Sri Lanka needs to come on UN radar, says rights group

April 17th, 2009 - 7:50 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, April 17 (IANS) Sri Lanka needs to be put on the radar of the UN Security Council to end the grave sufferings of Tamil civilians trapped in the war zone, a leading rights body said Friday.
“Given the deterioration of the humanitarian situation, an international body such as the UN Security Council needs to augment its attention and engage with a sense of urgency,” the University Teachers for Human Rights (UTHR) said in an exhaustive report.

“Taking into consideration the plight of the civilians, Sri Lanka being put on the UN Security Council’s agenda is imperative,” it said.

“It could also pave the way for a UN Special Envoy and other UN officials to not only visit Sri Lanka but also the no fire zone (in Mullaitivu district) and inspect the humanitarian conditions of people trapped there and find ways to ensure their release.”

The UTHR report said the presence of the UN officials on the ground would empower the trapped civilians to challenge the leadership of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) “and struggle for their release”.

Sri Lankan troops are poised to overwhelm the Tamil Tigers in the last patch of land area the rebels still control along the Mullaitivu coast, a development that could effectively mark the end of the LTTE.

The report presented a pathetic picture of Tamil civilians killed and maimed by unending shelling and artillery attacks by the military directed at LTTE positions.

It spoke of a young mother who was injured and her three-month-old baby killed by shell fragments while she breastfed the child in the government declared no fire zone.

It said Tamil parents hid their children in bunkers to escape LTTE press gangs who comb the no fire zone for conscripts.

“A woman loses her husband to sniper fire and the toddler he was carrying too drowns when they attempt to wade across a lagoon to escape the no-fire zone.

“A father is shot in the head by LTTE members as he attempted to flee with his family.”

All this, it said, “give the lie to the government’s claims that it does not fire on civilians and show clearly the LTTE’s cynical use of civilians as bargaining chips”.

“They also speak to the impotence of the international community and India to stop the carnage.”

It said that shells fell in the no fire zone almost every day, taking a heavy toll on civilians. It quoted escapees as saying that 15 to 20 people died each day, killed by shells or shot by the LTTE.

“Many escapees from the no vfire zone testified to a heavy recruitment drive by the LTTE. The minimum age for conscription is now 14. There is no ceiling set on the maximum number that could be taken from one family.”

The UTHR accused the Sri Lankan government of seeking “a blank cheque to go on indulging in cost-free killing of Tamils in the name of warring against terrorism”.

It added: “The fate of the LTTE leaders is a political matter. The demise of the LTTE’s brand of politics is long overdue.”

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