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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

Click here to read more »

Oblates and their People Caught in the Crossfire in Sri Lanka – Take Action Now! January 28th, 2009

An estimated 250,000 Tamil civilians are trapped in a small (250 sq mile) area of jungle in northeast Sri Lanka as the government military battles the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE). Six Oblates, who along with their people have moved for several months to avoid the fighting, are now trapped on the front lines.

An immediate cease fire, followed by the establishment of a corridor of safety must be established to enable the trapped population to escape to safety zones removed from the fighting.

Emails to Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa and others are urgently needed. Please take action today – click here to use the suggested letter to the President in our recent Action Alert.

No Safe Haven for Tamils in Sri Lanka January 23rd, 2009

A major military campaign by the Sri Lankan government to defeat the LTTE – the Tamil Tigers – is causing immense suffering and increasing civilian casualties among the Tamil population. Fleeing their homes to avoid the fighting, men, women and children have been forced into an increasingly small area in the northeast of the country, near Mullaithivu. With humanitarian workers told by the government to leave the Vanni (north) in September, food and medical supplies are in short supply and information is limited.

We continue to hear from priests and others who have remained in the area, and they are appealing for United Nations intervention to stop the bloodshed. Read the Open Letter to UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon from the Priests and Religious in the Wanni

Click here to read more »

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