May 13, London: The British Government says the proscription of diaspora Tamil organizations that are suspected of having links to the LTTE, the defunct terrorist organization, by the Sri Lankan government is not conducive to a successful reconciliation process in the island nation.
"We believe that this development is not conducive to a successful reconciliation process and will continue to monitor developments closely," the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Hugo Swire said in the UK parliament on Monday.
Responding to a question from the House on Sri Lankan government's decision to proscribe a number of Tamil groups and individuals for alleged links to terrorist activities operating outside Sri Lanka, Mr. Swire said Sri Lankan government should not use proscription to suppress freedom of speech, especially when Sri Lanka's human rights record is under international scrutiny.
"While we respect the right of the Sri Lankan government to take appropriate action against individuals and groups where there is clear evidence of their involvement in terrorist activities, our high commissioner to Sri Lanka has made clear to the Sri Lankan government that proscription should not be used to prevent or stifle the right to freedom of speech, particularly at a time when Sri Lanka's human rights record is under international scrutiny."
Speaking of the human rights situation in, the UK Minister said the UK continues to have concerns about the issue, in particular continued intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders and activists.
"We have consistently made clear to the Sri Lankan Government the importance of safeguarding freedom of expression and protecting human rights defenders," Mr. Swire said adding that UK continues to urge the Sri Lankan Government to "uphold their international human rights obligations and to ensure that civil society, human rights defenders and activists are allowed the space to act freely."
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Human Rights Report for 2013 and the quarterly updates to the report, which are available online, include Sri Lanka as a 'Country of Concern' for human rights and outline UK's assessment more fully.
Referring to the arrest of two human rights activists- Ruki Fernando and Father Praveen in March this year under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), Mr. Swire said he made it clear to the Sri Lankan Government that it is important that human rights defenders are not subject to intimidation and have a right to freedom of expression.
The British Minister also said the UK has raised concerns with the government regarding the arrests of Ms. Jeyakumari Balendran and others, in particular on the lack of clarity around the evidence against the suspects and the charges brought.
The Terrorist Investigations Division (TID) arrested Ms. Jeyakumari on suspicion of aiding and abetting Gobi, an LTTE cadre suspected of attempting to revive the LTTE in Sri Lanka, in his activities.
Mr. Swire, reiterating UK's concerns about Sri Lanka's Prevention of Terrorism Act, said the UK is concerned about the length of time individuals can be detained without charge under the Act.
He noted that the third resolution, adopted by the UN Human Rights Council on 27 March, calls on the Sri Lankan government to make progress on human rights issues and to implement Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) recommendations, which includes the re-evaluation of detention policies.