These are innocent people being treated in the most inhumane way.”

Amnesty International called on the United Nations, Sri Lanka’s donors and other members of the international community to: “call for an immediate end to restrictions on freedom of movement that prevent displaced persons from leaving the confines of the camps and ensure that assistance they provide to maintain the IDP camps is not used in a way which violates human rights by continuing the practice of arbitrary detention of displaced persons;

“deploy an effective UN human rights monitoring mission to help provide safeguards against human rights abuses and, over the longer term, to contribute to protection of human rights for everyone in Sri Lanka;

“continue to demand full and unimpeded access by relevant UN agencies and other international humanitarian organizations to all IDPs, including for protection purposes. Such access must extend to monitoring registration and screening processes, detention places and IDP camps;

“call for access to IDP camps by independent human rights monitors and journalists;

“encourage the government to commit to clear benchmarks for durable solutions for Sri Lanka’s displaced population that comply with international human rights standards, including permanent, voluntary return to area of origin, integration into the local community, or resettlement in another part of the country;


“disclose information in their possession regarding the final phase of the conflict as an initial step towards an international inquiry into allegations of serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in the recent conflict, with a view to establishing the facts and make recommendations on how best to ensure accountability for abuses.”

Amnesty called on the Sri Lankan government to:

“immediately end the detention of civilians by lifting restrictions on displaced persons leaving the confines of the camps, grant immediate, full and unimpeded humanitarian access to the camps, permitting the supply of food, water and medical assistance [and] commit to the eventual closure of all the camps.”


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