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Sri Lanka's Genocidal War - '95 to '01
"In conveying the request, UNHCR had urged that military actions be suspended for the period of the LTTE-declared ceasefire in the interest of the civilians, who may be moving during that time..''
"United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said Sunday (28 May 2000) that the Sri Lankan government ignored a unilateral ceasefire notification issued by the separatist Tamil Tigers to allow civilians to leave an area south of Jaffna. Sri Lankan officials said they had not been informed of the 12-hour hiatus in fighting, a statement disputed by the UNHCR, which said it notified the ministry of defense as well as the Joint Operations Headquarters in Colombo....
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam had alleged in a statement issued from their London-based International Secretariat that government troops continued indiscriminate artillery shelling preventing the civilians from moving to safer places.
The Sri Lankan government's special media information center and its military spokesman said Saturday evening the armed forces had not been informed of the ceasefire.
But a UNHCR statement said notification was both verbal and in writing. "In conveying the request, UNHCR had urged that military actions be suspended for the period of the LTTE-declared ceasefire in the interest of the civilians, who may be moving during that time,'' the statement said.
The UNHCR said it had asked the government to indicate a safe route to enter government-controlled areas, indicating if security could be assured its staff members would be willing to enter the area to assess the conditions of the civilians as their willingness to move. ``Up to now no reply has been received from the ministry of defense or joint operations headquarters,'' UNHCR said.
The UNHCR staff in the rebel-controlled Wanni mainland, south of Jaffna, Saturday reported that 150 civilians arrived from Jaffna after traveling for several days, some with injuries. They told officials many civilians had been killed or wounded in military actions over the past two weeks, the statement said. The refugee welfare organization said its officials also assisted some 460 families in evacuation in the northern Jaffna peninsula.
The UNHCR statement is a severe indictment of the Sri Lankan armed forces, which maintained they had not been informed of the ceasefire. The UNHCR and several other international humanitarian organizations have repeatedly appealed to the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE to ensure security of civilians and their freedom to move to safety. (Courtesy United Press International, 28 May 2000)