Practice Relating to Rule 24. Removal of Civilians and Civilian Objects from the Vicinity of Military Objectives
In 2009, in a statement during a debate in the Lower House of Parliament (Lok Sabha) on the situation in Sri Lanka, India’s Minister of External Affairs and Minister of Finance stated:
A serious source of concern to us has been the condition of the civilians and internally displaced persons (IDPs), mostly Tamil, caught up in the zone of conflict. Estimates on the number of civilians trapped vary, but 70,000 or so are estimated to be there now. The LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] were reportedly using them as human shields.
Hon. Members may rest assured that our strong concerns for the safety, security and welfare of the civilians caught in the conflict have led us to stay actively engaged to prevent a further deterioration of humanitarian conditions. We have sent relief supplies to the civilians and the internally displaced persons (IDPs), facilitated access by international and UN organisations, and suggested ways for civilians and IDPs to escape from the conflict zone. …
I personally visited Colombo on 27th January. In my discussions with Sri Lankan President His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa, I stressed the need to give an opportunity to civilians and IDPs caught up in the conflict to emerge from the LTTE held areas, and suggested a pause in hostilities to provide the necessary environment. On 29th January 2009, the Sri Lankan President announced a 48-hour period for civilian safe passage to secure areas. He also appealed to the LTTE to allow civilians to leave and assured the safety and security of the civilians who did so.
In the last two weeks, nearly 35,000 civilians have come out of LTTE-held areas. Sadly some of those escaping from the conflict have been caught in cross-fire and, in recent incidents have been stopped and even killed by LTTE cadres. As the conflict enters what may be the final phase of military operations, the LTTE would best serve the interest of the Tamils by immediately releasing all civilians and laying down arms.
The Government of India is ready to facilitate the evacuation of civilians trapped in the area of conflict, working with the Government of Sri Lanka and the ICRC who would take responsibility for the security, screening and rehabilitation of these internally displaced persons.
In 2009, in answer to a written question in the Lower House of Parliament (Lok Sabha) regarding Sri Lanka, India’s Minister of External Affairs stated:
External Affairs Minister of India visited Sri Lanka on 27th January 2009. … He also took up India’s concerns for the safety, security and welfare of the civilians with President Mahinda Rajapaksa. He emphasized the need for the Sri Lankan Government to give an opportunity for the civilians and internally displaced persons to come out of the LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] held areas. He was assured that the Government of Sri Lanka would take all necessary measures to minimize the effects of the conflict on Tamil civilians including providing uninterrupted relief supplies, respecting and expanding safe zones and preventing civilian casualties. Subsequently, on 29th January 2009, President Rajapaksa announced a 48 hour period for civilians to leave the conflict zone, appealed to the LTTE to allow the civilians to leave, and assured the safety and security of civilians who did so.
In 2009, in answer to a written question in the Upper House of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) regarding Sri Lanka, India’s Minister of External Affairs stated:
Government of India’s strong concerns for the safety, security and welfare of Sri Lankan Tamil civilians caught up in the conflict in Northern Sri Lanka have been taken up with the Sri Lankan Government, including at the highest levels. During the visit of the External Affairs Minister to Sri Lanka on 27th January 2009, he emphasized the need for the Sri Lankan Government to give safe passage to civilians and internally displaced persons to come out of the LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] held areas, to respect and expand safe zones, and to provide relief supplies.
In 2009, India’s High Commission issued a press release entitled “Statement of Minister of External Affairs H.E. Mr Pranab Mukherjee on appeal to Government of Sri Lanka to work out safe passage for trapped civilians”, which stated:
There are reports that over 70,000 civilians are trapped in the conflict zone in Sri Lanka and there is acute shortage of food, water and medicines. Many innocent lives have been lost in the conflict zone. The Government of India has repeatedly expressed its concern for the security and passage to safe zones of the civilian population.
It is reported that the LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] has offered a ceasefire. While this may fall short of a declaration of willingness to lay down arms, it is our view that the Government of Sri Lanka should seize the opportunity presented by the offer to bring about a pause in the hostilities. The Government of India would, therefore, appeal to the Government of Sri Lanka to immediately work out safe passage for trapped civilians to secure locations. This would require the cooperation of the LTTE.
The pause in hostilities must be utilised to facilitate the movement of Tamil population out of the war-affected areas to secure locations where proper rehabilitation is possible and international aid organisations, as also the ICRC, have free access and scope to provide medical and other forms of humanitarian aid. Government of India is making arrangements to send an emergency medical unit and medicines to render medical assistance to internally displaced persons in Northern Sri Lanka.
In 2009, in a statement on the situation in Sri Lanka, India’s External Affairs Minister stated:
India is deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka. The continuing conflict has taken a heavy toll on Tamil civilians and internally displaced persons caught in the cross fire. The Government of India has repeatedly expressed its concern for their security and sought to ensure safe passage to secure zones for the civilian population.
We had welcomed the announcement by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse of a cessation of hostilities for the Tamil and Sinhala New Year over the last two days. The Government of Sri Lanka must extend this pause in hostilities to prevent further casualties and enable trapped civilians to leave the area to secure locations … While is incumbent on the LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] to release all civilians and IDPs [internally displaced persons] under their control, the Government of Sri Lanka cannot be oblivious to the evolving human tragedy and the fate of the Tamil civilian population caught up in the so-called No Fire Zone.