After three decades of fighting, the Sri Lankan Armed Forces is seeking to deliver the final blow to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, while the latter remains committed to its cause. Caught between these two forces are still tens of thousands of civilians who are being subjected to the violence unleashed by the fighting parties. Little action has been taken over the past months to prevent the humanitarian disaster which is unfolding today.

It is impossible for the outside world to know the exact numbers of civilians who remain trapped, nor the number of wounded and dead because journalists and international observers are not permitted to enter the combat area. For many civilians caught in the fighting, it is already too late. The best estimates, based on internal UN figures, are that more than 6,500 civilians have been killed, and more than 13,500 have been wounded since the January 2009. The violence is further escalating. According to medical sources at least 378 people were killed and 1122 injured within 24 hours from May 9th-10th. The final number is likely much higher.

It is now a question of how many more thousands of innocent civilians will die or be permanently maimed before the violence comes to an end.

The civilians are collateral damage in the pursuit of both fighting parties goals. For the LTTE, the civilian population is a shield and a recruitment pool of last resort. Their deaths will underscore the LTTE argument that Tamils will only be safe in a Tamil state of their own. The Army sees its chance for military victory over its greatest foe, and does not wish to see its complete military victory denied by the need to negotiate with the LTTE in order to evacuate the civilians. Whatever the fighting parties intentions are, they are clearly willing to let the civilians pay the price with their lives in the many thousands.

Around 200,000 civilians have managed to escape. However, they are sequestered in internment camps encircled with barbed wire, and run by the Sri Lankan Army. The displaced are often separated from their families, endure misery due to vastly inadequate facilities, insufficient food and medical care, and are not permitted to leave. This is in violation of numerous principles on internal displacement laid out by the UN OHCHR, other international organizations and international law.

The International Community, including the UN, has failed to act. The UN Security Council has not addressed the issue due to opposition from those on the Council which are against interventions in internal matters of other states.

As representatives of a global civil society we cannot remain on the sidelines of this humanitarian catastrophe simply because it is happening within the borders of one country. In order to preserve the life and wellbeing of the affected civilians, and in order to encourage a long-term solution to the conflict so as to prevent such a catastrophe from occurring once more in Sri Lanka, we call for:

1. An immediate humanitarian cease-fire and the provision of food and medicine to the civilians trapped in the combat zone;
2. A negotiated process for the conditional surrender of the LTTE, with the primary goal of ensuring the safe evacuation of all civilians from the combat zone;
3. The immediate and full implementation of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement as laid out by the United Nations, especially as regards the freedom of movement, respect of family life, the right to an adequate standard of living and medical care;
4. A negotiated process for a political settlement including all Sri Lankan stakeholders.

We strongly urge both the Government of Sri Lanka, as well as the Libration Tigers of Tamil Eelam, to immediately cease all hostilities and to guarantee the safety of the very civilians for whom they both claim to be fighting, as there is no justification for the continued endangerment of the lives and wellbeing of the civilian population.

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  • 03 January 2016600. Ted Vanh
    I do understand your government's position, but there must be a more humanitarian way out of this crisis Country Netherlands
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Stacie SmithBy:
Petition target:
Government of Sri Lanka and LTTE


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