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SRI LANKA – Transparent resettlement procedures needed for internally displaced persons

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FORUM-ASIA welcomes the decision to end the illegal
incarceration of thousands of displaced Sri Lankan civilians who have spent the
past seven months living in abysmal conditions in detention camps in the north
of the country.
(Bangkok, 8 December 2009) The Asian Forum
for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) welcomes the decision to end the illegal
incarceration of thousands of displaced Sri Lankan civilians who have spent the
past seven months living in abysmal conditions in detention camps in the north
of the country.  According to a
statement released by the Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) on 1
December 2009, 100,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), who had been given very restricted
freedom of movement since the escalation and final end of the 20-year war
between Sri Lankan armed forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE),
have finally been able to leave the detention camps where they have lived for
most of the year. 

Despite this positive development,
FORUM-ASIA expresses deep concern over the resettlement procedure for displaced
persons to their places of origin. We have learnt that the authorities have
placed conditions upon the release of displaced persons which have not been
clearly communicated. It is unclear whether or not IDPs will be allowed to
return to the camps if necessary and if there will be any financial assistance
to afford IDPs return to their places of origin.

FORUM-ASIA also views the continued
detainment of 11,000 admitted or suspected ex-combatants, who are a separate
group from the IDPs as a grave concern. Many have been relocated without public
record. Therefore, we demand that ex-combatants be treated with due process and
transparency and a list of all detainees, their locations, and all relocations
be publicly recorded. 

Furthermore, the authorities should not
discriminate on the system of resettlement between those held in detention
centers and those displaced elsewhere. IDPs who found other means of shelter
during the conflict must be given the same consideration and resources by the
government as those detained within the camps.

Meanwhile, the area surrounding the camps
is still covered with landmines that the government has been slow to remove,
hindering resettlement. As such, FORUM-ASIA demands the unconditional release
and resettlement of displaced persons to their places of origin as well as the
expedient clearing of all landmines to ensure safe passage for all IDPs.

FORUM-ASIA believes that the government's
decision in the IDPs resettlement matter is long overdue. We joined many others
around the world throughout the entire detention period to express their
condemnation of the squalid conditions inside the camps, which also did not
allow access for independent monitors.

We call on the government to allow the International
Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the National Human Rights Commission
(NHRC) of Sri Lanka to be given unrestricted access in the camps where
ex-combatants are housed. The government should uphold international human
rights and humanitarian standards, particularly those outlined in the Guiding
Principles on Internal Displacement when implementing this resettlement
procedure.  Transparent resettlement is
only the first step in what will be a long process of rehabilitation for
hundreds of thousands of IDPs. We wish them all the best!

For inquiries, please contact:

  • Mr. Yap Swee Seng, Executive Director,
    Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) at [email protected], or +66 81 868 9178
  • Ms. Pooja Patel, Programme Officer, South
    Asia Programme (FORUM-ASIA) at [email protected],
    or +66 81 176 3110