Sept 04, Colombo: The New York-based right group, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged the Sri Lankan government to promptly investigate the allegations that security forces harassed people who met with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, during her recent visit to the North.
Issuing a statement , the Human Rights Watch called on the authorities to take all necessary measures to end the harassment of all those who met with Pillay and ensure their security.
At the end of her week-long tour in the country, the UN human rights chief alleged that some people, including priests and journalists, who met with her had been questioned by the police and security forces.
Addressing a press conference Saturday (August 31) , Pillay drew attention to the "disturbing aspect" of her visit, namely the harassment and intimidation of a number of human rights defenders.
"It's outrageous for a government that is hosting the UN human rights chief to have their security forces harass the people who met with her," the Asia Director of HRW, Brad Adams said in a statement.
"The Sri Lankan government should announce that 'visits' or other forms of harassment of those who spoke to the high commissioner will be punished. And the government should make sure they punish officials who've already done so," Adams said.
UN rights chief said at least two priests, journalists, and many ordinary citizens who met with her, or planned to meet with her had been harassed or threatened and she received reports that people in villages and settlements in the Mullaitivu area were visited by police or military officers both before and after she arrived there.
Veerasan Yogeswaran, a Jesuit priest, who heads the Catholic human rights group, Centre for Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (CPPHR), operating in Trincomalee in the Eastern Province said that the police have questioned him after he met with Pillay.
"Despite promises to Pillay of unfettered access, Sri Lankan authorities have gone about business as usual in harassing those courageous enough to come forward to talk about the country's many human rights problems," Adams said.
"A government that doesn't care enough to call off its security forces for a few days while the UN rights chief is visiting is a government that plainly doesn't care about respecting basic human rights," the Asia Director of HRW claimed.
Responding to the allegations, Sri Lanka's government spokesman Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said the government is ready to probe UN right chief's allegations if she provided evidence.
The rights watchdog reiterated its call, also made by Pillay, for a strong and effective victim and witness protection program in Sri Lanka.