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Lanka government accuses Amnesty

Displaced people in northern Sri Lanka
Both sides in the war are accused of ignoring the plight of civilians

The Sri Lankan government says an Amnesty International report on displaced people in the north of the island contains "outright falsehood".

It says Amnesty is trying to show the government in an unfavourable light.

Amnesty's report urged the government and Tamil Tiger rebels to let international observers monitor the plight of the displaced.

It had other criticisms of both sides in the fighting. Amnesty told the BBC that it stands by its report.

The report, issued on Wednesday, called on the government to stop blocking humanitarian aid for hundreds of thousands of people in the northern Wanni region controlled by the Tamil Tigers.

It accused the Tigers of serious human rights abuses in the Wanni area against people who refused to fight for them. And it said the Tigers were using the displaced as a "deliberate buffer" against government forces.

Skewed picture

The government has now responded to Amnesty. "Its account is littered with misleading innuendo compounded by outright falsehood," the government says. "It becomes clear that the intent of the report is to present a skewed picture unfavourable to the lawfully elected and popularly mandated government of Sri Lanka."

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The government says the Amnesty report "is unfortunately yet another attempt to distort the factual situation pertaining to the conditions in which civilians in the north of Sri Lanka find themselves at present".

International observers have expressed repeated concern for those displaced by the fighting as Sri Lankan forces continue to say they are making gains in the north.

In September the government ordered all aid agencies to leave rebel-controlled areas, saying that it could no longer guarantee the safety of aid workers in the area.

Since then the government has sent in food convoys to the region and the UN has been allowed to send some convoys. It argues that the United Nations believes that food supplies to the north are "satisfactory".

No journalists are allowed into the area.

Among its criticisms of Amnesty, the government says its figure of 300,000 displaced people is an exaggeration and international monitoring of the situation in the north comes from international personnel who have travelled on the food convoys.

'Stand by report'

Sam Zarifi, Amnesty's Asia Pacific Director, said in reply that: "The government seems to be quibbling over some of the numbers used in the report."

Sri Lankan soldier
Civilians have fled as government troops have attacked the Tamil Tigers

He told the BBC News website that the number of people at risk in the north was "staggering".

On the disputed issue of how much food is getting to the displaced, Mr Zarifi said "a quick needs assessment by international neutral monitors will establish the accuracy of the government's statements".

"We completely stand by our report," Mr Zarifi said.

"The government seems to be of the opinion that our criticisms of the Tamil Tigers are fair, but our criticisms of the government betray a bias in favour of the Tigers."

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