Across the U.S., from Boston to Chicago to San Francisco, Amnesty International activists are demanding: “Unlock the camps in Sri Lanka!”
As the 26-year-old war between the Sri Lankan government and the opposition Tamil Tigers ended this past May, about 280,000 Tamil civilians fleeing the fighting were put in overcrowded, military-run camps which they were not allowed to leave. The Sri Lankan government said that the civilians first had to be screened to determine if any of them were Tiger fighters. Amnesty International has pointed out that this constitutes arbitrary detention and violates the civilians’ right to freedom of movement.
Although some civilians have been released from the camps, around 150,000 still remain and camp shelters have deteriorated as Sri Lanka has entered the rainy season.
Amnesty’s “Unlock the Camps” campaign calls on the Sri Lankan government to let civilians leave the camps if they wish, to put the camps under civilian (not military) management, and to allow aid agencies full access to the camps.
Earlier this month, AIUSA members gathered in Boston and San Franscisco signed petitions and postcards demanding that the Sri Lankan government “Unlock the Camps!”
Today, it was Chicago’s turn. I joined activists from the AIUSA Chicago office and demonstrated in downtown Chicago. Despite the rain and wind, we made our voices heard. One man signing the petition told us that he had just returned from Sri Lanka and didn’t think anyone in the U.S. cared about what was going on there. We were happy to show him that he was wrong.
Also today, AIUSA sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking the U.S. government to publicly express concern about the treatment of the displaced civilians. The campaign was also publicized in a college paper today.
We’ll keep campaigning for the displaced civilians until their rights are restored. Please join our campaign and add your voice.