Sri Lankan moderate Tamil party asks freedom for 300,000 war-hit civilians

July 12, 2009 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s main moderate Tamil political group Sunday accused the government of holding some 300,000 war-displaced civilians in “open prisons” and demanded their immediate release. The New York-based Human Rights Watch said the squalid camps, which are ringed with barbed wire, were a “national disgrace” and violated international law.

The island’s government has promised to resettle those in the camps by the end of the year, once it weeds out suspected rebels.

Sri Lanka promised UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon during his visit to the island in May that most of the civilians would be re-settled in their homes and villages within six months. The Tamil United Liberation Front said in a letter to President Mahinda Rajapakse that the ethnic Tamils who managed to escape the fighting between troops and Tamil rebels had no freedom of movement.

“They are virtually kept under compulsion without any justification, giving them the feeling that they are kept in an open prison with too many restrictions and not in a welfare centre,” TULF leader V. Anandasangari said.

Anandasangari, whose party supported the government in its campaign against the Tamil Tigers, accused it