Friday, April 10, 2009

LTTE shooting fleeing civilians

UN Under Secretary General Sir John Holmes said that although the LTTE leadership says that the Tamil civilians accompanied them into the war zone voluntarily and they do not want to leave, there are continuing reports of shooting at fleeing civilians, destroying boats to prevent them leaving and forcing them to fight against their will by the LTTE.

He said it is clear that the LTTE is refusing to let people flee, though many are managing to escape somehow. He added: ' I fear the combatants may be gearing up for a final confrontation. This is a very grave situation.'

Sir John Holmes writing in the London'? Guardian newspaper of April 8 said they have told the terrorist group that civilians trapped by the fighting in the North must be allowed a free choice of whether to leave or stay.

The Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs of the United Nations said, the LTTE's leadership claims the civilians in the conflict zone do not want to leave because they accompanied the LTTE voluntarily in the first place and are afraid of government reprisals. Yet there are continuing reports that the group's fighters are shooting at fleeing civilians, limiting fishing and sabotaging boats that might be used to escape, and forcing people to fight against their will.

Holmes further added, civilians trapped by the fighting must be allowed a free choice of whether to leave or stay, as we have made clear to the LTTE. If the LTTE truly has the best interests of the Tamil people at heart, they should contribute to ending this unnecessary civilian suffering.

There have been many hundreds of civilian deaths caused by firing from both sides, though exact numbers and who fired what and when are impossible to verify. It is clear that the LTTE is refusing to let people flee, though many are managing to escape somehow, and I fear the combatants may be gearing up for a final confrontation. This is a very grave situation. As a full-scale, long-term ceasefire is unlikely to be agreed now, the only way to get the civilians out of harm's way is a temporary humanitarian lull, during which aid workers and relief supplies must be allowed into the conflict zone, and those who want to leave must be given the chance to do so.

He also wrote: Both sides have a duty to bring this about. The LTTE's leadership claims the civilians in the conflict zone do not want to leave because they accompanied the LTTE voluntarily in the first place and are afraid of government reprisals. Yet there are continuing reports that the group's fighters are shooting at fleeing civilians, limiting fishing and sabotaging boats that might be used to escape, and forcing people to fight against their will. Civilians trapped by the fighting must be allowed a free choice of whether to leave or stay, as we have made clear to the LTTE. If the LTTE truly has the best interests of the Tamil people at heart, they should contribute to ending this unnecessary civilian suffering.


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