Dear Friends ,
Just hours after we released never-before-seen satellite imagery1 of Sri Lanka's devastated war zone, President Obama made a statement that condemned the deplorable acts in which innocent civilians are being used as human shields in a war zone that has been dubbed a "bloodbath" by the United Nations.
The President called on the Sri Lanka government to stop "indiscriminate shelling" of civilians and on the Tamil Tigers to "lay down their arms" so that the fighting can cease and civilians can be safe from attack. An all-out massacre is about to take place in Sri Lanka any day now. While Obama's words certainly fuel the global outcry that has been made over the escalating violence, they are not enough to protect the 50,000 innocent people who remain in harm's way.
If the bloodshed in Sri Lanka is going to stop, we'll need to urge President Obama to take clear and concrete steps toward resolving the crisis.
Ensure that food and medical supplies are able to enter the war zone and other affected areas.
Civilians have been now herded into an area about the size of New York's Central Park. Food and medical supplies have a difficult time getting in, while civilians are forbidden to go out. In just the past few days, in an area designated as Sri Lanka's "safe zone", more than 400 people – including more than 100 children – have been killed. The people are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.
Urge Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso to speak about the atrocities in Sri Lanka.
The United States can use its influence to persuade Japan to voice concerns over the violence in Sri Lanka. Japan is one of Sri Lanka's largest aid donors and holds two-thirds of its foreign debt. If Japan expressed strong concern over the humanitarian crisis, then Sri Lanka would be much more likely to listen.
Call for transparency and a commission of inquiry so that those who commit war crimes can be held accountable.
Since the violence has escalated, journalists and independent observers have been barred from entering the war zone. If we're ever going to get a real picture of how badly the situation has deteriorated in Sri Lanka, then we'll need trusted people on the ground reporting the truth. Once the situation has been fully assessed, we'll need a process in place, like a commission of inquiry, to hold violators of human rights law accountable.
President Obama's words are just the beginning. Our next steps will determine how much longer the suffering in Sri Lanka will continue. The Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers have made it clear that they intend to fight this fight until the bloody end.
Before impending doom breaks, we'll need President Obama to show, not tell, his support for the innocent people of Sri Lanka whose lives hang in the balance.
Thank you for your action,
Jim, Zahir, Christoph and the rest of the Sri Lanka rapid response team