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Britain ‘concerned about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka’

The United Kingdom said it is “concerned about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka” as a minister spoke on threats faced by human rights defenders on the island earlier today.

Responding to a question on Britain’s engagement with Sri Lanka, Minister of State at the Foreign Office Nigel Adams said the UK is “concerned about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, including instances of harassment, intimidation and surveillance of civil society groups and human rights defenders”.

“The Minister of State for South Asia and Human Rights, Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon, has raised these concerns with the Sri Lankan High Commissioner and Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena,” said Adams.

“The UK Government made our concerns clear in statements delivered on behalf of the Core Group on Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council in February, June and September, as well as reiterating our ongoing commitment to justice and accountability for victims of conflict and human rights violations.”

Adams, who was responding to a question on UK programmes operating on the island, said that the British programmes in Sri Lanka “are designed to promote peacebuilding and reconciliation”.

“These include the resettlement of victims of conflict, support to civil society and human rights organisations, and work to build the capacity of the security forces to support vulnerable groups, for example our work on sexual and gender based violence with the Sri Lanka Police Service,” he added. “All UK assistance is subject to robust Overseas Security and Justice Assistance (OSJA) assessments that analyse the potential human rights, international humanitarian law, political and reputational risks of any proposed assistance to ensure that it supports our values and is consistent with our domestic and international human rights obligations.”

The statement comes as Britain’s engagement with the Sri Lankan government, headed by accused war criminal president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, continues to come under criticism. Earlier this year, Britain’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst conducted a training session for the Sri Lankan military, despite the long standing reports of human rights abuses and massacres committed by Sri Lankan soldiers.

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