Sri Lanka urged not to harass victims, activists

AP News
Posted: Sep 04, 2013 6:03 AM

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — An international human rights group has urged Sri Lankan authorities to ensure the security of activists, journalists and others who met with the United Nations' rights chief during her recent visit to the island nation.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said the government should investigate allegations that security forces harassed people who met with U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay last week. Pillay was visiting to assess Sri Lanka's human rights situation before reporting to the U.N. Human Rights Council later this month.

Ending her weeklong visit, Pillay said Saturday that "a number of human rights defenders, at least two priests, journalists and many ordinary civilians who met with me or planned to meet with me" were harassed and intimidated. She also said she received reports that people in villages in the former civil war zone were visited by police or military officers both before and after her visit.

"It's outrageous for a government that is hosting the U.N. human rights chief to have their security forces harass the people who met with her," Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement Tuesday.

"Despite promises to Pillay of unfettered access, Sri Lankan authorities have gone about business as usual in harassing those courageous enough to come forward to talk about the country's many human rights problems," he said.

Pillay issued a hard-hitting statement at the conclusion of her visit, saying democracy was being undermined and the rule of law eroded in Sri Lanka, with the country increasingly becoming an authoritarian state despite the end of a quarter-century insurgency by ethnic Tamil rebels four years ago.

Her comments drew heavy criticism from the government, which said she violated her mandate by making political comments.