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Sri Lanka: ICRC deplores civilian casualties in Kallar

08-12-2006 News Release 06/138

Geneva/Colombo (ICRC) – The ICRC deplores the civilian deaths and injuries caused by an attack yesterday on Kallar village, Trincomalee district, and calls on both parties to the conflict to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law.

The ICRC was deeply distressed to learn that four civilians, including a child, lost their lives and that 10 schoolchildren were wounded, some of them very severely, as a result of a mortar attack that hit the local school and the village centre.

"At around 11 a.m., while passing through Kallar on the way from Kantale to Mutur, we suddenly found ourselves in the middle of artillery shelling", said Roberto Petronio, deputy head of the ICRC sub-delegation in Trincomalee. "We saw black smoke rising from the school compound and students running away. The villagers informed us that some wounded people needed urgent help. At the scene we found several wounded, including a woman teacher, two boys and a little girl whom we managed to evacuate to Kantale hospital".

The ICRC urgently appeals to both parties to ensure that the civilian population and civilian objects are respected and protected in all circumstances. "The ICRC urges both parties to protect the civilian population from the effects of hostilities. We are very concerned about the effects of the fighting on the life of civilians caught up in it", said Toon Vandenhove, head of the ICRC delegation in Colombo.

The ICRC once again urges all those involved in the fighting to respect the rules of international humanitarian law that are applicable in Sri Lanka, including in particular rules contained in Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and in customary international law. Every feasible precaution must be taken to spare civilians and to ensure that the principles of distinction and proportionality are respected in all military operations.

The ICRC maintains a confidential dialogue with both parties and is closely monitoring the situation on the ground. It stands ready to protect and assist those who are not or no longer taking a direct part in the hostilities by providing them with health care, shelter and other vital necessities.