Sri Lanka: 130,000 in camps need aid to re-build lives

Amnesty International today welcomed the Sri Lankan government’s promise to allow freedom of movement for the 130,000 people currently held in detention camps in the north of the country by 1 December, but issued a firm warning saying that the words will mean nothing without action.

The 130,000 were displaced by the recent war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE), commonly known as the Tamil Tigers.

Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific deputy director, Madhu Malhotra, said:

“Now the Sri Lankan government needs to demonstrate that it will provide the displaced with necessary assistance such as shelter, food and security as they re-establish their homes.

“For months vulnerable people have been held in inadequate conditions in camps lacking adequate sanitation facilities and clean drinking water. If the Sri Lankan government follows through on its promise to allow thousands of people to return home, it would be the first step in the long struggle ahead for people rebuilding their devastated lives.”

Madhu Malhotra added:

“Humanitarian and human rights organisations should be given unimpeded access to displaced people and those attempting to resettle to monitor their safety and wellbeing and ensure their needs are being met, including that they are protected against further human rights violations.”

Background:

Thousands of Tamils who escaped the war have been detained in camps under military control for the past six months, deprived of their freedom of movement. Many of them survived months of difficult conditions as they were forced to travel with retreating LTTE forces who forcibly recruited civilians, including Children's rights, and in some instances used civilians as human shields.

The Sri Lankan government has agreed to give people a choice about whether to remain in camps to seek alternative accommodation or attempt to return home.

Since the war ended in May, an estimated 12,000 displaced people (including Children's rights) suspected of links to the LTTE have been arbitrarily arrested, separated from the general displaced population and detained by the authorities in irregular detention facilities, such as vacated school buildings.

Amnesty International is concerned about lack of transparency and accountability in that process, which is conducted outside of any legal framework, and the increased dangers to detainees when they are held incommunicado.

Persons arrested on suspicion of links to the LTTE and accused of crimes should be charged with legitimate offences, tried and prosecuted in accordance with the law.

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