|ICRtoP Listserv on the Unfolding Situation in Sri Lanka|
|Thursday, 09 April 2009 08:51|
The recent escalation of violence in Sri Lanka is raising alarming concerns about the failure of the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to protect civilians from serious crimes under international law. On the part of the LTTE, recent reports from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch detail LTTE forces preventing civilians from fleeing the conflict zone, putting civilians at unnecessary risk, displacing civilians and forcibly recruiting child soldiers. According to the UN, the LTTE has been using civilians as a buffer against government forces, forcibly recruiting civilians and holding men, women and children as hostages and human shields. The government of Sri Lanka is reportedly using heavy artillery in indiscriminate attacks on civilians, including in the afe Zone, as well as against civilian infrastructure such as hospitals. Moreover, the government has denied access to trapped civilians humanitarian agencies and aid workers.
While fighting has been going on for two years despite a truce in the North and East between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government, the conflict worsened at the end of 2008, and the 2002 ceasefire officially came to an end on January 16th 2009. Presently there are 150,000 to 190,000 civilians trapped in a rapidly-shrinking conflict zone. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights estimated on March 13th that there had been more than 2,800 civilian deaths and at least 7,500 injuries since late January. The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator has warned on April 8th that bloodbath on the beaches of northern Sri Lanka seems an increasingly real possibility.
UN officials, including the Secretary-General, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as a number of member states, have called on the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE to make protecting civilians a priority and to take all necessary measures to halt the escalating humanitarian disaster. However, according to HRW, he Sri Lankan government has responded to broad international concerns with indignation and denials instead of action to address the humanitarian crisis.
There remain questions as to the extent to which these crimes are widespread and systematic, arguably a determining factor for whether the R2P threshold has been met. As Paragraphs 138-139 of the World Summit Outcome Document outline, States have the responsibility to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Sri Lanka, like every other State, carries this responsibility to protect its populations and to prevent these crimes from occurring.
Compiled Articles, Statements and Report can be seen at http://www.responsibilitytoprotect.org/index.php/latest_news/2220
Contents are listed below:
I. UN officials speak out on Sri Lanka
1. UN REPRESENTATIVE ON THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF IDPs calls for umanitarian pause to save trapped civilians
2. UN SECRETARY-GENERAL 'deeply distressed' at plight of civilians in northern Sri Lanka
II. Civil Society reports and statements detail crimes occurring on the ground
1. Amnesty International REPORT - Stop the War on Civilians in Sri Lanka: A briefing on the humanitarian crisis and lack of human rights protection
2. Human Rights Watch REPORT - Sri Lanka: Shelling of Civilians
3. ASIAN FORUM FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEVELOPMENT (FORUM-ASIA) AND ASIAN LEGAL RESOURCE CENTRE- JOINT CALL UPON HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL TO HOLD SPECIAL SESSION ON SRI LANKA
4. Center for Policy Alternatives REPORT - A Profile of Human Rights and Humanitarian Issues in the Vanni and Vavuniya
III. Op-ed on the threat to civilians in Sri Lanka
1. JOHN HOLMES WARNS OF BLOODBATH AS INCREASINGLY REAL POSSIBILITY
2. Lakhdar Brahimi - A Slaughter Waiting to Happen