9 February 2009 The United Nations has condemned today’s suicide attack at a registration centre for civilians fleeing the fighting in northern Sri Lanka, which killed and wounded many civilians, including children.
The attack comes amid a growing humanitarian crisis in the northern part of the South-East Asian nation, where some 250,000 civilians are trapped by fighting between Government forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Today’s incident reportedly involved a female Tamil Tiger rebel who blew herself up at a registration centre in the Vishwamadu area of Mullaitivu district.
“The UN reiterates that civilians must be distinguished from combatants, and prThe UN reiterates that civilians must be distinguished from combatants, and protected from the fightingotected from the fighting,” the UN Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator in Sri Lanka said in a statement.
“It calls once again on the LTTE to separate its forces from civilians under its control.”
The statement noted that those killed had already been forced from their homes by fighting, and had endured terrible hardships.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other senior UN officials have repeatedly called on both the rebels and the Government to do all in their power to ensure safe passage for those fleeing the conflict zone, and to ensure the protection of civilians in accordance with international humanitarian law.
Also condemning today’s attack were 10 independent UN experts, who voiced their deep concern at the deteriorating human rights situation in Sri Lanka, especially suppression of criticism and a lack of effective investigations and prosecutions, which have together led to “unabated impunity” for human rights violations.
“A climate of fear and intimidation reigns over those defending human rights, especially over journalists and lawyers,” said Margaret Sekaggya, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, speaking of the general rights situation in the country.
A press release issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) stated that the safety of defenders has worsened considerably over the past year, most significantly following denunciations of human rights abuses committed by parties to the conflict, of corruption by state officials and of impunity.
“Serious and fatal aggression against journalists and the media are now a common occurrence as witnessed in the killing of the journalist Lasantha Wickremetunga and recent attacks on major media outlets,” the press release added.
The experts also deplored the restrictions on humanitarian access to conflict areas which exacerbate the ongoing serious violations of the most basic economic and social rights.
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