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UN extremely concerned over detention of staff members in Sri Lanka

[UN News Centre, Friday, 11 September 2009 12:02 No Comment]

04-05-2009lanka The United Nations continues to be extremely concerned with the case of two staff members arrested by Sri Lankan authorities in June, being particularly troubled over suggestions that they were mistreated during the early days of their detention.

The UN was not given any notice when the two men, who are Sri Lankan nationals, were detained while deployed in Vavuniya, in the country’s north, UN spokesperson Marie Okabe told reporters in New York today.

Once it was discovered that they had “disappeared,” the UN protested their arrest with many levels of the Sri Lankan Government, she said.

If the allegations of mistreatment at the hands of authorities – which the UN has raised both orally and in writing with the Government – are validated, “this would be a violation of Sri Lankan and international law,” the spokesperson stated.

The world body, she added, has also helped the two staff members seek redress through the South Asian nation’s legal system.

“We called for due process to be swiftly applied,” Ms. Okabe underscored. “The Government should either notify the Secretary-General of the case and any charges against the two men and request for their immunity as UN staff to be waived, or they should be released.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon brought up the arrests when he met with President Mahinda Rajapaksa on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in July.

Ms. Okabe said Mr. Ban intends to raise the issue again when he speaks by telephone with Mr. Rajapaksa.

During the conversation, the Secretary-General will also discuss the expulsion over the weekend from the island nation of James Elder, an employee of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

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