Alarmed at rising violence in Sri Lanka

Linked with AGHS Legal Aid Cell, and with Hina Jilani – Pakistan.

Annan calls for halt to fighting.

14 August 2006 – Adding his voice to a growing chorus of United Nations officials speaking out against the rising bloodshed in Sri Lanka, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today deplored recent attacks, including the weekend assassination of a Government peace official, and called on both sides to stop fighting and resume talks.

“The Secretary-General stresses that a return to civil war will not resolve the issues involved,” a spokesman for Mr. Annan said in a statement released in New York, voicing alarm at the ongoing violence and joining the Sri Lanka Co-Chairs – the European Union, United States, Norway and Japan – in calling on the parties “to cease hostilities immediately and to return to the negotiating table.”

Mr. Annan “is profoundly concerned at the rising death toll, including the seven people killed in a bomb attack in Colombo today, and reports of dozens of students killed in a school as a result of air strikes in the northeast,” spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.

The Secretary-General deplored the assassination over the weekend of Ketheshwaran Loganathan, the Deputy Secretary-General of the Government Peace Secretariat and veteran Tamil human rights advocate.

Both parties, Mr. Annan said, must allow humanitarian agencies free and unimpeded access to the affected population.

The violence in Sri Lanka has forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which is working with local organizations to provide relief to those in need.

Last week, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on human rights defenders Hina Jilani, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, arbitrary and summary executions, Philip Alston, and the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler, expressed alarm at the growing violence, especially the killing of relief workers from French organization Action against Hunger who were providing assistance to survivors from the 2004 tsunami when they were murdered execution-style in the town of Muttur.

The UN country team in Sri Lanka called the killings “totally reprehensible” and urged an independent investigation of the incident, which took the lives of 17 aid workers.

UN Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery and former US President Bill Clinton urged the authorities to do “everything possible to apprehend the perpetrators of this crime and to bring them to justice.”

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