Aug 28, Colombo: A collective of international human right organizations has urged the Sri Lankan government and the member states of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to ensure protection for the witnesses at the UN mandated war crime probe against Sri Lanka.
In an open letter to the President of the UN Human Rights Council Baudelaire Ndong Ella and to the Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka at the UN in Geneva, Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha, six human rights organizations jointly expressed concern over the allegedly ongoing attacks against human rights defenders and other individuals from Sri Lanka who seek to engage with the UN human rights system.
"We are alarmed to learn of intimidation, threats and reprisals against all those perceived as likely to engage with and provide information to the investigation mandated by the UN Human Rights Council …," the group wrote.
The group expressed fear that such cases will only intensify in the lead up to the 27th and 28th sessions of the UN Human Rights Council, where the High Commissioner for Human Rights is due to present an oral update of the investigation and a comprehensive report, respectively.
Sri Lanka has refused entry to the UN team investigating alleged war crimes committed during the last seven years of the three-decade long armed conflict with Tamil Tiger terrorists. The government says the probe mandated by the UN Human Rights Council is an unnecessary and unethical intrusion into the island nations' sovereignty.
The rights groups in their letter said that the Sri Lankan Government has the primary responsibility for protecting witnesses from threats, including by condemning all forms of intimidation and reprisal, investigating and prosecuting perpetrators, and providing protection measures and remedies to victims.
The UN Human Rights Council also has a responsibility to protect those who engage with it from intimidation and reprisals, the NGOs said.
The NGOs called on both the Government of Sri Lankan and the UNHRC to take the meaningful steps necessary to protect human rights defenders and other individuals from intimidation and reprisals in connection with their cooperation with the UN.
"We also call on you to publicly and unequivocally condemn all such acts of threats and reprisals," the letter published by the Geneva-based the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said.
Amnesty International, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation, International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), International Movement Against Discrimination and All Form of Racism (IMADR), and International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) signed the letter.
Full text of the letter