promptly investigate the allegations.“It’s outrageous for a government that is hosting the UN human rights chief to havetheir security forces harass the people who met with her,” Brad Adams, Asia Director at Human Rights Watch said.
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 thegovernment should make sure they punish officials who’ve already done so.”When in Sri Lanka, Pillay held extensive meetings with people in the formerlyembattled North and East of the country, as well as with government officials,politicians, and activists. The Centre for the Promotion and Protection of HumanRights, based in Trincomalee in Eastern Sri Lanka, reported being harassed bymilitary personnel a few hours after its staff met with Pillay.Father Yogeswaran, who runs the center, said that they had been visitedat midnight and in the early morning, and was aware that others who had met withPillay were similarly approached. Several other victims, witnesses and rights activiststold a leading Colombo-based organization that they were visited by military personnelfollowing meetings with Pillay.Pillay herself, in her statement, said that she had received disturbing reports about“the harassment and intimidation of a number of human rights defenders, at least twopriests, journalists, and many ordinary citizens who met with me, or planned to meetwith me. I have received reports that people in villages and settlements in theMullaitivu area were visited by police or military officers both before and after I arrivedthere in Trincomalee, several people I met were subsequently questioned about thecontent of our conversation.”Human Rights Watch called on the authorities to take all necessary measures to endthe harassment of all those who met with Pillay and ensure their security. HumanRights Watch reiterated its call, also made by Pillay, for a strong and effective victimand witness protection program in Sri Lanka.Pillay is due to deliver an oral report on her trip to the UN Human Rights Council later in September.Government doesn’t care enoughSri Lanka has a long history of silencing critics of the government, Human RightsWatch said. Members of activist, religious, and human rights groups, as well as mediaworkers, have faced reprisals for reporting critically on government abuses. Risks aregreatest for those working in former contested areas in the North and East, or awayfrom major urban areas such as Colombo.
Despite promises to Pillay of unfettered access, Sri Lankan authorities have goneabout business as usual in harassing those courageous enough to come forward totalk about the country’s many human rights problems,” Adams said. “A governmentthat doesn’t care enough to call off its security forces for a few days while the UN’srights chief is visiting is a government that plainly doesn’t care about respecting basichuman rights.”The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office meanwhile also reacted to theconcerns raised on Sri Lanka by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights NaviPillay.