Sri Lanka’s Chief Justice has lambasted the Government publicly for holding more than 280,000 Tamil civilians against their will in military-run camps, questioning the legality of their detention.
Sarath Nanda Silva, who retires at the end of the month, chose the opening of a new court complex for his attack on the policy of interning Tamil civilians.
“They live outside the protection of the law of the country,” the country’s top jurist, an ethnic Sinhalese, said of the camp dwellers. “I am saying this in public, and ready to face any consequences. We are doing a great wrong to these people.”
Mr Silva’s remarks reflected the intimidation directed at those who criticise the Government, including at least 14 local journalists who have been murdered in mysterious circumstances since the beginning of the final offensive against the Tamil Tigers.
On Thursday, Sir John Holmes, the United Nation’s humanitarian chief, said that there was a limit to how long the international community could continue to support what “are effectively internment camps”. “The biggest problem is the nature of the camps,” Sir John told The Times. “They need to become proper IDP [internally displaced persons] camps. The longer this goes on, the harder it is for us to support them.”
Mr Silva, who spent a day visiting the camps in May, before the final influx of civilians, said conditions there were appalling. “While we build new courts, ten people live in one tent in these camps,” he said. “They could stand straight only in the centre of these tents. Their necks will break if they move to a side of the tent.”