Bern, Press releases, 05.02.2009

The Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) is deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation prevailing in Sri Lanka. The disregard for humanitarian standards shown by combatants in the north of the country has resulted in many victims and seriously endangered some 200,000 civilians caught in the cross-fire. Following to this the FDFA makes an urgent call on all the parties to respect international humanitarian law and to stop the hostilities.

Appeal of the Swiss authorities to all parties 

Deep concern about the humanitarian situation

1. As State Party to the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, Switzerland is committed to respect and ensure respect of international humanitarian law.

2. Switzerland expresses deep concern about the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka. It deplores the already great number of civilian victims due to lack of respect for international humanitarian law such as notably to indiscriminate or disproportionate use of force. It expresses serious concern about the fate of more than 200’000 internally displaced persons trapped in the fighting in northern Sri Lanka and recalls that in the conduct of military operations all feasible precautions must be taken with a view to avoid incidental loss of civilian life and injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects.

International legal framework applicable to non-international armed conflicts

3. International humanitarian law is applicable in non-international armed conflict. Therefore all parties to the conflict must respect its rules under all circumstances. This includes the rules regarding the protection of civilian populations and the rules regarding the conduct of hostilities. As international humanitarian law takes into account the legitimate security and military necessity, all its rules must be respected without exceptions.

4. Human Rights Law remains applicable during armed conflict.

Appeal to respect international rules

5. Switzerland calls upon all parties to respect and to ensure respect for international humanitarian law in all circumstances, and to take measures necessary for the prevention and suppression of violations of international humanitarian law.

6. In particular, the civilian population and civilian objects must be respected and protected. All parties are under the obligation to respect the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution. Moreover, international humanitarian law prohibits the indiscriminate use of force and terrorist acts at all times and without exception. Acts of violence against civilians such as direct attacks or enforced disappearances are prohibited. Acts amounting to hostage taking and using the civilian population to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield military operations are also prohibited.

7. Persons not taking a direct part in hostilities shall be treated humanely without any discrimination.

8. Switzerland calls upon all parties to the conflict to grant an unimpeded and rapid humanitarian access to population in need. Moreover, the parties are under an obligation to respect and to protect at all times the fixed establishments and mobile medical units of the Medical Services. Medical facilities and operations of humanitarian relief in the field, including the free passage of ambulances and medical personnel, must be respected in all circumstances.

9. Switzerland calls upon all parties to the conflict to facilitate the activities of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the United Nations agencies and of other humanitarian organisations active in Sri Lanka and in particular in the Vanni. Switzerland reminds the parties to the conflict of their obligations to facilitate the relief operations and to grant a rapid and unimpeded access to humanitarian actors and to guarantee their safety.

10. Switzerland recalls the responsibilities of the Sri Lankan Authorities according to international humanitarian and human rights law to conduct inquiries on alleged violations and bring to justice persons suspected to have committed violations of international law.

Appeal to put an end to the conflict and to build peace

11. Switzerland calls upon all parties to put an immediate end to the hostilities.

12. Switzerland stresses that respect for international law is essential to improve the humanitarian situation in the field and to achieve just and lasting peace and reconciliation.

13. Switzerland invites all parties concerned to refrain from incitement to hatred and to work towards reconciliation, by unilateral or by mutually agreed measures. Switzerland extends its invitation to all parties, directly involved in the conflict or not, to cooperate in an open and inclusive way, together with international institutions in order to bring the conflict to an end by means of negotiation and to settle their disputes in the framework of a political solution.

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