Sri Lanka hits back at U.N. rights chief after visit

COLOMBO Wed Sep 4, 2013 5:53pm EDT

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay speaks during a news conference on her trip around Sri Lanka at the U.N. headquarters in Colombo August 31, 2013. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay speaks during a news conference on her trip around Sri Lanka at the U.N. headquarters in Colombo August 31, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Dinuka Liyanawatte

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COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's government criticized the U.N.'s top human rights official on Wednesday for calling attention to accusations that police and soldiers had harassed people who met her during a visit to the country's former war zones.

Navi Pillay, ending a mission to assess Sri Lanka's progress after a 26-year war between the government and separatist Tamils, said on Saturday she had received reports that people she had met in the north and east during her seven-day trip were questioned and intimidated.

She said the U.N. viewed any reprisals against people who talked to its officials as an extremely serious matter and that such harassment "appears to be getting worse in Sri Lanka, which is a country where critical voices are quite often attacked or even permanently silenced".

Government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said Pillay should not comment on accusations from people who fail to produce evidence.

"If it has happened, it has to be reported to the police station. Then inquiries can be conducted," said Rambukwella, adding that the police had received no complaints.

"I have no evidence that she had inquired from authorities (about harassment)," he said. "She just said that because somebody has just told her."

Pillay - a South African of Indian Tamil origin - said people were still suffering four years after the end of the war and there were signs the country was becoming more authoritarian.

The government later said the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights had acted beyond her mandate with the comments.

Her visit followed a U.S.-sponsored U.N. resolution in March that urged Sri Lanka to carry out credible investigations into killings and disappearances during the war, especially during its final stages.

She visited the former northern war zones in Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and the eastern district of Trincomalee, and met leaders in the capital, Colombo. The visit sparked demonstrations both supporting and opposing her mission.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday that Sri Lanka's government should promptly investigate the allegations that security forces harassed people who met with the U.N. human rights chief.

Rambukwella dismissed the demand, saying: "We don't take Human Rights Watch seriously at all as they are totally biased".

(Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

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Comments (3)
pk47 wrote:
It may very well be that these accusations are true, but shouldn’t the United Nations send someone else who has no conflict of interests, and who could therefore be more credible? Can anyone seriously believe that she is not biased against Sri Lanka, being a Tamil herself?

Sep 04, 2013 11:09pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Malinda wrote:
All the Human Rights organisations, UN panel of experts and those at the receiving end of threats, abductions and torture have been saying the same thing as UN HRC Chief but the government is in total denial. Only difference is that the latter is blunt in her message. Impunity of wrong doers encourages the intelligence personnel from the army almost all of whom are recruited from the ethnic majority to threaten or murder the journalists and peaceful protesters without any mechanism for accountability.

The Sri Lankan leaders and the security forces are composed of ethnic Sinhalese and most of the victims are from ethnic minorities – either Tamils or Muslims.

Sep 05, 2013 11:14pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
NYNathan wrote:
Well, What one expect from a GUILTY Rulers. No surprise here. Srilankan Genocidal rulers even KILL the GREAT BUDDHA of he came alive now and visit the racist Srilanka as he WOULD also blame the GULTY Srilanka for the Genocide and ongoing slow Genocide of remaining Tamils and resumption of atrocities against Mulsims and Christians.
Unless the world punish the Guilty GENOCIDAL Srilankan rulers, this blame game goes on on and on while they continue to carry out SLOW GENOCIDE of remaining Tamils, Muslims and Christians.
Pathetic world shouting loud against just 1000 people killed with Chemical weapons in Syria but same time REWARDING the GUILTY Srilanka where more than 150,000 INNOCENT Tamils, including 20,000 CHILDREN, were killed by using CHEMICAL WEAPONS, CLUSTER BOMBS, NEPALM BOMBS, STARVATION and BOMBING HOSPITALS IN THE SO CALLED NO FIRE ZONES.

Sep 06, 2013 1:43am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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