U.S. Tamil group urges Pacific Command not to abet Colombo's war on Tamils

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 03 March 2009, 01:53 GMT]
Citing "credible reports" from Colombo, a U.S. based activist group, People for Equality and Relief in Lanka (PEARL), on Monday said the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) was planning to lead an evacuation of nearly 200,000 Tamil civilians in Vanni. The plan would only serve to "exacerbate the crisis for these civilians and support ethnic cleansing in this region," the statement said and added: "Instead of an evacuation, the 'safe zones' these civilians are currently in should be strengthened, with full access for aid workers, journalists and human rights monitors."

Full text of the press statement issued by the PEARL follows:

U.S. Troops Plan Evacuation in Sri Lanka: Sign Death Warrants for Hundreds of Thousands, Support Ethnic Cleansing

March 2, 2009

Credible reports from Colombo, Sri Lanka reveal the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) is planning to lead an evacuation of nearly 200,000 Tamil civilians trapped in the war-torn northern region of Sri Lanka. We urge you to stop these plans immediately, which would only serve to exacerbate the crisis for these civilians and support ethnic cleansing in this region. Instead of an evacuation, the “safe zones” these civilians are currently in should be strengthened, with full access for aid workers, journalists and human rights monitors.

These civilians have been besieged by the Sri Lankan government’s military offensive, which has raged on since September, costing the lives of over 2,000 Tamil civilians and wounding another 7,000 Tamil civilians. Reports reveal that PACOM is planning to evacuate these civilians and deliver them to the Sri Lankan government – who would then imprison them in concentration-style internment camps. Human Rights Watch and other humanitarian agencies have criticized the Sri Lankan government for its treatment of refugees: forcibly keeping them in internment camps, separated from family and secluded from international aid agencies, as they are harshly interrogated and abused.

PACOM evacuating these civilians and delivering them to the Sri Lankan government signs the death warrants of thousands of civilians, who would “disappear” upon entry into government-run camps. The Sri Lankan government has the ignoble title of having the highest rate of state-sponsored abductions in the world, according to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances. The government frequently “disappears” civilians, journalists and even aid workers who they believe to be critical of their regime.

The Sri Lankan government currently estimates only 70,000 civilians inhabit the conflict area; most aid organizations including the ICRC, UN and HRW estimate 200,000 civilians. This discrepancy reflects a calculated attempt by the Sri Lankan government to underestimate the size of the population they would come to control, granting them adequate room to “disappear” thousands. These 200,000 civilians chose to live in area controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, and will therefore be treated with suspicion and brutality by the Sri Lankan government.

PACOM launching an evacuation of Tamil civilians supports the Sri Lankan government’s campaign of ethnic cleansing of this region. Tamils have been under attack by the Sri Lankan government since last September; evacuating them from Vanni and delivering them to the Sri Lankan government is equivalent to being an accomplice to genocide. As American citizens, we implore you to put an immediate stop to PACOM plans to evacuate these civilians. We do not want their blood on our hands. Instead of an evacuation, we urge the U.S. government to expand the “safe zone” these civilians are in, and strengthen their security by allowing aid workers, journalists and human rights monitors full access to the region. We also ask the U.S. government to pressure the Sri Lankan government to accept a ceasefire to provide respite to these besieged civilians.


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