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Sri Lanka: MSF Is Outraged by the Killing of Action Against Hunger Members
August 11, 2006
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is deeply shocked and outraged by the announcement of the killing of 17 members of Action Contre la Faim/Action Against Hunger in Sri Lanka. MSF is concerned about the turn this conflict is taking. Since hostilities resumed, the level of violence directed at civilian populations and humanitarian aid workers has increased. Gabriel Trujillo and Denis Lemasson, MSF program officers for Sri Lanka, react to the news.
What was your reaction to the murders of the Action Against Hunger members in Sri Lanka?
We are deeply shocked. The event generated considerable emotion within the organization. This concerns the entire international humanitarian community. These targeted killings are unprecedented in the contemporary humanitarian experience and words are not strong enough to describe these odious acts. We share the pain of the victims' families and that of all members of Action Against Hunger. We strongly hope that an independent investigation will quickly bring the circumstances and the people responsible for this tragedy to light.
What was the context in which these killings occurred?
Since the conflict resumed, the general climate in Sri Lanka has been extremely tense, with suspicions and accusations on all sides. We observe a tightening of restrictions and draconian controls on aid organizations in the field. After the killings, we were worried about where the conflict would lead, as it has reached a very troubling level of violence affecting civilian populations and humanitarian organizations.
Is MSF now prevented from working with the victims of the conflict?
Over the last two weeks, the populations in the Muttur region, in eastern Sri Lanka (where the slain 17 Action Against Hunger members were found), were victims of military incursions and it was impossible to provide assistance in that area. Several tens of thousands of people are still there, without medical care. MSF has been trying to set up two emergency projects for more than two months. One is a surgery project at the Point Pedro hospital on the Jaffna peninsula and the other would provide medical assistance to people living between Muttur and Batticaloa. As of today, however, government authorities have not provided the authorizations required to carry out these programs. It is currently impossible for us to gain access to civilian populations in the eastern part of the country.