Friday 25 September 2009

Close Sri Lanka's Detention Camps

Since the defeat of the brutal and authoritarian Tamil Tiger rebels by the Sri Lankan government in May this year, there have been warnings that the detention of Tamil civilians in ‘welfare villages’ amounting to the creation of a system of hidden, collective punishment against those who have suffered enough already.

Robert Evans, a Labour MEP who visited Sri Lanka as chairman of the European Parliament Delegation on Relations with South Asia, has said these ‘villages’ are “not welfare camps, they are prisoner-of-war cum concentration camps” and Human Rights Watch has called the camps “detention centres” that violate UN guidelines on internally displaced people .

Over the last few days, in the run up to the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, international NGOs have been renewing their serious concerns about human rights violations in Sri Lanka.

On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch called for the immediate release of more than 260,000 displaced persons illegally confined in Sri Lankan detention camps, adding:

Human Rights Watch said it was concerned about a lack of protection mechanisms in the camps and the secret, incommunicado detention - and possible enforced disappearance - of suspected combatants. Poor conditions, overcrowding, and inadequate medical care increases the risk of serious health problems during the coming monsoon season. Human Rights Watch also said that the authorities are not being open and honest with camp residents about when they may go home, keeping them in a state of uncertainty and anxiety.
Yesterday, Amnesty International raised concerns about clashes between detainees and the Sri Lankan Army. Its Asia director Sam Zarifi said:
The danger of serious human rights violations, including torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings increases substantially when detainees are held in locations that are not officially acknowledged places of detention and lack proper legal procedures and safeguards.
There are two meetings coming up soon on the illegal mass detentions by Mahinda Rajapakse’s government. The first, organised by the Tamil Legal Advocacy Project, takes place on Tuesday 29 September at Conway Hall in central London, whilst in October, the Tamil Solidarity Campaign has a meeting calling for the shutting down of the prison camps, which is in the Laws Building at Queen Mary University of London in Mile End.

Hat tip: Liam Mac Uaid

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