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* UK condemns arrests of rights activists in Sri Lanka
Tue, Mar 18, 2014, 08:38 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Mar 18, Colombo: Expressing deep concern, the United Kingdom today condemned the arrests of two human rights activists by Sri Lankan authorities.

Issuing a statement Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire expressed concern over the arrest of Ruki Fernando, who works for Rights Now Collective for Democracy and a Catholic priest, Father Praveen under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and urged the government to allow them access to their legal counsel.

"I am deeply concerned to hear of the arrest and detention of two long-standing and well respected human rights defenders in Sri Lanka," Swire said.

He said Ruki Fernando and Father Praveen have a strong record of promoting peace, justice and reconciliation across the country.

"We are urging the government of Sri Lanka to allow them immediate access to lawyers and their families, and to clarify the basis on which they have been detained," Swire said in his statement.

He said with the March session at the UN Human Rights Council underway and a resolution on Sri Lanka under draft, these arrests underline why the Council must continue its focus on Sri Lanka.

"The world is watching what happens there, so I urge the Sri Lankan Government to respect human rights defenders and uphold the principles of free expression and movement. This should apply equally to all communities in Sri Lanka," he said.

The United States made a similar call Monday saying that the arrests have convinced the US and the international community that an international investigation into Sri Lanka's alleged human rights violations by UN the Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is necessary.

"As we have noted many times in the recent past, both previous and on-going human rights concerns have led many in the international community to push for a UN Human Rights Council resolution on the situation in Sri Lanka. With these latest actions, we remain convinced that continued scrutiny by the Human Rights Council is necessary," the US government said.

The US urged the Sri Lankan government to ensure that all those detained are given transparent and due legal process, including full access to legal counsel.

According to Sri Lanka police media spokesman SSP Ajith Rohana, the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) of Sri Lanka police arrested the two activists for attempting to create ethnic discord among communities and to promote separatism.

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