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As Sri Lanka ceasefire ends, top UN official urges respect for human rights

As Sri Lanka ceasefire ends, top UN official urges respect for human rights

Louise Arbour, UN  High Commissioner for Human Rights
Following the Government’s decision to end the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement that halted a decades-long conflict with the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the United Nations human rights chief has called on both parties to abide by their obligations under international law to protect civilians.

“An intensification of hostilities will likely have a devastating effect on the human rights of many Sri Lankans from all communities,” Louise Arbour said in a statement. The five-year-old Agreement is due to effectively end tomorrow.

Ms. Arbour noted that international law obliges all parties to protect civilians without discrimination and includes prohibitions against the arbitrary deprivation of life, arbitrary detention, forced displacement, enforced disappearances, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. It also forbids the recruitment and deployment of children as soldiers.

The High Commissioner warned that “violations of these rules by any party could entail individual criminal responsibility under international criminal law, including by those in positions of command.”

During her visit to Sri Lanka in October 2007, Ms. Arbour stressed to the Government the critical need for independent, public reporting on the human rights situation in the country and offered her Office’s help to that end.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has also expressed his concern that the withdrawal from the accord comes amidst intensifying fighting in the North and increasing violence across the country, including the capital, Colombo.

“The Secretary-General urges all concerned to ensure the protection of civilians and enable humanitarian assistance to be provided to affected areas,” his spokesperson said in a statement issued on 3 January.