The Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
(LTTE) must immediately heed demands by the United Nations Security
Council and similar calls made by US President Barack Obama and allow
tens of thousands of civilians to leave the ‘No Fire Zone’, Amnesty
International said on Thursday.
Amnesty International welcomed the Security Council’s statement as a
first step in addressing the humanitarian and human rights crisis in
Sri Lanka but called for an end to the use of heavy calibre weapons and
for the UN, the Red Cross (ICRC) and other humanitarian organizations
to be allowed immediate access to the 50,000 civilians, or more,
trapped in the ‘No Fire Zone’ on the island’s north east coast.
“The Security Council must now ensure that its demands are promptly
implemented, that the situation in Sri Lanka is formally put on the
Council’s agenda and kept under close review. It also needs to address
accountability for the grave violations of international humanitarian
and human rights law by both parties in future” said Sam Zarifi,
Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director.
Amnesty International welcomed separate statements from the Security
Council and President Obama condemning the LTTE for its use of
civilians as human shields and calling on the government to take urgent
action to ensure the safety of civilians. The Security Council told the
Sri Lankan government to fulfil its commitment not to use heavy calibre
weapons in areas with high concentrations of civilians – a promise it
has broken in recent weeks – causing the death of many civilians.
Amnesty International’s Secretary General, Irene Khan, wrote on 12 May to the Security Council calling for immediate action to address the appalling situation in the ‘No Fire Zone’. She expressed grave concern about the large numbers of civilians being killed, including many children and warned of growing evidence that the government and the LTTE are committing serious violations of international humanitarian law.
Amnesty International also urged the Security Council to stress
individual responsibility for crimes under international law and to
ensure the creation of a commission of inquiry, as a first step towards
establishing accountability for alleged breaches of international
humanitarian and human rights law.
Amnesty International called on the UN Security Council to ensure that
attacks on civilians by the Sri Lankan army or the LTTE be stopped;
that the LTTE allow all civilians to leave the conflict area; and that
the Sri Lankan government stop using heavy artillery in a very densely
populated area and provide immediate access to international monitors
and humanitarian agencies.
The organization has regularly condemned both the LTTE and the Sri
Lankan military for serious violations of international humanitarian
law, including war crimes. The LTTE have forcibly trapped civilians in
the conflict zone as human shields against government forces. The Sri
Lankan military has in the past used heavy artillery, which is
indiscriminate under the circumstances, causing civilian deaths and
US President Barack Obama warned that “without urgent action, this humanitarian crisis could turn into a catastrophe”.
He condemned the LTTE’s use of civilians as ‘human shields’ and urged
the Sri Lankan government to stop the ‘indiscriminate shelling’ in the
area and asked for access by humanitarian agencies to the civilians who
are trapped between the warring parties and those displaced people
within Sri Lanka so that they can receive additional support needed.