ICRC releases half-year activity report

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 18 September 2002, 20:50 GMT]
"The government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have not sought the assistance of the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) up to now in opening the A9 highway for twenty hours," said ICRC Information Officer Mr. William Sukumar Rockwood addressing a press conference held Wednesday evening in Trincomalee. "If such a request is made by both parties the ICRC will consider it," said Mr. Rockwood in reply to a question.

Mr. Rockwood said some erroneous reports appeared in sections of the press that the ICRC is prepared to offer its services if the A9 highway is opened for twenty four hours.

The press conference was presided by the Head of ICRC sub-delegation in Trincomalee Ms Lina Milner. She was assisted by the ICRC Information Officer Mr. Rockwood, Protection Delegate Ms Mieke Hartmann and Mr.M.Pushparajan, Media Liaison Officer, Trincomalee-Batticaloa.

Outlining the ICRC activities in Trincomalee district for first half of this year Ms Lina Milner said that "with the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities agreement on February 22 by the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a peace process was initiated with the aim of finding a political solution to the armed conflict. The ICRC has been present in Sri Lanka since 1989 and its mandate, which is based on International Humanitarian Law (IHL), is related to the conflict situation and includes the transitional period as well. Therefore, the ICRC continues in the current context to monitor alleged breaches of International Humanitarian Law and maintains a confidential dialogue it enjoys with the parties to the conflict in an endeavor to ensure a better respect of the principles of IHL."

"During the six month period starting from January this year, eight hundred and forty seven persons approached the ICRC seeking assistance related to protection of people. The ICRC provided escort to the passenger vessel 'City of Trinco' between Kankesanthurai and Trincomalee from August 2000 to June 2002 on 33 trips enabling more than 22,8000 civilians to travel from the peninsula to the south and return. This ship service was suspended late June, 2002 after the opening of the A9 highway," ICRC delegate Ms Lina Milner in her report stated.

The report further said, "109 families in Trincomalee district received financial assistance to visit relatives detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Emergency Regulations once every three months. 28 released detainees who asked ICRC for help were given assistance to travel home.

"One family was reunited by ICRC in the first half of 2002. During the period under review, the ICRC in Trincomalee carried out nine visits to permanent and transitory places of detention. In all 91 persons detained due to the conflict, were visited.

"The ICRC provides its neutral intermediary services for the implementation of the North East Integrated Agricultural Project, a World Bank funded programme which includes facilitation of communication with both parties to the conflict, dealing with security issues and technical monitoring of the project. Under this programme, rehabilitation work in 13 tanks in Trincomalee district is being carried out. World Bank officials evaluating the progress of the project are regularly escorted by the ICRC. The project is expected to have significant impact on the agricultural economy of all ethnic groups in the district."

During the period under review, the ICRC in Trincomalee district held various sessions on International Humanitarian Law (IHL), which dealt with the ICRC mandate, and the Law of War to the Sri Lankan armed forces, the LTTE and to civil and medical authorities. Of those sessions, fourteen were held in the district for 1,525 members of the armed forces, including a first ever session for 85 Sri Lanka Air Force personnel. 12 sessions were also held for religious leaders, teachers, government and educational authorities and media personnel, states the report.

In the sphere of health activities the ICRC in Trincomalee conducted health clinics in eight remote villages in the LTTE controlled areas where there are no medical facilities. The ICRC funds a mobile dental clinic, which is run by the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society. This programme provides dental care in both government and LTTE controlled areas, states the report.


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