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Friday, August 04, 2006

From Nonviolent Peaceforce: EMERGENCY ACTION REQUEST: Immediate Ceasefire and Respect for International Humanitarian Law in Sri Lanka

I received this request from Mel Duncan, Executive Director of the international peace activist organization Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) today. Heavy fighting broke out in Sri Lanka earlier this week and NP workers & other civilians are caught between the LTTE & Sri Lankan Government's fighting. Here's the NP request:

EMERGENCY ACTION REQUEST: Immediate Ceasefire and Respect for International Humanitarian Law in Sri Lanka

3 August 2006

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I write to you about an emergency.

Almost unnoticed by the international community, heavy fighting has broken out in Eastern Sri Lanka this week. Since Tuesday, LTTE (Tamil Tigers) and government forces have been battling in the Muthur, Sampur and Mavil Aaru areas of Trincomalee District, where our teams have been active for almost three years.

In Mutur town the entire civil infrastructure has collapsed and the civilian population – Tamil, Muslim and Sinhalese alike- is seeking refuge in mosques, churches and schools. Both the hospital and one of the schools where people sought shelter have been hit by shells, with ten persons killed and many wounded. An ambulance driving through Mutur town has also been attacked.

People have been more than 48 hours without water and food supplies, and the hospital does not or barely functions for lack of medicine and staff. The sick and wounded are going without medical treatment. Among the civilians trapped in Mutur are five Nonviolent Peaceforce staff people with their families. Nonviolent Peaceforce’s international staff members in Trincomalee town are in contact with people in Mutur and have been told that 25,000 people in Mutur wish to leave the town but cannot do so because the fighting parties prevent them.

In the face of this situation, and out of concern for the fate of the civilian population in Mutur and other areas,

We appeal urgently to the Sri Lankan government and LTTE to implement an immediate ceasefire, at least for 24 to 48 hours in order to allow the sick and wounded to be transported to Trincomalee hospital and those who wish to leave the battleground to do so.

We remind all sides in the conflict about the standards of International Humanitarian Law which prescribes the protection of civilian population in war. Attacks on civilian areas, ambulances and shelters are intolerable and have to stop immediately.

Please support this appeal by faxing or e-mailing the letter suggested below to the Sri Lankan President Mr. M. Rajapakse and the LTTE leader V. Prabhakaran, copying to the Peace Secretariats of both government and LTTE.

If you received this appeal through the general NP database, please send a copy of your letter or information that you faxed it to: CSchweitzer@nonviolentpeaceforce.org.
If you received the appeal through the NP Emergency Network, please send to ern@nonviolentpeaceforce.org.

With hope and resolve,
Mel Duncan
Executive Director

DRAFT LETTER

Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse
President Socialist Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka
C/O Office of the President
Temple Trees150,
Galle Road
Colombo 3
SRI LANKA
Fax: +94 11 2472100 / +94 11 2446657
Email: secretary@presidentsoffice.lk
cc: Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP)
Fax: +94 11 5554473 info@scopp.gov.lk

Your Excellency,

With deep concern I have learned of the humanitarian crisis in the Muthur, Sampur and Mavil Aaru areas of Trincomalee District. Fighting between the Army and the the LTTE has now gone on for more than 48 hours, and many civilians have been wounded and killed in the attacks.

In the face of this situation, and in concern for the fate of the civilian population in Mutur and other areas,

We appeal urgently to you to implement an immediate cease-fire, at least for 24 to 48 hours in order to allow the sick and wounded to be transported to Trincomalee hospital and those who wish to leave the battle grounds to do so.

We remind all sides in the conflict about the standards of International Humanitarian Law which prescribes the protection of civilian population in war. Attacks on civilian areas, ambulances and shelters are intolerable and have to stop immediately.

I have received this information through the network of the international NGO Nonviolent Peaceforce. Nonviolent Peaceforce has always maintained an impartial position and is solely motivated by assisting civilians through nonviolent means. It has been in Sri Lanka since 2003 and works at the invitation of civilians to support nonviolent conflict resolution and the protection of Sri Lankans working for their communities. At the moment, five of NP’s local staff are trapped in Mutur together with the other civilians.

Yours sincerely,

-----------------

DRAFT LETTER

Mr. Veluppillai Prabhakaran
c/o LTTE Peace Secretariat
Fax +94- 21 222 3959

Dear Sir,

With deep concern I have learned of the humanitarian crisis in the Muthur, Sampur and Mavil Aaru areas of Trincomalee District. Fighting between the Army and the the LTTE has now gone on for more than 48 hours, and many civilians have been wounded and killed in the attacks.

In the face of this situation, and in concern for the fate of the civilian population in Mutur and other areas,

We appeal urgently to you to implement an immediate cease-fire, at least for 24 to 48 hours in order to allow the sick and wounded to be transported to Trincomalee hospital and those who wish to leave the battle grounds to do so.

We remind all sides in the conflict about the standards of International Humanitarian Law which prescribes the protection of civilian population in war. Attacks on civilian areas, ambulances and shelters are intolerable and have to stop immediately.

I have received this information through the network of the international NGO Nonviolent Peaceforce. Nonviolent Peaceforce has always maintained an impartial position and is solely motivated by assisting civilians through nonviolent means. It has been in Sri Lanka since 2003 and works at the invitation of civilians to support nonviolent conflict resolution and the protection of Sri Lankans working for their communities. At the moment, five of NP’s local staff are trapped in Mutur together with the other civilians.

Yours sincerely,

--------------------

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