International concern mounts for Sri Lanka civilians

Sri Lankan Police forming a human chain in parliament to protect the Speaker and enable a vote.

January 29, 2009 (AFP) – International rights groups pressed for urgent action to save up to 250,000 civilians trapped in northern Sri Lanka where government forces Thursday fought to secure final victory over Tamil rebels. Human rights bodies called for immediate steps by both the Colombo government and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to spare the innocent as reports suggested “hundreds” have already been killed and wounded.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch said intense fighting between the Sri Lankan army and the LTTE has trapped an estimated 250,000 non-combatants.

“The situation for hundreds of thousands of vulnerable civilians trapped in the Wanni war zone (in Mullaittivu district) is becoming increasingly dangerous,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“Both the government and the LTTE need to take urgent action to prevent large-scale civilian deaths.”

Amnesty International added its voice Wednesday to that of the International Committee of the Red Cross and foreign governments in expressing fears for civilians.

“People displaced by the conflict are experiencing acute shortages of humanitarian aid, especially food, shelter and medical care,” said Yoland