Sri Lanka and the Commonwealth

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:00 am on 24th March 2009.

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Photo of Siobhain McDonagh Siobhain McDonagh Labour, Mitcham and Morden 11:00 am, 24th March 2009

I agree with the hon. Gentleman, and I am sure that he has seen many videos and DVDs of people in those bunkers, which have been taken by very brave people in the area.

Amnesty International also criticises both sides. It has called for a truce and for humanitarian corridors to evacuate hundreds of thousands of trapped civilians, but it believes that the Sri Lankan Government need to answer accusations of war crimes and other breaches of international law. Amnesty says that that Government will allow displaced people to leave Government camps, even for emergency health care, only if they leave a family member in the camp as a safeguard against their escape, and that that policy violates the international legal prohibition against hostage taking. More significantly, Amnesty says that repeated shelling of the last working hospital in the town of Puthukkudiyiruppu—I apologise for my pronunciation—might constitute a war crime. It said:

"If the hospital was deliberately targeted...it would constitute a war crime. If the hospital was struck in the course of a disproportionate or an indiscriminate attack...this would also constitute a war crime".

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, has also said that the Government's actions may

"constitute violations of international human rights and humanitarian law."

Amnesty has made other serious accusations against the Sri Lankan Government, saying that they have

"directly and indirectly been involved in disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and explicit intimidation of critics. They have also silenced dissent in the south of the country to crush critical voices."

It added:

"It's clear from the way in which the government has intimidated editors, like requesting that newspapers don't cover particular stories such as the humanitarian crisis, that there has been a concerted campaign to silence the media."