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Concern Over Human Rights In Sri Lanka


A Sri Lankan ethnic Tamil girl applies vermillion on the forehead of U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. File

In its latest human rights report on Sri Lanka, the U.S. State Department noted several major human rights problems.

Two human rights activists recently arrested by Sri Lankan authorities have been released.

Father Praveen Mahesan, a Catholic priest and director of the Center for Peace and Reconciliation, and Ruki Fernando, of the Inform Human Rights Documentation Centre, were detained March 16. Police said they were arrested for trying to create communal disharmony.

Both men had been working with families of individuals who had disappeared during the decades-long civil war between the government and separatist Tamil Tigers. The war ended in 2009 with the defeat of the Tamil Tigers. The Sri Lankan government has been accused of responsibility for the deaths of large numbers of civilians in the final months of the conflict, and for not taking adequate steps to ensure reconciliation, justice and accountability since the war ended.

The recent arrests were widely condemned by human rights monitors and governments, including the United States, which issued a statement, saying, “It is disturbing that the Government of Sri Lanka has taken punitive measures against its own brave citizens who have devoted their careers and lives to investigating alleged human rights abuses by both sides during Sri Lanka’s long and brutal civil conflict. These detentions and the continued harassment of those who support the quest for reconciliation and accountability send a chilling effect across Sri Lanka’s vibrant civil society, and undermine Sri Lanka’s proud democratic traditions.”

In its latest human rights report on Sri Lanka, the U.S. State Department noted several major human rights problems, including “attacks on and harassment of civil society activists, journalists, and persons viewed as sympathizers of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) terrorist organization by individuals allegedly tied to the government… involuntary disappearances and a lack of accountability for thousands who disappeared in previous years; and widespread impunity for a broad range of human rights abuses.”

The United Nations Human Rights Council is currently considering a draft resolution, sponsored by the United States and other countries, calling for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to lead an investigation into rights violations in Sri Lanka. In its recent statement over the detention of Sri Lankan human rights defenders, the U.S. Embassy said, “Both previous and on-going human rights concerns have led many in the international community to push for a UN Human Rights Council resolution on the situation in Sri Lanka. With these latest actions, we remain convinced that continued scrutiny by the Human Rights council is necessary.”
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