The Humanitarian Crisis in Sri Lanka

IMAGE_0182-300x240Via Conor Foley over at Crooked Timber, Amnesty’s calling for an end to detention camps in Sri Lanka:

Amnesty International today called for the immediate release of 285,000 innocent civilians – including an estimated 50,000 children – being held in cramped and squalid camps in the north of Sri Lanka.

The camps – each surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by security forces – were set up during the recent Government offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, commonly known as the Tamil Tigers.


Foley on the camps:

You can see in the first photo the emblems of a humanitarian agency. The second photo shows the barbed wire surrounding each camp. These were, and are, effectively concentration camps (in the original meaning of the word), and so the dilemma was whether humanitarian agencies should have helped to build and administer them?

The next two photos show the conditions that the people who are now in the camps were previously suffering. Thousands died either from direct shelling, or starvation and disease, in the space of a few months. Should the aid agencies have done more to publicise what was happening or spoken out louder for a ceasefire – even if it meant getting thrown out of the country or arrested?

Finally, should the agencies have allowed themselves to be used in part of a counter-insurgency campaign by the Government of Sri Lanka in which over a quarter of a million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes – which is a prime facie violation of the laws of armed conflict?