Sri Lanka orders Red Cross to ‘scale down’ operations

July 9, 2009 (AFP) – The International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday it had been ordered by Sri Lanka to scale down relief operations in the island where it has been helping civilian war victims. As a result, the ICRC said it was withdrawing expatriate staff from the battle-scarred northeast which was the focus of the final government offensive against Tamil Tiger rebels that ended in outright victory in May.

“Following the cessation of active hostilities between the Sri Lankan state and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the government of Sri Lanka has asked the ICRC to scale down its operations in the country,” the charity said.

It said the ICRC would re-assess its operations, which included providing relief to those displaced by the fighting and visiting captured rebels to ensure their proper treatment in custody.

“The ICRC is in the process of reviewing its set-up and operational priorities in Sri Lanka,” said Jacques de Maio, the agency’s head of operations for South Asia.

“As a first step, it will close its offices and withdraw its expatriate staff from the Eastern Province while winding down its operations in the area.

“However, the ICRC will continue it