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IC urged to act on humanitarian grounds to safeguard civilians

Sri Lanka Army (SLA) has cornered civilians in overcrowded areas in the suburbs of Puthukkudiyiruppu (PTK) town, according to sources in Vanni. While artillery shells exploding in densely populated makeshift settlements have caused several civilian casualties, civilians are fleeing from indiscriminate bombardment from air and ground are forced to seek shelters throughout the day, civil sources from Vanni said. IDPs’ representatives express fear that those who fall into the hands of SLA units are likely to be forcibly transported under close military supervision to detention centre style camps at locations isolated from mainstream communities, as evidenced in Mannaar and in areas north of the recently SLA-occupied Elephant Pass.

There is no international presence of rights groups or NGOs. Unconfirmed reports said the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence had instructed the ICRC to relocate from PTK, causing panic among the civilians in the town recently.

Following recent aerial bombing of the Vaddakkachchi and Murasumoaddai areas, many fearing capture and torture by the advancing SLA forces had fled into the jungles. A group of around 100 such refugees were captured and transferred by the military with no legal processing to an isolated location in Va’n’naamoaddai along the A14 between Mannaar and Mathavaachchi.

According to local authorities, hundreds of residents have been forcibly moved from Vadamaaraadchi East and areas around the A9 to Mirusuvil High Security zone away from legal scrutiny with only limited access to Chaavakachcheari District Secretariat Officers.

Whilst some of the displaced have been handed over to local Police and processed by the judiciary, increasing numbers of local villagers are being evicted from their homes, as the SLA embarks on a ground clearing mission and are being moved to hastily set up military detention centres, without any judicial protection nor ICRC supervision.