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Sri Lanka: active neutrality

30-10-1996 News Release 96/43

The ICRC sub-delegation in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka, acted as a neutral intermediary in the release, on 23 October, of three groups of Sri Lankan fishermen whose boats had been boarded in mid-October by naval units of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The fishermen had been detained and their belongings confiscated.

Having first secured permission in principle from the Sri Lankan authorities and the LTTE, ICRC delegates accompanied the fishermen back to their families. The ICRC took part in a similar operation last July.

On 21 October, LTTE representatives in the same region contacted ICRC delegates and asked them to hand over to government authorities the bodies of two soldiers killed in recent fighting. The ICRC, which has been working in Sri Lanka since 1989, is regularly asked to facilitate such operations in its capacity as a neutral intermediary recognized by all the parties to the conflict.