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SL pledges to address UN camp report

October 3, 2009

AFP

Sri Lanka accepts UN criticism of camps: minister

Sri Lanka on Thursday said it accepted much of the United Nations’ recent criticism over its handling of 250,000 Tamils detained in camps since the end of the island’s ethnic conflict six months ago.

Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe pledged the government would address recommendations made by Walter Kaelin, a representative of the United Nations secretary-general, who last week toured the detention facilities.

“He (Kaelin) said a lot of factual things like getting the sewer and sanitation right on an urgent basis and to make things comfortable for those living inside the camps,” Samarasinghe told AFP.

“It is a very positive statement. We take these things in the right spirit.”

The government has vowed to re-settle all people displaced during the decades of war by January, but international aid and human rights groups have questioned its commitment to the welfare of Tamil civilians.

Kaelin spent five days visiting the overcrowded camps and holding talks with officials.

He asked Sri Lanka to comply with its international obligations and said a clash at the weekend between troops and detainees raised serious human rights issues.

Sri Lanka has resisted repeated calls to close the camps, saying it needed more time to weed out former Tamil Tiger rebel fighters.

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