Sri Lankan Government, LTTE Must Heed Demands From UN Security Council, Says Amnesty International

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Sri Lankan Government, LTTE Must Heed Demands From UN Security Council, Says Amnesty International

WASHINGTON - The Sri Lankan government
and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) must immediately heed demands
by the United Nations Security Council and similar calls made by President
Barack Obama and allow tens of thousands of civilians to leave the "No
Fire Zone," Amnesty International said today.

Amnesty International welcomed the U.N. Security
Council's statement as a first step in addressing the humanitarian and
human rights crisis in Sri Lanka but called for an end to the use of heavy
caliber weapons and for the United Nations, the Red Cross (ICRC) and other
humanitarian organizations to be allowed immediate access to the 50,000
civilians, or more, trapped in the "No Fire Zone" on the island's
north east coast.

"The Security Council must now ensure that
its demands are promptly implemented, that the situation in Sri Lanka is
formally put on the Council's agenda and kept under close review.  It
also needs to address accountability for the grave violations of international
humanitarian and human rights law by both parties in future,"
said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific director.

Amnesty International welcomed separate statements
from the U.N. Security Council and President Obama condemning the LTTE
for its use of civilians as human shields and calling on the government
to take urgent action to ensure the safety of civilians. The U.N. Security
Council told the Sri Lankan government to fulfill its commitment not to
use heavy caliber weapons in areas with high concentrations of civilians
--a
promise it has broken in recent weeks--causing the death of many civilians.

 
Amnesty International's secretary general,
Irene Khan, wrote on May 12 to the U.N. Security Council calling for immediate
action to address the appalling situation in the "No Fire Zone."
She expressed grave concern about the large numbers of civilians being
killed, including many children and warned of growing evidence that the
government and the LTTE are committing serious violations of international
humanitarian law.

Amnesty International also urged the U.N.
Security Council to stress individual responsibility for crimes under international
law and to ensure the creation of a commission of inquiry, as a first step
towards establishing accountability for alleged breaches of international
humanitarian and human rights law.

Background

Amnesty International called on the U.N.
Security Council to ensure that attacks on civilians by the Sri Lankan
army or the LTTE be stopped; that the LTTE allow all civilians to leave
the conflict area; and that the Sri Lankan government stop using heavy
artillery in a very densely populated area and provide immediate access
to international monitors and humanitarian agencies.

The organization has regularly condemned
both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan military for serious violations of international
humanitarian law, including war crimes. The LTTE have forcibly trapped
civilians in the conflict zone as human shields against government forces.
The Sri Lankan military has in the past used heavy artillery, which is
indiscriminate under the circumstances, causing civilian deaths and injuries.

President Barack Obama warned that "without
urgent action, this humanitarian crisis could turn into a catastrophe."
He condemned the LTTE's use of civilians as "human shields"
and urged the Sri Lankan government to stop the "indiscriminate shelling"
in the area and asked for access by humanitarian agencies to the civilians
who are trapped between the warring parties and those displaced people
within Sri Lanka so that they can receive additional support needed.

Amnesty International's letter to the U.N.
Security Council: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA37/009/2009/en

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