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* U.S. concerned about continued intimidation of Sri Lankan civil society
Sat, Mar 22, 2014, 10:35 am SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Mar 22, Washington, DC: The United States Friday expressed concern over intensifying pressure on Sri Lankan civil society and human rights activists.

In a press statement Jen Psaki, the State Department Spokesperson said the U.S. is especially concerned by the detention of well-known human rights defenders Ruki Fernando and Father Praveen Mahesan after they made inquiries regarding the arrest of another activist.

Psaki while noting that it is encouraging that two activists have since been released said they continue to face harassment by security forces and other human rights groups are also being targeted by the Sri Lankan government.

"We are also aware of reports that additional human rights groups are being targeted for investigation by security forces," the spokesperson said.

"It is disturbing that the Government of Sri Lanka has taken punitive measures against its own brave citizens who have devoted their careers and lives to investigating alleged human rights abuses by both sides during Sri Lanka's long and brutal civil conflict," the statement noted.

"These detentions and the continued harassment of those who support the quest for reconciliation and accountability send a chilling effect across Sri Lanka's vibrant civil society, and undermine Sri Lanka's proud democratic traditions."

The U.S. said together with international partners, it continues to pursue a resolution on Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council.

"We are undertaking this action due to our support for the Sri Lankan people and strong concerns about the deteriorating human rights situation in Sri Lanka. We urge the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure human rights and fundamental freedoms for all Sri Lankans, including freedom of speech, freedom of peaceful assembly, and due process of law for those accused of crimes, consistent with Sri Lanka's international human rights obligations," the statement further said.

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