Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

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Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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HomeTamils - a Nation without a State > Struggle for Tamil Eelam  >  Human Rights & the Tamil People >Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) > Vaharai is Starving

Vaharai is Starving
Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) Press Release
18 January 2007

[see also Vaharai tragedy - An Unfolding Misery]


In violation of International Humanitarian Law (IDL) and International Human Rights Law (IHRL) the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) continues to deny Humanitarian Agencies, including the UN and ICRC, access to the 15,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the Vaharai Division of Batticaloa District in the NorthEast.  These IDPs were displaced from the Muttur, Sampoor, and Eachchilampattu Divisions of the Trincomalee District beginning in August 2006.

The GoSL has denied access by the international humanitarian community and enforced an embargo on the transportation of food, medicine, shelter, and non-food relief items (NFRI) to the area since 29 November 2006

The situation is now critical as all food supplies have been exhausted and the GoSL has denied permission for any food convoys to proceed to the area. Starvation is imminent for the 15,000 IDPs.
Most of these IDPs were displaced with only the clothes on their back in August and September 2006. The IDPs have subsisted on the bare minimum required to keep them alive and are now malnourished. Throughout the crisis the GoSL has restricted the transportation of food, medicine and all other humanitarian relief to the area and has allowed only token convoys of relief on an ad hoc basis restricting the amount allowed per convoy to only approximately 60% of the required amount. The last convoy allowed into the Vaharai area was on 29 November and at that time only carried 2 weeks worth of supplies for the IDPs.

The restriction on the freedom of movement of international humanitarian personnel, and the ensuing denial of access to IDPs on the pretext of �security� in situations of armed conflict, in which the suspension is used for military and political objectives, and on a discriminatory basis is also a violation of International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

Continuous and unrestricted access to the internally displaced means not only access for the provision of assistance and related protection, but also unrestricted access for regular and systematic needs assessments and follow-up monitoring. Due to the fact that no international organizations have been allowed into the Vaharai area since 29 November, there is a dearth of information available to humanitarian organizations, the media and the public at large. Access must be allowed so that needs assessments can be performed by the international humanitarian community and the necessary assistance and protection can be provided to the IDPs.

International Humanitarian Law (IDL) and International Human Rights Law (IHRL)

The GoSL�s denial of access to the IDPs and the denial of the food and medicine are violations of International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law.
Article 54 of the Additional Protocol I
to the Geneva Conventions and Article 14 of Additional Protocol II both state that, �Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare is prohibited.�

Principle 10, 2 (b)
of the United Nations� �Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement� states that, �Internally displaced persons shall be protected, in particular, against: (b) Starvation as a method of combat; (d) Attacks against their camps or settlements.�

Principle 18, 2
further states that, �At the minimum, regardless of the circumstances, and without discrimination, competent authorities shall provide internally displaced persons with and ensure safe access to: (a) Essential food and potable water; (b) Basic shelter and housing; (c) Appropriate clothing; and (d) Essential medical services and sanitation.

Principle 25
, states that,

1.  The primary duty and responsibility for providing humanitarian assistance to internally displaced persons lies with national authorities.
2.  International humanitarian organizations and other appropriate actors have the right to offer their services in support of the internally displaced� Consent thereto shall not be arbitrarily withheld, particularly when authorities concerned are unable or unwilling to provide the required humanitarian assistance.
3. All authorities concerned shall grant and facilitate the free passage of humanitarian assistance and grant persons engaged in the provision of such assistance rapid and unimpeded access to the internally displaced.

Additionally, the UN Security Council, in a resolution, S.C. res. 794 (1992) condemned the intentional usage of starvation as a method of warfare in an internal armed conflict.

The GoSL is also in violation of the following:

International Humanitarian Law (IHL)

   The prohibition on starvation of civilians as a method of combat (Additional Protocol II, article 14);

   Provision of special protection and right to relief for the wounded, the sick and children (Additional Protocol II, articles 4, 5, 7 and 11);

    �   Permitting impartial and humanitarian relief actions for the civilian population (Additional Protocol II, article 18).

International Human Rights Law (IHRL)
   The Freedom of movement of all, including humanitarian personnel (the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 13, and the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, article 13);

   Right to survival and development, including food, medical treatment and shelter (the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 3; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, articles 11 and 12; the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, articles 12 and 14; and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, articles 6 and 22).


TRO appeals to the GoSL and LTTE to follow the United Nations Secretary-General�s call on 16 January for �all sides in the conflict to ensure open and safe access by humanitarian actors in Sri Lanka to affected areas, while maintaining the neutrality and security of schools, hospitals and religious institutions as "safe zones.�

TRO once again requests that the GoSL designate the Vaharai Hospital and surrounding schools, which are being used by TRO as IDP shelters, as �Safe Zones�.  The LTTE and TRO have conveyed this request to the ICRC and the GoSL in the past without any response.

Food and NFRI Convoys to the Vaharai area

Date of Convoy or Date of UN IASC-CT Situation Report http://www.humanitarianinfo.org/srilanka


Description of items in convoy
All information is from UN
Standing Committee Country Team Situation Reports (http://www.humanitarianinfo.org/srilanka/)

12 August 2006


6 trucks of WFP food (71.7 MT of mixed food commodities, sufficient for 4,000 families/ 20,000 people for 1 week), 4 trucks of NFRIs (mainly ICRC but also with UNICEF and UNHCR goods)

25 August 2006


NFRIs (UNHCR: 300 Kitchen sets, 300 Laundry soap, 600 Bed sheets, 200 Ropes UNICEF : 300 Jerry cans, 300 Lux soap, 600 Sleeping mats, 200 Tarpaulin sheet, 600 Towels) to IDPs staying at Vaharai School and its surrounding area on 25th August.

1 September 2006


NFRIs (mats, bed sheets, jerry cans, soap and towel) at a Vaharai School

8 September 2006


2-week dry food ration through the MPCS voucher system to 3,478 families across 10 of the 12 DSs hosting IDPs. IOM provided 4 lorries to WFP.

13-15 September 2006

GA/WFP and others

food dispatched this week is sufficient to meet the weekly food needs of approximately 60% of the 11,000 IDP families (42,880 persons) in the area. 1,428 IDPs in Vellavelly are being provided with food assistance by GA/WFP. Present food assistance needs are only covered until approximately 25th of September

18-20 September 2006


IDPs in Korolai Pattu North DS (Vaharai) have been provided with food assistance by GA/WFP; the food dispatched is sufficient to meet the weekly food needs of approximately 50% of the more than 11,000 IDP families hosted in the area

02-04 October 2006


1 week food rations to 10,000 families in Vaharai. 2 weeks food rations to 116 families in Vellavelly.

31-October 2006


Convoy sent, details not available at time of publication

29 November 2006


A two week supply of food, 1000 tents, 300 boxes of fortified biscuits and 20 tonnes of other fortified food stuff for children and pregnant women, 1000 hygiene kits

Arjunan Ethirveerasingam
Project Manager 
Media Relations TRO (Colombo)
Sri Lanka Mobile: +94 77 674 6594
UK Mobile: +44 7758 649198

PHOTOS: http://www.flickr.com/photos/arjunan/
TRO:         www.troonline.org



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