Sri Lankan government, rebels must stop “rampant” abuse

GENEVA, Oct 26, 2006 (AFP) – The advocacy group Human Rights Watch on Thursday urged the Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tiger rebels to use their talks in Geneva to end “escalating” and “rampant” abuse of civilians. Nearly 3,000 people have been killed and some 217,000 have fled their homes since bitter fighting escalated earlier this year, according to relief agencies. The US-based rights group sent letters to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse and to the political head of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, S.P. Tamilselvan, expressing deep concern about ongoing abuse and violations of international humanitarian law by both sides.

“The resumption of talks between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) presents an opportunity for both sides to endorse measures that will ensure greater civilian protection and end the rampant and widespread abuses of human rights in the country,” HRW said in a statement.

In the letters, HRW called on the warring parties to designate demilitarized zones as “sanctuaries in conflict areas”, improve humanitarian access to populations at risk and end restrictions on relief agencies.

They should also agree to the establishment of a United