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Church pressure on Tamil Tigers: CEN 2.06.09 p 6. February 10, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Arms Control/Defense/Peace Issues, Church of Ceylon, Church of England Newspaper.

Church leaders in Sri Lanka have called upon the Tamil Tigers stop using civilians as human shields against attacks by government forces. Last week the Sri Lankan military broke a decade long stalemate in that country’s civil war, and captured a number of strongholds held by the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam-the Tamil Tigers (LTTE).

Speaking on the 61st anniversary of Sri Lank’s independence last week, President Mahinda Rajapaksa send the end of the war was in sight

He promised full civil rights to the Tamil minority of Northern Ceylon once law and order was restored. “I pledge to you today, that these people who share our motherland, will be liberated and given the equality and all rights that they are entitled to, under the Constitution,” the Sri Lankan President said.

The 25 year old civil war waged between the majority Sinhalese government and Tamil separatists in the north and east of Sri Lanka has left over 63,000 dead and tens of thousands displaced by the fighting. Both the Tamil Tigers and the government have come under criticism for their conduct towards civilians in the disputed regions.

“The LTTE claims to be fighting for the Tamil people, but it is responsible for much of the suffering of civilians” in the disputed territories, said Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch on Dec 15. “As the LTTE loses ground to advancing government forces, their treatment of the very people they say they are fighting for is getting worse.”

Human Rights Watch accused the Tamil Tigers of forced recruitment of soldiers by requiring each family to supply two or more soldiers to its ranks. The Tamil Tigers have also instituted a pass system at road junctions and other strategic points—forbidding civilians to flee to government-held territory to escape the fighting.

With government forces closing in, the Tamil Tigers have blocked people from fleeing from the fighting. In a joint statement issued with the island’s Roman Catholic bishops, the Anglican Bishop of Colombo, the Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera, and the Anglican Bishop of Kurunegala, the Rt. Rev. Kumara Ilangasingha called for the rebels to leave civilians alone.

“There should be no restriction of the civilians’ right to life and movement,” they said.

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