UN official expresses ‘extreme concern’ about access to Wanni

By Chandani Kirinde

A senior UN official has expressed extreme concern about limited access to the Wanni area for those engaged in humanitarian relief efforts.

The report, by Walter Kalin, the UN Secretary-General’s Representative for the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, calls for unimpeded passage for humanitarian relief to civilians in need. The report was submitted last week at the 10th session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), based in Geneva. Mr. Kalin visited Sri Lanka in December 2007 and September 2008.

The report calls upon all parties involved in the conflict to scrupulously respect international humanitarian laws during the ongoing military operations in the North.

The report includes Sri Lanka in a list of several countries where armed conflict has resulted in a massive displacement of persons. Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, who addressed the HRC’s plenary session, outlined the measures the Sri Lanka government has taken to address the internally displaced persons (IDP) issue, while accusing the LTTE of “holding civilians hostage”.

Hostage-taking in a conflict situation is a clear violation of international humanitarian law, Minister Samarasinghe said. The minister appealed, through the HRC president, to HRC members and the world at large to use any influence they have to help trapped civilians in the North to move to safety.
“We expect the flow of persons seeking safety to grow exponentially in the coming days, when the capacities of the LTTE are degraded to such an extent that they are unable to prevent civilians from moving freely,” he said.

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