Press release

Clarification: Médecins Sans Frontières not present in Sri Lanka battle zone

Sri Lanka / 01.03.2012

Paris/Colombo - The medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières is concerned about an interview suggesting that it was present in 2009 in Sri Lanka’s war zone and received surrendering militants to be treated.

Médecins Sans Frontières made numerous requests to the government for access to the battle zone in northern Sri Lanka and these requests were repeatedly denied, despite expressing extremely serious concerns about the fate of civilian populations who were trapped in the heavy fighting.

In this interview published on February 6th in India and reproduced in the Sri Lankan media, the Secretary of Defense of Sri Lanka M. Gotabaya Rapjapaksa is purported to have said that Médecins Sans Frontières France teams were present in the battle zone during the fighting.

“… Mr Gotabaya said international agencies, including the French MSF (Medicines Sans Frontiers) and the Indian medical team, were present in the battle zone to receive survivors and surrendered militants.” (read article)

Ahead of the final offensive, in September 2008, along with most other international organisations, Médecins Sans Frontières was given a government directive to leave Kilinochchi.

Thereafter, Médecins Sans Frontières repeatedly requested permission to enter the battle zones to provide medical care to the civilian population. Permission was sought from numerous ministries, including the Ministries of Health as well as Defence, but at no point was this request granted during the final stages of the conflict in late 2008 and 2009.

It is only after the end of the fighting in May 2009 that Médecins Sans Frontières was able to provide medical assistance to the victims of the conflict in North Vavuniya, and this was outside the battle zone at the Omanthai checkpoint.

Médecins Sans Frontières provided surgical support in Vavuniya hospital and in addition established an emergency field hospital for the displaced population living in camps in Menik Farm. Again, all of this activity was outside the battle zone.

In 2012, Médecins Sans Frontières France remains committed to working alongside the Ministry of Health to support the District General Hospital of Mullaitivu, and develop assistance in mental health care in Mullaitivu District.

Médecins Sans Frontières is a private, international, humanitarian non-profit organisation, providing humanitarian assistance to people in need, irrespective of race, religion, ideology, or politics. Médecins Sans Frontières adheres to the principles of independence, impartiality, and neutrality.



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