AMNESTY CONSIDERS SOLOMONS ETHNIC TENSIONS AN INTERNATIONAL CONCERN

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MELBOURNE, Australia (March 16, 2000 - Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat)---An official with Amnesty International said the human rights organization is closely watching the on-going conflict in the Solomon Islands, despite the lack of attention the fighting has received worldwide.

Amnesty International spokesman Heinz Schurmann-Zeggel said the organization has been monitoring developments in the region since its visit there last September.

He said officials are gravely concerned about the weekly, and almost daily, clashes between ethnic factions from Guadalcanal and Malaita provinces.

"I hope it’s some consolation to the people who are suffering under the situation -- not only in Honiara but also in Guadalcanal and to some degree those who have left because of the tension -- that they are not forgotten," Schurmann-Zeggel said in an interview with Pacific Beat from London.

"As (United Nations) Secretary General Kofi Annan said, there are at least half a dozen conflicts in Africa with thousands of people killed that do not make headlines overseas or outside the region," he said. "So we should not be surprise if the Solomon Islands cannot get that kind of attention that we would expect if there were thousands of people dead. And thank God we haven’t got that situation.

"I think what is necessary for those interested countries, such as the United Kingdom and the European Union who have worked with the Solomon Islands on various levels, that they take more interest in the situation," he said.

The Solomon Islands government should not pass up opportunities for assistance, such as help from the United Nations Human Rights Police, he added.

He said Amnesty International will continue to monitor the region and urge other countries that the human rights problems must be faced.

"We cannot sweep this under the carpet," he said. "It’s no good saying we need to wait until we have resolved our ethnic conflict because they are part of that resolution. You cannot have lasting reconciliation if you cannot accept that there have been human rights violations -- and not only on one side."

Schurmann-Zeggel added: "It’s not good pointing the finger here."

For additional reports from Radio Australia/Pacific Beat, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia/Pacific Beat.

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