Charities demand access to 200,000 in Sri Lanka war zones

Oct 6, 2006 (AFP) – International relief agencies on Friday demanded access to some 200,000 people displaced by Sri Lanka’s worsening ethnic conflict and denounced restrictions on aid workers. A group of foreign non-governmental organisations in a joint appeal asked both the Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tiger rebels to ensure that aid workers had free access to help victims of the conflict.

“Over the several months in Sri Lanka, access to populations has been severely curtailed by parties to the conflict, thus violating international humanitarian law,” they said in a statement sent to reporters here.

“Humanitarian organizations have been denied access to civilians affected by this conflict. As a result, approximately 200,000 displaced people do not receive regular or sufficient assistance,” they added.

The agencies, including two that are under investigation by Sri Lankan authorities for allegedly helping rebels, condemned the August massacre of 17 local employees of the French charity Action Against Hunger.

They appealed to the government “to undertake every measure to ensure that this war crime does not stay unpunished, and thus guard against impunity, in close collaboratio