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Sri Lanka: ICRC contributes to peace effort

18-01-1995 News Release 3

The new year has brought a consolidation of the truce in Sri Lanka. On 6 January the government in Colombo announced that a cease-fire agreement had been signed with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the opposition movement. The agreement came into force two days later. Both sides agreed to set up a number of commissions, composed of government and LTTE representatives and chaired by foreign representatives, to supervise observance of the truce. The ICRC was asked to chair one of the commissions but responded that it did not possess the military expertise for such a task, as its mandate was primarily to promote respect for international humanitarian law. The delegation in Colombo nevetheless declared itself ready to assist the peace commissions, in particular by continuing to act as a neutral intermediary between the parties.

The ICRC has been present in Sri Lanka since 1989. By frequently facilitating exchanges of messages between the government and LTTE leaders, particularly in recent months, it has played an active part in establishing a dialogue for peace.

In 1994 the ICRC also helped to transport over 110,000 tonnes of vital supplies provided by the Sri Lankan government, including medicines, by ship to the Jaffna peninsula. It used the same method to convey the sick to hospital and to forward correspondence between members of separated families. In the course of their protection activities, ICRC delegates last year visited more than 2,400 people held in 357 places of detention.