UN: Sri Lanka facing two humanitarian crises

A top U.N. official visiting Sri Lanka warned today that Sri Lanka is facing “what amounts to two quite distinct crises.”  The first is the one I’ve been writing about on this blog:  the tens of thousands of civilians trapped in the small area of northeastern Sri Lanka still controlled by the opposition Tamil Tigers.  With fighting continuing between the Sri Lankan government and the Tigers, those civilians are in grave danger of death or injury.  My concern for their safety only increased after a Sri Lankan army commander told reporters today, “Now, the tigers are fighting out of uniforms, and it’s hard to distinguish between tigers and civilians.  This forced us to slow down offensives for fear of causing harm to civilians.”  Won’t a slower offensive still cause civilian casualties, since it’s so hard to distinguish who’s a civilian and who isn’t?

 The second humanitarian crisis is the one faced by the civilians who’ve been able to flee the war zone.  The U.N. has reported that more than 100,000 have gotten out over the past week.  Such a large number in such a short time understandably strains resources.  But the Sri Lankan government hasn’t helped matters; as AI has reported, the government requires fleeing civilians to stay in camps which they’re restricted from leaving.  Some of the camps are severely overcrowded, with some people being forced to stay out in the open with no shelter.  Other are placed in tents designed for a family of five but which are holding an average of 18 people and with limited water supplies.  UNICEF said yesterday that many people arriving at the camps are exhausted, malnourished and often wounded or sick.  UN agencies are airlifting emergency supplies to the north of the country where the camps for the displaced civilians are located.

Civilians who’ve fled the war zone don’t just face the danger of overcrowded camps with inadequate supplies.  UNHCR said today that they’ve gotten reports of physical assaults on men and women fleeing the zone.  AI has reported that some men fleeing the conflict area have disappeared after being detained by the Sri Lankan security forces.  While the Sri Lankan government should protect fleeing civilians from any Tiger members who may be mixed in with them, the government needs to carry out a screening process that protects the rights of both the civilians as well as the suspected Tiger fighters.

Both crises need immediate solutions.  For the first, the government and the Tigers should let the trapped civilians leave the war zone now.  For the second, the government should respect the human rights of those fleeing, both during the screening process and in the camps in which they’re housed.

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20 thoughts on “UN: Sri Lanka facing two humanitarian crises

  1. you said…
    [With fighting continuing between the Sri Lankan government and the Tigers, those civilians are in grave danger of death or injury. My concern for their safety only increased after a Sri Lankan army commander told reporters today, “Now, the tigers are fighting out of uniforms, and it’s hard to distinguish between tigers and civilians. This forced us to slow down offensives for fear of causing harm to civilians.” Won’t a slower offensive still cause civilian casualties, since it’s so hard to distinguish who’s a civilian and who isn’t?]

    yeah, right!
    where were your CONCERNS when the US and its allies-in-crime flattened Iraq with absolutely no regard to human life whatsoever!??

    besides, shouldn't you call upon the Tigers to fight only in uniform? (of course, that is only if you aren't a 'tiger in white clothing'…)
    after all, aren't the Tigers the ones who are anything but adhering to the 'rules of war'?

    you said…
    [For the first, the government and the Tigers should let the trapped civilians leave the war zone now.]
    ah, it is news to me (a proud Sri Lankan living in Sri Lanka) that the government is also 'not letting' the 'trapped' civilians leave the war zone!

    your striped tail is showing, Jim!
    well might as well shot if off in public (i.e. shed the white clothing too) WHEN YOU CAN – which i assure you is not for too long!

  2. you said…
    [With fighting continuing between the Sri Lankan government and the Tigers, those civilians are in grave danger of death or injury. My concern for their safety only increased after a Sri Lankan army commander told reporters today, “Now, the tigers are fighting out of uniforms, and it’s hard to distinguish between tigers and civilians. This forced us to slow down offensives for fear of causing harm to civilians.” Won’t a slower offensive still cause civilian casualties, since it’s so hard to distinguish who’s a civilian and who isn’t?]

    yeah, right!
    where were your CONCERNS when the US and its allies-in-crime flattened Iraq with absolutely no regard to human life whatsoever!??

    besides, shouldn’t you call upon the Tigers to fight only in uniform? (of course, that is only if you aren’t a ‘tiger in white clothing’…)
    after all, aren’t the Tigers the ones who are anything but adhering to the ‘rules of war’?

    you said…
    [For the first, the government and the Tigers should let the trapped civilians leave the war zone now.]
    ah, it is news to me (a proud Sri Lankan living in Sri Lanka) that the government is also ‘not letting’ the ‘trapped’ civilians leave the war zone!

    your striped tail is showing, Jim!
    well might as well shot if off in public (i.e. shed the white clothing too) WHEN YOU CAN – which i assure you is not for too long!

  3. In response to Ravanaa's comments, I'd suggest checking AI's statements on Iraq which are available on our website. It's also the case that AI has been calling on both the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE to observe the laws of war, which both sides have been violating – just see our earlier statements on Sri Lanka which are also available on our website. It seems I'm being accused of pro-LTTE bias. As I've said elsewhere, attacking a speaker's motivation as opposed to a speaker's arguments suggests that the attacker is unable to refute the speaker's arguments. It betrays the weakness of your position.

  4. What exactly can we do to help? How do we interfere with a national government and the group of their own people that oppose them?

  5. In response to Ravanaa’s comments, I’d suggest checking AI’s statements on Iraq which are available on our website. It’s also the case that AI has been calling on both the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE to observe the laws of war, which both sides have been violating – just see our earlier statements on Sri Lanka which are also available on our website. It seems I’m being accused of pro-LTTE bias. As I’ve said elsewhere, attacking a speaker’s motivation as opposed to a speaker’s arguments suggests that the attacker is unable to refute the speaker’s arguments. It betrays the weakness of your position.

  6. What exactly can we do to help? How do we interfere with a national government and the group of their own people that oppose them?

  7. In response to Joe, I'd say that what AI is about is that people have certain fundamental human rights that governments aren't at liberty to violate (e.g., the right to be free from torture, arbitrary detention, or enforced disappearance). AI members and supporters campaign to protect these rights against governments that violate them, whether it be Sri Lanka, the U.S. or others. One of the ways that we campaign is by letterwriting. On the Sri Lanka page of the AIUSA website, there are letterwriting actions that you can do right now. When it comes to situations of armed conflict, as in Sri Lanka, both the government and the opposition group (in Sri Lanka's case, the Tigers) are both bound by the laws of war, which AI calls on both to observe.

  8. Jim said…
    [I’d suggest checking AI’s statements on Iraq which are available on our website.]
    so, now you choose AI as your 'witness'! in Sri Lankan culture there is a hackneyed saying that goes as "this is like asking the mother of the thief, who the thief is" – should i expect AI to do anything different than corroborate your claims? after all, you (HRW), AI and a host of other INGOs and so-called 'world bodies' are reliant on this and other such conflicts to 'earn your luxurious living'!

    and tell me… who exactly sustain you people economically? is it not the 'greater West'? you are their means of poking into other states' affairs when it seems inappropriate to do so directly and explicitly.

    Jim, when was the last time you visited Sri Lanka, and what was the cross-section of the Sri Lankan society that you interacted with?

    Jim said…
    [attacking a speaker’s motivation as opposed to a speaker’s arguments]

    firstly, what exactly is the 'argument' that you're referring to here?
    i just see you duplicating a host of statements from UN, UNICEF, UNHCR and AI, trying to 'add more value' to them in turn. It is said, "repeating the same lie over and over again, makes one feel that it's the truth"!

    as for your motivation, can you be frank enough as to what really drives it?
    it's ok, you can round it off to the nearest $10k…

  9. In response to Joe, I’d say that what AI is about is that people have certain fundamental human rights that governments aren’t at liberty to violate (e.g., the right to be free from torture, arbitrary detention, or enforced disappearance). AI members and supporters campaign to protect these rights against governments that violate them, whether it be Sri Lanka, the U.S. or others. One of the ways that we campaign is by letterwriting. On the Sri Lanka page of the AIUSA website, there are letterwriting actions that you can do right now. When it comes to situations of armed conflict, as in Sri Lanka, both the government and the opposition group (in Sri Lanka’s case, the Tigers) are both bound by the laws of war, which AI calls on both to observe.

  10. Jim said…
    [I’d suggest checking AI’s statements on Iraq which are available on our website.]
    so, now you choose AI as your ‘witness’! in Sri Lankan culture there is a hackneyed saying that goes as “this is like asking the mother of the thief, who the thief is” – should i expect AI to do anything different than corroborate your claims? after all, you (HRW), AI and a host of other INGOs and so-called ‘world bodies’ are reliant on this and other such conflicts to ‘earn your luxurious living’!

    and tell me… who exactly sustain you people economically? is it not the ‘greater West’? you are their means of poking into other states’ affairs when it seems inappropriate to do so directly and explicitly.

    Jim, when was the last time you visited Sri Lanka, and what was the cross-section of the Sri Lankan society that you interacted with?

    Jim said…
    [attacking a speaker’s motivation as opposed to a speaker’s arguments]

    firstly, what exactly is the ‘argument’ that you’re referring to here?
    i just see you duplicating a host of statements from UN, UNICEF, UNHCR and AI, trying to ‘add more value’ to them in turn. It is said, “repeating the same lie over and over again, makes one feel that it’s the truth”!

    as for your motivation, can you be frank enough as to what really drives it?
    it’s ok, you can round it off to the nearest $10k…

  11. In response to Ravanaa's comment, I'd say that the argument I'm making is the following: the Sri Lankan government should agree to a temporary pause in hostilities in order to avoid civilian casualties, since the military has already said that it's now hard to distinguish between Tigers and civilians. The pause should also be used to allow civilians to leave the war zone and to allow aid to enter the zone. The Tigers must agree to allow civilians to leave. For those people who've already managed to leave the war zone, the government must conduct a screening process that respects their rights (whether they're civilians or Tiger members) and must respect the rights of the civilians housed in the camps, including allowing them freedom of movement. I hope that clarifies matters.

  12. In response to Ravanaa’s comment, I’d say that the argument I’m making is the following: the Sri Lankan government should agree to a temporary pause in hostilities in order to avoid civilian casualties, since the military has already said that it’s now hard to distinguish between Tigers and civilians. The pause should also be used to allow civilians to leave the war zone and to allow aid to enter the zone. The Tigers must agree to allow civilians to leave. For those people who’ve already managed to leave the war zone, the government must conduct a screening process that respects their rights (whether they’re civilians or Tiger members) and must respect the rights of the civilians housed in the camps, including allowing them freedom of movement. I hope that clarifies matters.

  13. http://www.facebook.com/ext/share.php?sid=7309508

    I urge readers to follow above link or click on my name. It will take you to a previous report where Jim has said that the LTTE should immediately agree to a pause in fighting! You can read my response to that as well.

    It is interesting to note that Jim has changed his position after that and no longer advocate that but says that the LTTE should allow the civilians to leave. Good on you, Jim. I really appreciate your ability to correct your stance.

    But this report is even more irresponsible (inaccurate, unable to view the complete scenario, etc.etc) than the previous one. I don't think it is worth commenting on.

    Anyway, Good luck, Jim. You are a learner. I appreciate your humbleness. This is a genuine compliment.

    Dr. Mahesh Rajasuriya
    Consultant Psychiatrist
    Ampara Mental Health Service, Eastern Province, Sri Lanka.

  14. http://www.facebook.com/ext/share.php?sid=7309508

    I urge readers to follow above link or click on my name. It will take you to a previous report where Jim has said that the LTTE should immediately agree to a pause in fighting! You can read my response to that as well.

    It is interesting to note that Jim has changed his position after that and no longer advocate that but says that the LTTE should allow the civilians to leave. Good on you, Jim. I really appreciate your ability to correct your stance.

    But this report is even more irresponsible (inaccurate, unable to view the complete scenario, etc.etc) than the previous one. I don't think it is worth commenting on.

    Anyway, Good luck, Jim. You are a learner. I appreciate your humbleness. This is a genuine compliment.

    Dr. Mahesh Rajasuriya
    Consultant Psychiatrist
    Ampara Mental Health Service, Eastern Province, Sri Lanka.

  15. http://www.facebook.com/ext/share.php?sid=7309508

    I urge readers to follow above link or click on my name. It will take you to a previous report where Jim has said that the LTTE should immediately agree to a pause in fighting! You can read my response to that as well.

    It is interesting to note that Jim has changed his position after that and no longer advocate that but says that the LTTE should allow the civilians to leave. Good on you, Jim. I really appreciate your ability to correct your stance.

    But this report is even more irresponsible (inaccurate, unable to view the complete scenario, etc.etc) than the previous one. I don't think it is worth commenting on.

    Anyway, Good luck, Jim. You are a learner. I appreciate your humbleness. This is a genuine compliment.

    Dr. Mahesh Rajasuriya
    Consultant Psychiatrist
    Ampara Mental Health Service, Eastern Province, Sri Lanka.

  16. http://www.facebook.com/ext/share.php?sid=73095087681&h=uDJT-&u=Qf6sK&ref=nf

    I urge readers to follow above link or click on my name. It will take you to a previous report where Jim has said that the LTTE should immediately agree to a pause in fighting! You can read my response to that as well.

    It is interesting to note that Jim has changed his position after that and no longer advocate that but says that the LTTE should allow the civilians to leave. Good on you, Jim. I really appreciate your ability to correct your stance.

    But this report is even more irresponsible (inaccurate, unable to view the complete scenario, etc.etc) than the previous one. I don’t think it is worth commenting on.

    Anyway, Good luck, Jim. You are a learner. I appreciate your humbleness. This is a genuine compliment.

    Dr. Mahesh Rajasuriya
    Consultant Psychiatrist
    Ampara Mental Health Service, Eastern Province, Sri Lanka.

  17. Mahesh,

    Thanks for the compliment, although I don't believe I've changed my position at all; I've just tried to clarify what I was saying since it appears you were reading into my statement something that wasn't there. In any event, I'd suggest looking at the urgent action appeal on Sri Lanka that AI issued this past Friday (which is available on the AIUSA website). That lays out what AI is calling for from both the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE. Of course, I'd also ask that everyone reading this consider writing to the government and the Tigers along the lines suggested in the appeal.

  18. Mahesh,

    Thanks for the compliment, although I don’t believe I’ve changed my position at all; I’ve just tried to clarify what I was saying since it appears you were reading into my statement something that wasn’t there. In any event, I’d suggest looking at the urgent action appeal on Sri Lanka that AI issued this past Friday (which is available on the AIUSA website). That lays out what AI is calling for from both the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE. Of course, I’d also ask that everyone reading this consider writing to the government and the Tigers along the lines suggested in the appeal.