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Sri Lanka: Batticaloa Field Mission: May 2007

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Law and Society Trust (LST) and INFORM, FORUM-ASIA members, conducted a fact-finding mission to eastern Sri Lanka 17-18 May 2007 to assess the process of displaced persons resettlement. The resettlement drive has not been in line with international human rights standards, with evidence of forced return, coercion and military aggression.

A team from the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre, the International Movement Against Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) and the Law and Society Trust (LST) visited Batticaloa District from 17-18 May to assess the resettlement process in Vellaveli (Porathivu Pattu D.S. Division) in Batticaloa west.

Given previous instances of forced resettlement, such as the movement of people from Kanthale and Kinniya to Mutur in September 2006 and from Batticaloa to Killivetti Transit site and Vakarai in March 2007, the team visited to ascertain whether the resettlement was being carried out in line with international human rights standards.

The team spoke to displaced persons awaiting settlement, those who had already been resettled and to local organisations and international agencies involved in humanitarian and human rights issues in the district. The team visited displacement sites including Vinyagapuram Maha Vidyalayam and Alankulam in Valaichennai. They attempted to visit Porthivu Pattu but were denied access.

The key findings in the report includes: i) The voluntary nature of the resettlement process was clearly in question. IDPs were not consulted regarding their return and resettlement, thus violating a key article of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. ii) The resettlement process was highly militarised. Civil administration and relief and humanitarian agencies were clearly excluded from playing any critical role and the initial process of resettlement. iii) Elements of coercion were visible in the early part of the resettlement process, STF guards showing aggression when calling out family names and reportedly even pointing a gun at the crowd. iv) the growing unwillingness of larger international agencies such as the UNHCR to publicly raise the issue of forced resettlement.

Read full text of Mission Report (in .pdf, 11 pp.)