Oct 17, London: The UK government today dismissed a statement made by a parliamentary panel that the government was 'timid'' in its approach to the issue of human rights abuses in Sri Lanka.
Responding to the British parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee reportinto the department's human rights work in 2012, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said today it disagrees with the panel's assessment and the FCO constantly pursued the progress in the issue.
In its report, the Foreign Affairs Committee said the FCO in 2009 had opposed Sri Lanka's attempts to host the meeting in 2011 on human rights grounds but supported its 2013 bid without insisting that Sri Lanka's right to host in 2013 should be conditional on improvements in human rights.
"That approach now appears timid. The UK could and should have taken a more principled stand in 2009, and should have taken a more robust stand after the 2011 CHOGM in the light of the continuing serious human rights abuses in Sri Lanka," the FAC report said.
In response, the FCO said it has consistently pursued progress in Sri Lanka on human rights through high-level bilateral lobbying, support for local and international non-governmental organizations on the ground and internationally through the EU and Human Rights Council.
The FCO explained that the decision to hold CHOGM in Sri Lanka in 2013 was taken at the 2009 CHOGM in Port of Spain, where all Commonwealth Heads agreed on Australia's bid to host CHOGM in 2011 and Mauritius in 2015.
At 2011 CHOGM in Perth at there was no consensus amongst member states to revisit the issue or to change the venue of 2013 CHOGM from Colombo. Since then, the FCO has continuously urged Sri Lanka to make progress, the FCO explained.
"We see CHOGM as an opportunity to highlight the need for effective commitment to the shared values and human rights for which the Commonwealth stands. The CHOGM meeting will be a spotlight on Sri Lanka and highlight either progress or its absence," the FCO said.
The British delegation to CHOGM will see the situation on the ground in Sri Lanka and deliver a clear message that Sri Lanka needs to make concrete progress on human rights, FCO emphasized.
The parliamentary panel meanwhile recommended that the UK Prime Minister should obtain assurances from the Sri Lankan Government that people who approach him to talk about human rights while he is in Sri Lanka to attend the CHOGM do not face reprisals or harassment by security forces.