Colombo/Geneva (ICRC) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) decided today immediately and temporarily to withdraw its employees from Omanthai and Uyilankulam crossing points (lines). Its decision comes in the wake of two security incidents within five days jeopardizing the safety ofcivilians and ICRC personnel at Omanthai crossing point. The latest incident took place yesterday evening. Since then, the ICRC is no longer present at the crossing point.
The ICRC is currently discussing this preoccupying development with both parties to the conflict in order to obtain sufficient security guarantees for it to continue facilitating the smooth passage of civilians and goods between areas controlled by the Government of Sri Lanka and those controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The ICRC's presence does not affect the functioning of the crossing points per se. Under the 2002 ceasefire agreement, it is the Government and the LTTE that decide if crossing points will be open or closed. The ICRC's presence is intended to facilitate their smooth operation and serves as a confidence-building measure between both parties to the conflict in the best interest of civilians. The ICRC cannot perform its task, however, in the absence of adequate security guarantees.
The ICRC has been present at the crossing points since 2002. Although its presence is now temporarily halted, it remains ready to ensure the safe passage of ambulances transporting the sick and wounded.
For further information, please contact:
Davide Vignati, ICRC Colombo, tel. +94
11 250 33 46 or +94 77 728 96 82
Carla Haddad, ICRC Geneva, tel. +41 22 730 24 05 or +41 79 217 32 26