Sri Lanka: UN Security Council must act now to save civilians, says Amnesty in new letter

Amnesty International has demanded that the Sri Lankan authorities allow immediate and unhindered access to the troubled areas – including the "Safe Zone" – to international monitors and humanitarian agencies, who can assess the situation first hand and help ensure that the humanitarian and human rights crisis is addressed.

In a letter to members of the UN Security Council, Amnesty International said: “The Council must convene without any further delay to discuss the latest disturbing developments and immediately require that attacks on civilians by the Sri Lankan army or the LTTE be stopped; that the LTTE allow all civilians to leave the conflict area; and that the Sri Lankan government provide immediate access to international monitors and humanitarian agencies.”

This demand follows reports of at least 35 people being killed today in an attack on a hospital in a designated “Safe Zone.” The shelling comes less than 24 hours after at least 49 people died and more than 50 were injured in an attack on the same hospital.

Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director, said:

“Both the Tigers and Sri Lankan military have been violating the laws of war.

“Over the last several months, according to witnesses, the Tamil Tigers have used civilians trapped in the conflict zone as human shields against government forces and when they have tried to flee, they have been attacked by the Tigers.

“Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan military has used heavy artillery, which is indiscriminate when used in densely populated areas, causing civilian deaths and injuries.”

Within the last few days, the situation in Sri Lanka has worsened, with 400 people – including more than 100 Children's rights – killed at the weekend, something the UN described as a “bloodbath.”

The total estimated casualty figures of the conflict since January are more than 7,000 killed and 13,000 injured. There are an estimated 50,000 civilians still trapped in the conflict zone.

There are grounds to fear that the Sri Lankan military will launch an even heavier military offensive when general elections end in neighbouring India today. India’s regional Tamil political parties have made protection of civilians in Sri Lanka a key election issue.

In its letter to Security Council members, Amnesty International also calls for a Commission of Inquiry to investigate violations of international law: “The Council must recall, in unambiguous terms, that alleged perpetrators of grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, including war crimes, must be held individually responsible under international law. Given the mounting evidence of serious violations of international law, the Council should establish a Commission of Inquiry to investigate serious violations by all parties in recent months, or request the Human Rights Council to establish such a Commission.”

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