UN demands protection of Vaharai civilians

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 12 December 2006, 05:34 GMT]
United Nations Office of the Resident and Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Colombo, in a press statement Tuesday called on the parties, the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), to adhere to their responsibilities under international humanitarian law and said: "it is imperative that direct shelling where civilians reside stops and the civilian population must be granted full and unhindered freedom of movement, away from military operations."

Full text of the press release issued by the UN office in Colombo, follows:

12-12-2006

UN Demands Protection of Vaharai Civilians

Colombo 12 December: The United Nations is gravely concerned at the deteriorating prospects facing civilians in Vaharai as intense shelling continues for the fifth day in the area. An unconfirmed number of civilians are dead with dozens lying wounded at Vaharai hospital. Innocent civilians and school children suffered direct attacks on a school and private homes. In Trincomalee district, some 2,500 civilians left their homes and took refuge in Kantale.

Humanitarian agencies are delivering immediate assistance to the affected population and stand ready to undertake humanitarian response operations to address evolving needs.

The United Nations is deeply concerned about indiscriminate shelling of civilian residential areas, leading to death, injuries and evacuation of communities to Kantale and surrounding areas, out of danger zones.

“The critical need of the moment is the protection of these desperate civilians. All fundamental rights are currently being breached in areas like Vaharai and villages in Trincomalee District and it is imperative that direct shelling where civilians reside stops and the civilian population must be granted full and unhindered freedom of movement, away from military operations. The wounded need to be evacuated and assistance and protection to the civilian population must be guaranteed” warned Amin Awad, Acting UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator ai.

Some 35,000 people remain trapped along a sliver of land where government forces and the LTTE are engaged in a military campaign.

On November 29 a humanitarian convoy comprising 90 trucks, carrying much needed humanitarian assistance reached the area after a period of almost one month. That convoy was able to deliver essential food items as well as medical supplies. More life sustaining relief supplies are needed urgently.

We urgently expect the parties to adhere to their responsibilities under international humanitarian law to ensure protection of civilians and their freedom of movement, and unimpeded and secure access for international humanitarian actors to the north and east of the country.


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