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Sri Lanka: No Let-Up in Army Shelling of Civilians March 25th, 2009

Tamil Tigers Unwilling to Release Their Hold on 150,000 People

The Sri Lankan army, despite government denials, is indiscriminately shelling the “no-fire zone” in northern Sri Lanka where thousands of civilians are trapped by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday, citing new information from the region. More than 2,700 civilians have reportedly been killed over the last two months, and the number of casualties rises daily.

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Support Humanitarian Relief and a Political Settlement in Sri Lanka March 5th, 2009

Please ask your Representative to join this action to support humanitarian relief and a political settlement in Sri Lanka. Sign-ons are being accepted until noon on Monday, March 9th. See details below.
Congressman Jim Moran is asking his congressional colleagues to join him in sending the following letters to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice urging them to continue steps to address the grave humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka and to work for a sustainable political settlement after the decades-long fighting ends.

Up to 200,000 civilians are trapped in northern Sri Lanka, amid fighting between Sri Lankan Government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Most have been cut off from outside food and medical supplies for weeks. Many have died from heavy artillery and air attacks and people are beginning to die of starvation. Human Rights Watch reports that 2,000 Tamil civilians have been killed since January, and 7,000 civilians have been wounded.

U.S. engagement thus far has achieved some important results. The Congressional action encourages further action to press for full protection of all civilians, greater engagement by United Nations agencies and others in humanitarian relief, and progress toward a lasting political settlement that includes ethnic Tamils in national governance. U.S. engagement both bilaterally with the Sri Lankan Government and at the United Nations is critical to saving lives and contributing to a better future for Sri Lanka, whose citizens have suffered greatly during a 25-year war.

Download PDF of Congressional letter to Secretary Clinton

Download PDF of Congressional letter to Ambassador Rice

Please tell your representative that to sign on, contact Tasha Manoranjan of Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy’s office at 225-2015 or Tasha.Manoranjan@mail.house.gov, or David Young of Rep. Jim Moran’s office at 225-3979 or david.young@mail.house.gov. The deadline to sign these letters is Monday March 9, at noon.


Senate Foreign Relations South Asia Subcommittee holds Hearing on Sri Lanka February 25th, 2009

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee room was standing room only on Tuesday afternoon for a Hearing called by the South Asia Subcommittee on “The Present Situation in Sri Lanka.” Senator Bob Casey (Dem-PA) chaired the Hearing.

The Honorable Jeffrey J. Lunstead, former U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Dr. Anna Neistat, Senior Researcher, Human Rights Watch, and Mr. Bob Dietz, Asia Program Coordinator, Committee to Protect Journalists presented testimony. Highlighted were the humanitarian crisis in the north (Vanni), problems associated with government camps established to intern civilians fleeing the fighting, and the increasingly brutal attacks against journalists. The need for a durable political solution to address the legitimate grievances of the Tamil community in Sri Lanka was also emphasized.

Testimony:

The Honorable Jeffrey J. Lunstead
Former U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka

Dr. Anna Neistat
Senior Researcher
Human Rights Watch

Mr. Bob Dietz
Asia Program Coordinator
Committee to Protect Journalists


Religious Statements Decry Endangerment of Tamil Civilians in Sri Lankan Civil War February 10th, 2009

Oblates and others have joined the international condemnation of the tactics of both the Sri Lankan military and the LTTE that have endangered the lives of hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians. A list of statements is given below:

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Blatant Disregard for Civilian Lives in Sri Lanka War Zone Contrary to International Law February 5th, 2009

A Sri Lankan government statement that it is not responsible for the safety of civilians who remain in areas controlled by the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) indicates an appalling disregard for the well-being of the civilian population and is contrary to international law, Human Rights Watch said in a statement issued earlier this week. There are continuing reports of high civilian casualties in the fighting between government forces and the LTTE in the Mullaittivu district in northern Sri Lanka.

A Ministry of Defense statement issued on February 2, 2009, states: “While the Security Forces accept all responsibility to ensure the safety and protection of civilians in the Safety Zones, they are unable to give such an assurance to those who remain outside these zones. Therefore, the government, with full responsibility, urges all civilians to come to the Safety Zones; and also states that as civilians who do not heed this call will be among LTTE cadres, the Security Forces will not be able to accept responsibility for their safety.” Combatants who order or conduct deliberate or indiscriminate attacks against civilians are responsible for war crimes.

Read the full statement from Human Rights Watch

In an interview with the media, Sri Lanka’s Defense Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapakse declared the Puthukudiyiruppu hospital a legitimate military target. “No hospital should operate outside the Safety Zone…everything beyond the safety is a legitimate target,” according to Gotabaya Rajapakse. The Defense Secretary admitted to the responsibility of the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) for the shelling of Puthukkudiyiruppu hospital. The targeting of hospitals is a clear violation of international rules of war.


Stop the Human Tragedy in the Vanni ! January 28th, 2009

The following statement has been received from the Diocese of Jaffna. The Bishop, Priests, Religious and Laity there are being joined by many others in a continuous hunger strike to draw attention to the calamity affecting some 250,000 Tamil civilians caught in the fighting between the Sri Lanka military and the remains of the LTTE.

Take Action – Email the President of Sri Lanka to stop the military offensive and establish a corridor of safety to enable civilians to move away from the fighting. Click here for our Action Alert.

Text of the Diocesan Statement:

We the Bishop, Priests, Religious and Laity of the Catholic Diocese of Jaffna

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