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Humanitarian Concerns In Sri Lanka

Human rights monitors are alarmed over the increasing number of civilians reported killed or wounded in fighting in Northern Sri Lanka between government forces and the U.S. designated foreign terrorist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or Tamil Tigers.

"Certain actions being undertaken by the Sri Lankan military and by the [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] may constitute violations of international human rights and humanitarian law," said United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

Civilians continue to be killed in areas designated by the Sri Lankan government as safe or "no-fire" zones. U.N. human rights officials cite credible sources that estimate that more than 2,800 civilians have been killed and more than 7,000 have been wounded since January 20. More than two thirds of these causalities have been inflicted in the no-fire zones. According to U.N. estimates, a total of 150,000 to 180,000 people remain trapped in the conflict-stricken Vanni region.

"The fundamental problem is these people have to be allowed to leave," said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher. "It's very important that the continuation of the fighting not be allowed to cause an escalation of the suffering for the Tamil people of that region," he said.

Since 1983, conflict between Tamil Tiger insurgents and the Sri Lanka government has taken over 70,000 lives, most of them civilians and has displaced hundreds of thousands of others.

On March 13, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to express America's concern over the deteriorating conditions and increasing loss of life in the conflict areas. She condemned the Tamil Tigers for reportedly using civilians as human shields. Secretary Clinton offered U.S assistance to meet the present humanitarian crisis and Sri Lanka's post-conflict reconstruction.

A durable and lasting peace will only be achieved in Sri Lanka through a political solution that addresses the legitimate aspirations of all of Sri Lanka's communities.