Sri Lanka must ensure safety of activists


An international human rights organization asked the Sri Lankan government on Wednesday to ensure safety of activists, journalists and civilians.

The announcement by Human Rights Watch (HRW), a New York-based organization, came after several activists alleged that Sri Lankan security forces intimidated and harassed them after they had met with UN high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, who was on an official visit in the country last month.

The UN human rights chief expressed concerns on the development. She said, “Reprisals against people who talk to the UN are an extremely serious matter.” She added that she would report the matter to the UN Human Rights Council.

Brad Adams, Asia director of HRW said, “It’s outrageous for a government that is hosting the UN human rights chief to have their security forces harass people who met with her. The Sri Lankan government should announce that ‘visits’ or other forms of harassment of those who spoke to the high commissioner will be punished. And the government should make sure they punish officials who’ve already done so.”

The Sri Lankan government ended a 27-year-old civil war against separatist Tamil rebels in 2009 after a heavy military offensive. It faces allegations of grave human rights abuses in the Tamil-majority north and east of the island country.  

During her visit to Sri Lanka, Pillay met with activists in Tamil regions as well as government officials, politicians and activists. HRW stated that the Centre for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, based in Trincomalee in eastern Sri Lanka, reported being harassed by military personnel a few hours after its staff met with Pillay.

It added that several other victims, witnesses, and rights activists told a leading Colombo-based organization that they were visited by military personnel following meetings with the UN high commissioner.

The Sri Lankan government has been accused of curbing dissent and silencing its critics on several occasions previously. 

Sources: Human Rights Watch, ABC

Photo: War crimes by Sri Lankan forces during the final military offensive released by