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Sri Lanka: Armed Conflict

Volume 486: debated on Monday 19 January 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports his Department has received on the treatment of international non-governmental organisations in Sri Lanka; and if he will make a statement. (243831)

In September 2008, the UN and all international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) working in the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam-controlled Vanni were asked to withdraw as the Government of Sri Lanka could not assure their safety. INGOs are currently working in a challenging environment and in recent months there have been instances of attacks on INGO staff members. Our high commission in Colombo regularly urges the Sri Lankan Government to allow INGOs full access to the Vanni and encourages them to ensure adequate protection for all non- governmental organisation workers.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports his Department has received on the alleged use of cluster bombs by the government of Sri Lanka in the Vanni region; and if he will make a statement. (243832)

We are aware of claims about the use of cluster munitions by the Sri Lankan military. The ongoing military hostilities and the lack of independent information coming from northern Sri Lanka make it difficult to verify these claims. We have raised this issue with the Sri Lankan Government who have denied the use of such munitions by their military in any operations. The use of cluster munitions in general is of serious concern to the UK.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the human rights situation in the Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka; and if he will make a statement. (243833)

We are concerned about the human rights situation in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka. Sporadic attacks between groups continue. We welcome the recent signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP), central Government and the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) setting out a three month action plan for the release of all TMVP child soldiers. The UK continues to encourage all authorities in the east to pursue a peaceful and democratic path.