Amnesty International USA
Amnesty International is calling on the Sri Lankan government to permanently release civilians who have been illegally detained in camps since the end of the civil war six months ago.
The authorities must make good on their declared intentions to free some 120,000 people and must do so unconditionally, said Yolanda Foster, Amnesty International¡¦s expert on Sri Lanka. According to the Sri Lankan government today, families living in displacement camps in Vavuniya will be given a choice: remain in camps, seek alternative accommodations or attempt to return home.
However, Amnesty International has received information about possible restrictions on families choosing to leave the camps. Media reports have suggested that they could be asked to return to the camps after only 15 days. A permanent release from camps must be accompanied by assurances that people are not subjected to further questioning or re-arrest in new locations, said Foster. It is also critical that the government maintain its responsibility to care for displaced people wherever they choose to go.
Another concern is the lack of assistance for those who have already been released. A church group has reported instances of civilians being simply dumped, left on the road after being bussed from Manik Farm.
The government is providing conflicting messages about the process of return. It is also unclear whether freedom of movement will apply to camps in other parts of the country as well. As releases and resettlement efforts accelerate, Amnesty International urges Sri Lankan authorities to allow displaced people to make informed and voluntary decisions about return and resettlement. The Sri Lankan authorities must alert displaced people to the living conditions in the places they come from so that they can make plans about their future, said Foster. They should also provide them with clear information about their rights, their legal status and procedures for tracing family members.
Humanitarian and human rights organizations should be given unimpeded access to displaced people. For those attempting to resettle, such organizations should be permitted to monitor their safety and wellbeing and ensure their needs are being met, including that they are protected against further human rights violations.
Thousands of people have started to leave camps in the north east but the promise to unlock the camps must be followed up by the protection of the rights of the internally displaced people both within and outside the camps.
After fierce fighting and thousands of civilian casualties in May 2009, the Sri Lankan government declared victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). By the end of May, 300,000 displaced people who had fled the fighting were detained in camps supervised by the military.
In response to the unlawful detention of hundreds of thousands of displaced people, Amnesty International launched a global campaign Unlock the Camps, calling for liberty and freedom of movement for the displaced. Over 40,000 activists have taken action.
For more information, please visit: www.amnestyusa.org
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.2 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.