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Expert Witnesses Detail IDP Situation in Sri Lanka December 17th, 2009

Three panels of expert witnesses testified on December 10, Humam Rights Day, about current realities facing internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in northern and Eastern Sri Lanka. The government’s recent decision finally to allow the resettlement of displaced Tamil civilians who had been held in internment camps since the end of a brutal war in May was commended. At the same time, concern was expressed about inconsistencies in policies governing the recent releases, continued lack of access by humanitarian organizations (including the UN) to IDPs in resettlement areas and former LTTE cadres in detention centers, the safety of released IDPs and the need for further de-mining of formerly populated areas.

The following Issue experts testified:

  • Eric Schwartz, Assistant Secretary for Population, Migration and Refugees, U.S. Department of State (Download PDF of testimony)
  • Michel Gabaudan, regional representative for the United States of America and the Caribbean, UNHCR (Download PDF of testimony)
  • Miriam Young, US Counsel on Sri Lanka
  • Christoph Koettl, Amnesty International (Download PDF of testimony)
  • Robert Oberst, Nebraska Wesleyan University
  • Jennifer Leonard, International Crisis Group

Sri Lanka War Crimes Report Released October 30th, 2009

19_02_09_01_76812_445The US State Department released its Report to Congress on Incidents During the Recent Conflict in Sri Lanka on October 22. The report details violations of the laws of war committed by both government forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) from January through May 2009.

The report is a sobering chronicle of the horrors of war and points to the need for a more thorough independent, international investigation.

Click here to read more »

Conditions in Sri Lanka Refugee Camps Worsening July 20th, 2009

Waiting for Water at Manik Camp

Waiting for Water at Manik Camp

According to a report by the associated Press in Colombo, conditions in the refugee camps in northern Sri Lanka are seriously worsening. In a report dated Sunday July 19th, AP said “in June, chicken pox was rampant and cases of typhoid, tuberculosis, skin and respiratory infections, hepatitis A, scabies and diarrhea have begun cropping up, according to U.N. reports. More than 35 percent of children under 5 are suffering from wasting, or acute malnutrition, according to a July 3 government presentation.”

Click here to read more »

Tribute to Fr. Mariampillai T. Sarathjeevan, OMI May 26th, 2009


Rev. Fr. Mariampillai T. Sarathjeevan. OMI

Rev. Fr. Mariampillai T. Sarathjeevan died tragically of heart failure during the final evacuation of the so-called “No-Fire Zone” in northern Sri Lanka. Fr. Sara, as he was known, was determined to stay with his people trapped between the Sri Lankan Army and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. He cared for the wounded, buried the dead and gave spiritual support to those around him during the months of intense fighting. Those who survived the fierce, daily bombardment were able to escape when the LTTE decided to ‘silence their guns’ on Monday, May 18.

A moving remembrance of Fr. Sara has been written by Fr. David Manuelpillai, OMI. (Download PDF)

Sri Lanka: Repeated Shelling of Hospitals Evidence of War Crimes May 11th, 2009


Mullivaikkal hospital shelled on 3 May 2009 at 9 am

With 30 attacks reported on medical facilities since December, Human Right Watch warns that commanders responsible for such attacks may be prosecuted for war crimes.

The Sri Lankan armed forces have repeatedly struck hospitals in the northern Vanni region in indiscriminate artillery and aerial attacks according to the respected international human right monitoring organization.

One of the deadliest of these attacks on medical facilities took place on May 2, when artillery shells struck Mullaivaikal hospital in the government-declared “no-fire zone,” killing 68 persons and wounding 87.

Government medical personnel in the war zone carefully report the GPS coordinates to the government in a vain effort to protect the facilities in the intense bombardment of the crowded area. An estimated 100,000 civilians are trapped between the two armies, unable to escape the fighting.

“Hospitals are supposed to be sanctuaries from shelling, not targets,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “While doctors and nurses struggle to save lives in overcrowded and under-equipped facilities, Sri Lankan army attacks have hit one hospital after another.”

The Oblate JPIC office has joined Human Rights Watch in criticizing both the Sri Lankan armed forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for numerous violations of the laws of war during the recent fighting.

Read the full report from HR Watch.

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