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UK warns Sri Lanka following arrests

2014 Mar 19

Britain has warned Sri Lanka that the world is watching what is happening in the country and so the Government must respect human rights defenders and uphold the principles of free expression and movement.

British Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire said he was “deeply concerned” to hear of the arrests of two human rights activists and urged the government of Sri Lanka to allow them “immediate access to lawyers and their families”.

”With the March UN Human Rights Council underway and a resolution on Sri Lanka under draft, these arrests underline why the Council must continue its focus on Sri Lanka. The world is watching what happens there, so I urge the Sri Lankan Government to respect human rights defenders and uphold the principles of free expression and movement.”

Swire was quoted on Channel 4 news as saying that the two men – Father Praveen Mahesan, a priest and human rights defender, and Ruki Fernando a Catholic human rights activist from the majority Sinhala community – have “a strong record of promoting peace, justice and reconciliation across the country”.

The arrests follow the controversial detention last week of a leading Tamil campaigner for the disappeared, Balenderan Jayakumari, who was arrested along with her 13 year old daughter and is currently detained under the country’s prevention of terrorism act.

The arrests come as Sri Lanka is under considerable international scrutiny at the United Nations Human Rights Council meeting currently under way in Geneva.

The council is due to vote on a resolution at the end of the month which is expected to propose some form of international investigation into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by both sides during the final stages of the 26-year long civil war.

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