Rally Held in Front of the UN: 'Unlock the Concentration Camps in Sri Lanka'

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Tamil Americans rallied in front of the UN last Tuesday (September 22, 2009) to protest the UN's inaction over the killings of more than 20,000 Tamil civilians by Sri Lankan forces in the last few weeks of the civil war and UN's impotence on the forcible confinement of nearly 300,000 Tamil civilians in internment camps.

Human rights advocates rallied in front of the UN to bring attention to the 282,000 Tamils held in concentration camps in Sri Lanka.

Joe Ratnam, a spokesman for the US Tamil Political Action Council (USTPAC) said, "USTPAC endorses and supports this rally by the activists concerned about human rights. Sri Lanka is attempting to destroy the Tamil community on the island and this crime is NOT being effectively challenged by the United Nations."

Other sources support Mr. Ratnam's numbers. For instance, in May 2009, the Sri Lankan armed forces killed over 20,000 Tamil civilians with indiscriminate attacks, The Times of London said. (http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/05/29/srilanka.death.toll/index.html). War without Witness, a human rights group, called the attacks "blood bath on the beach".

Ratnam continued "Over 125,000 Tamils have been killed in total by shelling, disappearances, extrajudicial executions, and anti-Tamil pogroms in an effort to destroy the Tamil community in Sri Lanka. Currently 282,000 Tamil civilians are being held indefinitely in military-controlled internment camps in unsanitary conditions without adequate food and water.

Human Rights Watch reports tend to back up these high caualty figures.
(http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/09/22/sri-lanka-world-leaders-should-demand-end-detention-camps)

Ratnam decried the conditions in the camps as 'pathetic'. "Humanitarian workers recently criticized 'persistent water shortages,'" he said. "Inhumane health conditions get even worse when heavy rain sends rivers of sewage cascading through tents and tin sheds."

"Malnutrition-related complications have resulted in increased deaths," Ratnam explained. "Doctors in the camps have warned of 'impending disaster if conditions do not improve.'"

The Times of London said on July 10, "About 1,400 people are dying every week at the giant Manik Farm internment camp set up in Sri Lanka to detain Tamil refugees" - a number similar to the total number of people killed in Darfur and the Congo combined for the whole of this year.

Another USTPAC activist said "While Western nations call for an investigation of war crimes, the Sri Lankan government continues to deny independent investigators and journalists' access to war-torn areas. They recently sentenced a Tamil journalist J. S. Tissainayagam to 20 years of hard labor. The Sri Lankan government continues to expel aid workers who dare to speak up, including a UNICEF spokesperson, James Elder, earlier this month."

The USTPAC spokesman recalled an event when UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was taken to the internment camps on a conducted tour last May "where Ban Ki-moon said, 'I was so sad, and so humbled by what I have seen. I have traveled all around the world and visited similar places, but this is by far the most appalling scene I have seen'".

The spokesman said "Yet the UN, under the leadership of Ban Ki-moon, has done precious little to unlock the internment camps and hold the Sri Lankan government accountable for its war crimes.

"The situation has gotten even more appalling now," said Ratnam, "with no effective response from the UN." "The UN is unable to free its own staff members from the camp," the spokesman added.

"Protesters are calling for the UN to reclaim its Responsibility to Protect ," Ratnam went on, referring to the "R2P" obligation, "and intervene immediately to save the innocent Tamil civilians locked up in the internment camps, and return them to their homes."

To see a Yahoo News story about the rally, with photo, go to: http://news.yahoo.com/nphotos/slideshow/photo//090922/481/0558b08912d34feb8934bca330bb4065/

For further information call Joe Ratnam at 202 595 3123. Visit us at http://www.USTPAC.org

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Joe Ratnam
USTPAC
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