Ban voices alarm at increased violence in northern Sri Lanka

By United Nations

9 September 2008
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Displaced Sri Lankan families collect emergency shelter materials

9 September 2008 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today expressed deep concern over escalating violence in northern Sri Lanka and the humanitarian impact of the clashes on civilians.

The South Asian nation’s Government has requested that United Nations relief workers relocate from areas witnessing conflict. In a statement, Mr. Ban “reminds all concerned of their responsibility to take active steps to ensure the safety and freedom of movement of civilians, allowing humanitarian organizations to do their work in safety, as well as to reach persons affected by the fighting who need humanitarian assistance.”

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), fighting between Government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) uprooted 12,000 families in the month of July alone.

In today’s statement, Mr. Ban pointed to the need to follow international humanitarian law, particularly the principle of proportionality and the selection of military targets.

“He emphasizes strongly the importance of a negotiated settlement to the political problems facing Sri Lanka.”

Last month, the UN Country Team acknowledged the Government’s announcement that it will take extra steps to improve the freedom of movement of thousands of civilians affected by recent fierce fighting in the north of the country.

“Measures that comply with international obligations governing the protection of civilians during armed conflict provide vital options for civilians as they make individual choices about where to seek safety and succour,” the UN Country Team in Sri Lanka said.