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Sri Lanka continues intimidation of human rights activists – UN report

Photograph: @franceonu

A new report by the United Nations names Sri Lanka as a state that continues to intimidate and harass activists who co-operate with the global body on human rights issues.

The report stated that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was “disturbed” to hear that civil society members had faced intimidation from Sri Lanka in the United Nations Palais des Nations in Geneva earlier this year.

“He referred the case to the Assistant Secretary-General and stated that he trusted that the President of the Council will give these cases close attention,” it continued.

The UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights who authored the report noted, in particular, the case of human rights activist S. Ganeshnantham from Amparai and other members of the civil society organization Pupil Salvation Forum.

Mr Ganeshnantham had addressed the Human Rights Council on the 7th and 9th of March 2017, stated the report.

Just two days later, “officers from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) attached to the Kalmunai Police station, in Sri Lanka, arrived at Mr. Ganeshnantham’s house in Kalmunai, and threatened his relatives”.

Special procedures mandate holders who examined the case “expressed serious concerns at the alleged threats and intimidation which appear to be linked to Mr. Ganeshnantham’s participation in the 34th session of the Human Rights Council”.

To date, “no response had been received from the Government,” the report noted.

Presenting the report at the Human Rights Council, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour said “there is something grotesque and entirely contrary to the Charter and spirit of the United Nations, and particularly this Council, that people get punished, through intimidation and reprisals, for cooperating with the UN on human rights”.

“Some States have been mentioned in several of the Secretary-General’s annual reports since 2010,” he stated.

Sri Lanka has been mentioned in five such reports, alongside Bahrain and Iran. Only China and Saudi Arabia have been featured more.

“It is frankly nothing short of abhorrent that, year after year, we are compelled to present cases to you, the UN membership, of intimidation and reprisals carried out against people whose crime – in the eyes of their respective Governments – was to cooperate with the UN institutions and mechanisms whose mandate of course derives from you, the UN membership,” Mr Gilmour continued.

“Our slogan and task is to “stand up for someone’s rights today.”  I do not think there is any group of people for whom we have more of an obligation to stand up than those brave souls who have been harshly punished for cooperating with your institutions”.

See the full text of the report here.