Prevent Sri Lanka 'bloodbath': Human Rights Watch



WASHINGTON- Human Rights Watch warned on Monday that the world had only hours to prevent a potential "bloodbath" in Sri Lanka, but the island's ambassador here pledged to protect civilians.
Sri Lankan authorities set a deadline of midday (0630 GMT) Tuesday for Tiger supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran and his cadres believed to be hiding among civilians turn themselves in.
Sri Lanka did not specify what it would do if the ultimatum went ignored by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which has waged a bloody campaign in 1972 to create a separate homeland for the Tamil minority.



Prevent Sri Lanka 'bloodbath': Human Rights Watch
"We are concerned that it is going to be a bloodbath," said Anna Neistat, a senior researcher at New York-based Human Rights Watch.
She said the international community had a matter of hours "to make it crystal clear to both sides of this conflict -- both the LTTE and the government of Sri Lanka -- that they will not get away with it."
The world should say "that unnecessary and unlawful loss of civilian lives would be considered war crimes and people responsible for that -- including commanders -- will be held responsible," she said at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think-tank.
But Jaliya Wickramasuriya, the Sri Lankan ambassador to the United States, said that the priority was to rescue civilians.
"We are not going to do any huge operation as such," he told AFP. "We are still concerned about civilians."
Footage by a Sri Lankan spy plane on Monday showed more than 35,000 civilians pouring out of the sliver of jungle territory where the LTTE are making their final stand in the northeast of the island.
More than 100,000 civilians were estimated to be trapped in the area, designated by the government as a safe zone. Sri Lanka and rights groups said the rebels were using the civilians as a human shield.
"If by tomorrow noon we hear that 90,000 people manage to escape the government-controlled areas, the government would assume that everyone who remains in the area is an LTTE cadre and thus fair game, which we don't believe is true," Neistat said.
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Tuesday, April 21st 2009
AFP
           


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