Humanitarian Petition to the UN

Responsibility to Protect indicates that the Security Council has a responsibility to intervene as non-coercive means have proven inadequate and national authorities are manifestly failing to protect their citizens.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
United Nations Headquarters
UN Headquarters
First Avenue at 46th Street
New York, NY 10017

Your Excellency,

It is with the utmost urgency that we plead with you to immediately attend to the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka and to directly intervene to ease humanitarian suffering and human rights violations.

It is well known that Sri Lankan Armed Forces and the LTTE are currently engaged in what is clearly an undeclared war. In the first two weeks of 2007 the UN has already issued multiple statements noting the grave and deteriorating conditions in the northeast of Sri Lanka, condemning the recent violence, including suicide bombings and air strikes, and calling for protection of civilians. Over the past six months, the UN and the international community have repeatedly urged the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE to resume peace talks. While both parties claim to be committed to a peaceful resolution of what is ultimately a generations-long conflict, such claims have proven to be hollow promises. Despite repeated position statements and urgings for resumption of the peace process, conditions deteriorate every day.

As you are well aware, the situation in the northeast of Sri Lanka is disastrous, and the Sri Lankan Tamils who populate this region are suffering untold horrors. Since land-based entry to Jaffna was cut off in August 2006 with the closure of the main highway, 500,000 civilians in the peninsula have not had access to basic food, fuel, medicines and other essential commodities. In recent weeks, a reported 20,000 people have fled Vaharai due to a surge in violence; 15,000 people remain trapped in this region and are on the verge of death due to starvation. Conservative estimates put the death of civilians since August 2006 at 3,000. Two decades of conflict has resulted in the death of close to 70,000.

A statement issued by the UN on January 8, 2007 notes that the humanitarian situation in the eastern region of Vaharai is “grave and demands an urgent response.” In a press release from November 2006, Allan Rock, the Special Advisor to the United Nations Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict on Sri Lanka, “observed the deteriorating humanitarian situations in certain areas of the North and East. During his visits to Vaharai and Jaffna, Mr. Rock saw first hand the fear, isolation and critical unmet needs of IDP children there.”

Furthermore, in the same region, Amnesty International reports, “The well-funded and relatively swift response to the tsunami stands in stark contrast to the inadequate support that conflict IDPs have received for many years. Across the north and east, conflict-affected communities, representatives of civil society and national and international NGOs, and government officials all expressed concern that there is a serious disparity in humanitarian assistance between the two groups.”

The UN agencies must work together to press the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE to quickly ease the humanitarian situation, first and foremost by opening both sea and land routes to Jaffna so that relief agencies can access to at-risk populations.

Responsibility to Protect indicates that the Security Council has a responsibility to intervene as non-coercive means have proven inadequate and national authorities are manifestly failing to protect their citizens.

There is an urgent need for a United Nations human rights monitoring and protection mission (separate from and in addition to the proposed Commission of Inquiry and the IIGEP) to help deter abuses, investigate rights violations that do occur, and create an environment at the local level that would allow for greater civilian protection.

The UNHCR must follow through on executing the appeal stated in its Global Appeal 2007 section on Sri Lanka, in which it called for an ongoing emergency response, citing over 500,000 displaced persons whose safety is highly jeopardized in the face of ongoing violence and who have hindered access to food, employment, health facilities and education.

Please do not delay in fulfilling your obligations.

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