[JURIST] Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa [official website] on Sunday rejected calls for his government to provide full humanitarian access to Tamil displacement camps in the country, saying the camps still needed to be screened for rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) [SIG backgrounder] insurgents. On Saturday, Rajapaksa had issued a joint statement [text] with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon [official website] which said that aid agencies would be given access to internally displaced persons (IDPs) at the camps:
With regard to IDPs, the United Nations will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the IDPs now in Vavuniya and Jaffna. The Government will continue to provide access to humanitarian agencies. The Government will expedite the necessary basic and civil infrastructure as well as means of livelihood necessary for the IDPs to resume their normal lives at the earliest. The Secretary-General welcomed the announcement by the Government expressing its intention to dismantle the welfare villages at the earliest as outlined in the Plan to resettle the bulk of IDPs and call for its early implementation.
Rajapaksa's remarks came in response to urging by Ki-moon [UN News Centre report] and aid agencies [Oxfam press release] to grant full and immediate access to camps, which they say lack food and proper sanitation.
Last week, the Council of the European Union [official website] called for an independent inquiry [conclusions, PDF; JURIST report] into possible war crimes committed during fighting between the Sri Lankan government and LTTE. In March, the Sri Lankan Government denied allegations [JURIST report] by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile; JURIST news archive] that 2,800 civilian deaths caused by recent military action against the LTTE may constitute war crimes. In February, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released a report [text, PDF; JURIST report] alleging that both the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE are guilty of human rights violations. Earlier this year, Pillay condemned [press release; JURIST report] the deteriorating conditions of those trapped in the Vanni region, and called for investigations and prosecutions for the killings and other human rights abuses.