Nowhere to run to
A man called the press office a few days ago to complain about our statements on the war in Sri Lanka. He said we were biased and did not understand what is going on there – ‘tell me where else in the world the government is bombing its own citizens?’
That’s a wretched question to have to consider. But my mind was already going down those tracks and sadly there are other examples (eg Sudan), but thankfully not stacks of them.
Amnesty is worried that more than a quarter of a million people in the north-east of Sri Lanka are under siege right now and unable to get to safety because neither government forces nor Tamil Tiger rebels will allow them to. The Sri Lankan army is holding civilians fleeing the conflict in ‘welfare villages’ which they can’t leave unless one family member stays behind. The Tamil Tigers instituted a pass system some time ago to restrict ordinary people’s freedom of movement.
Neither side is granting the Red Cross or the UN proper access to civilians who need shelter, food and medicines. But Amnesty does have credible reports that government forces are screening civilians who flee rebel held areas and has detained several of them.
Does the Sri Lankan government really believe that the rest of the world thinks its possible imminent military victory will see an end to this conflict once and for all? The Guardian’s correspondent wrote a strong piece on this yesterday, comparing the failure over decades to treat minorities fairly in Sri Lanka with what has happened in other countries in South Asia.
There can’t be lasting peace after a history of disappearances, extrajudicial executions and harassment of people on an ethnic basis without a political settlement that promises justice and full human rights for all.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.