July 20, 2009 (AFP) – The Red Cross on Monday announced the closure of four offices in Sri Lanka following a government order to foreign aid agencies to scale down operations. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said its four offices in the embattled eastern province were closed at the weekend.
“The ICRC reaffirms its commitment to meet the humanitarian needs of those directly or indirectly affected by the recent conflict,” the Geneva-based organisation said in its statement.
It said offices in the Akkaraipattu, Batticaloa, Muttur and Trincomalee areas in the eastern province were shut. The statement did not mention ICRC operations in the north where there are some 300,000 war-displaced civilians.
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Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said earlier this month all international relief agencies, including the Red Cross, had been asked to scale down operations following the defeat of the Tamil Tiger rebels.
The ICRC handled, among other things, the swapping of dead bodies of combatants and also manned entry and exit points from the rebel-held territory before it was finally overrun by government forces in mid-May.