The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced today that it had been asked by the Sri Lankan government to scale down its operations in the country. The ICRC has worked in Sri Lanka for the past 20 years; their activities have included visiting political detainees as well as former fighters with the opposition Tamil Tigers in order to monitor their conditions of detention. The Sri Lankan Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said today that the order was not only directed at the ICRC but at all international agencies; given that the fighting with the Tigers was over, all of the agencies were to now scale down their work.
In its statement today, the ICRC reaffirmed its commitment to address the humanitarian needs of the people affected by the recent conflict in Sri Lanka, which presumably includes the former fighters as well as the thousands of displaced civilians who are still held in government-run internment camps which they’re not permitted to leave. But as the ICRC cuts back on its operations, will it still be permitted to fulfill its commitment? Will there still be an independent third party to monitor the conditions in which both the displaced civilians as well as the former combatants are kept?