Relief and Safety in Sri Lanka
With the end of the war in Sri Lanka, a fresh effort must be now made to bring about reconciliation between the people of all communities in that country. We believe it is essential that this path be pursued to avoid a resurgence of violence and a return to the dire history of the last 30 years. Rebuilding trust and confidence between communities requires a number of things, but the single most pressing issue of the moment is the welfare and humane treatment of the approximately 300,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) living in temporary camps. These citizens of Sri Lanka have undergone unimaginable levels of suffering and trauma, and the manner in which they are treated by the government and the rest of the nation will play a pivotal role in the building of trust between communities and in the much needed reconciliation process. We therefore call upon the Government of Sri Lanka to: give both international and local aid agencies access to IDP camps so that they can help provide the IDPs with adequate food, water, clothing, toiletries, shelter, sanitation, medicines, health care, and, where needed, psychotherapy and prosthetic limbs; ensure the security of IDP camp inhabitants, put the camps under civilian administration and allow independent media and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to have access to them in the interests of transparency and gaining the confidence of the wider population. release the injured, the sick, the elderly, pregnant women, mothers with infants, and children under 12 years immediately; screen camp inhabitants rapidly under the supervision of the UN and the ICRC; allow independent monitors from these organizations to be present during screening, to keep records of those being screened, and to have access to all those who have been screened, including those identified as LTTE cadres; permit freedom of movement to those who are found not to have been LTTE cadres as soon as they have been screened; consider conscripts and those forced into labour by the LTTE as civilians, and treat them accordingly. The vast majority of civilians in the IDP camps are those who were forcibly used as human shields by the LTTE, and many of them were forced into carrying out labour and combat operations by the LTTE. Those who were compelled into playing such roles should not be considered as combatants, as evidence suggests that for them to have refused to comply would have meant facing lethal punishments. To treat these people as combatants only multiplies the injustices that they have been subjected to already; move all LTTE child soldiers to rehabilitation centers and release them without delay; provide, with help from the international community, assistance to all IDPs, including those displaced earlier, to rebuild their homes and livelihoods and return to their original towns and villages by the end of the year.