By Ariel Lin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – The civil war between the Sri Lanka government and Tamil Tiger separatists is creating a humanitarian disaster. According to aid workers, more than 100,000 civilians have fled the territory controlled by the rebel group while the Sri Lanka military blasted an earthen barricade on Monday. However, another 50,000 civilians remain trapped in the war zone facing starvation.
“The civilian population in the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)-controlled Mullitivu coastal areas are faced with serious crisis due to the deliberate denial of food and other humanitarian supplies by the Sri Lankan Government,” the LTTE Political Office said in a statement.
News reports have showed the Tamil Tigers refusing civilians to leave, and they are shooting at those who try to escape. Furthermore, the United Nations and the G8 have accused the rebel group of using civilians as human shields, and forcibly recruiting people to fight. The G8 called for a stop to the fighting to save the civilians.
The United Nations sent John Holmes, the U.N. Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, to Sri Lanka to push for more protection for civilians. John Holmes described the situation as “very dire” and called for a stop in the fighting to preserve of the lives of the tens of thousands of civilians. The U.N. Security Council urged the Sri Lanka government to allow a humanitarian assessment team in, but Colombo rejected.
The international community is deeply concerned about the rising death toll and reports of humanitarian law violations. “The EU strongly condemns the killings of civilians and calls on all parties to take all necessary action to avoid further civilian casualties,” the European Union said in a statement.
Internal United Nations tallies say that since the end of January, nearly 6,500 have been killed in fighting. The flood of refugees threatens to overload the existing facilities, aid agencies have warned. However, the rebel group has vowed no surrender and the government rejected calls to stop the fighting.
For more information, please see:
AP – Rebels warn of starvation in Sri Lanka war zone – 25 April 2009
BBC – Anticipating an end to Sri Lanka’s war – 25 April 2009
Reuters – ReG8 condemns use of “human shields” in Sri Lanka – 25 April 2009
Voice of America – Tamil Tigers Claim 150,000 Civilians on Brink of Starvation – 25 April 2009
Washington Post – U.N. dispatches top humanitarian to Sri Lanka – 25 April 2009