Human Rights Flashpoints – October 13, 2009

October 13, 2009

What’s Up This Week:

  1. Sri Lanka: Humanitarian Disaster Looms
  2. Pakistan: New Violence
  3. Upcoming this week

Sri Lanka: Trapped Between Military and Monsoon

The quarter of a million Sri Lankans locked up in military-run internment camps are facing a humanitarian disaster with the arrival of monsoon rains. Living situations in the overcrowded camps are likely to further deteriorate in the following weeks. The camps lack even basic sanitation facilities. During previous heavy rains, water flooded the camps and forced residents to wade through overflowing sewage.

We had heavy rains about a month ago. It was hell. The ground here cannot absorb water so it just gathers. We couldn’t even walk around. The authorities have done some work to improve drainage, but I doubt it will help much.

A recent escapee from Chettikulam camp reported to Amnesty International that some women had been forced to give birth in front of strangers without privacy:

Medical staff are only available in the camps 9 to 5. People start waiting in line for medical assistance from early morning…how can you expect a lady who is pregnant to stand in a line for hours? If the war has ended, why doesn’t the government let these people out?

The situation worsened on October 5, when a main water pipeline was turned off in Menik Farm camp. The escalation of the humanitarian situation also leads to violent tensions, both within the camp residents and between residents and the military.


I remain particularly concerned about the slow pace of identifying those in the camps who do not pose a threat to security and the lack of transparent criteria in this regard. (..) Immediate and substantial progress in restoring freedom of movement for the displaced is an imperative, if Sri Lanka is to respect the rights of its citizens and comply with its commitments and obligations under international law – Walter Kaelin, Representative of the Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons

Must Reads

Pakistan: The fighting goes on

The situation in Pakistan has escalated with the fourth militant attack in the last week occurring yesterday in Peshawar. A Punjabi faction of the Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack, signaling a disturbing level of increased cooperation between militant groups to the Pakistani government and its Western allies. Other attacks included a 22 hour assault on Pakistan’s army headquarters and began with the suicide bombing of a UN aid agency. In total 119 have been killed and several injured. The group has threatened more strikes across the country in advance of the army’s plans to launch a ground offensive of the Taliban’s major base in South Waziristan.

In response to the deadly attacks, Pakistani jets have bombed the Taliban’s major base in South Waziristan and Bajaur, another tribal agency in northwest Pakistan.  

The renewed escalation of violence has increased concerns for the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. The surge in attacks has come as the Pakistani government is trying to respond to U.S. aid package conditions requiring the government to do more to control its armed forces and extremists operating within the country.


Such attacks cannot deter us from the offensive against the militants. We will continue our fight till the death of the last terrorist – Mian Iftikhar Hussain, provincial Information Minister

Must Reads


  • October 12: How to Feed the World in 2050, FAO High-Level Expert Forum
  • October 13: Turkish and Armenian governments are due to complete protocols on normalizing ties between the two countries
  • October 13: Trial of Roy Bennett, a senior official in Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change, on terrorism charges
  • October 14: Open debate in the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, including the recent Gaza conflict 
  • October 15: Publication of Irene Khan’s (AI Secretary General) book The Unheard Truth: Poverty and Human Rights

Human Rights Flashpoints is a weekly column about countries at risk of escalating human rights violations and is brought to you by AIUSA’s Crisis Prevention and Response team