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Sri Lanka accused of intimidating members of civil society: UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights

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Updated: 08:36 GMT, Sep 23, 2017 | Published: 05:11 GMT, Sep 22, 2017 |
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Andrew Gilmour

Sri Lanka has been accused of intimidating members of civil society, in a report released today by UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour.

The report notes that the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in his address to the Human Rights Council on 22 March 2017, had stressed that he was disturbed to hear reports of intimidation of members of Sri Lankan civil society in the United Nations Palais des Nations in Geneva. He referred the case to the Assistant Secretary-General.

He also stated that he trusted that the President of the Council will give these cases close attention. In his report to the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/34/20), the High Commissioner stressed that reports of harassment or surveillance of human rights defenders and victims of violations have continued, albeit to a lesser degree.

In its response at the Human Rights Council on 22 March 2017, Sri Lanka stated that it remained firm in its resolve to enhance the fundamental rights of all citizens as equals in a free and democratic country, where fear and intimidation have no place.

Special procedures mandate holders have also addressed the allegations of reprisals and intimidation against S. Ganeshnantham and other members of the civil society organization Pupil Salvation Forum related to their participation in the thirty-fourth session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The report said that on 7 and 9 March 2017, Ganeshnantham addressed the Human Rights Council and referred to the current human rights situation in Sri Lanka. On 11 March 2017, 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. The experts expressed serious concerns at the alleged threats and intimidation which appear to be linked to Ganeshnantham’s participation in the 34th session of the Human Rights Council.

At the time of the finalization of the present report, no response had been received from the Government.

The UN report warns that a growing number of human rights defenders around the world are facing reprisals for cooperating with the UN on human rights.

The report by the UN Secretary-General says individuals and groups have suffered reprisals and intimidation ranging from travel bans and asset-freezing to detention and torture.

“It is frankly nothing short of abhorrent that, year after year, we are compelled to present cases of intimidation and reprisals carried out against people whose crime – in the eyes of their Governments – was to cooperate with UN institutions and mechanisms,” said UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour, the senior UN official designated by the Secretary General to address the issue.

“We should see these individuals as the canary in the coalmine, bravely singing until they are silenced by this toxic backlash against people, rights and dignity – as a dark warning to us all,” Gilmour said, as he presented the report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Assistant Secretary-General Gilmour was assigned to his role in October 2016 by the Secretary-General after the UN noted an alarming increase in the number of cases of intimidation and reprisals and decided a more comprehensive approach was needed to tackle the problem.

Countries named in the report (in alphabetical order) are Algeria, Bahrain, Burundi, China, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Honduras, India, Iran, Israel, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Venezuela. ( Colombo Gazette )

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