Expressing disappointment with the UK’s decision to endorse the CHOGM in Sri Lanka, Allan Hogarth, Head of Policy and Government Affairs at Amnesty International, UK writes that the British government should “put pressure on Sri Lanka to end impunity for past abuses, use the September Session of the UN Human Rights Council to ensure human rights in Sri Lanka are scrutinized and they should support calls for an independent international investigation to be established into all allegations of war crimes.” In an article on the Huffington Post on Wednesday, debunking the myth of the island as a tourist spot by referring to cases of torture, Mr. Hogarth further opined that the UK must condemn the attacks on human rights and civil society activists in the island.
Excerpts from Allan Hogarth’s article “Sri Lanka – Sun, Sea, Torture and Impunity” published on Huffington Post follows:
“A heavily worked phrase used by the tourist industry is to describe a particular destination as a "country of contrast". Sri Lanka is surely such a country – at one level a popular tourist destination, which according to the advertising blurb offers travellers "such a remarkable combination of stunning landscapes, pristine beaches, captivating cultural heritage and unique experiences". In contrast it also detains its citizens without trial, restricts freedom of expression, arrests members of the judiciary, stands accused of committing war crimes and routinely tortures.”
“In fact the situation in Sri Lanka is deteriorating. Journalists, lawyers, grassroots activists, even the judiciary – anyone who dares to criticise the authorities – can be picked up under arcane security laws and detained for years without access to the outside world. We have documented this Assault on Dissent.”
“It is in this climate of human rights abuses that Sri Lanka will host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in November. The biennial gathering will see the leaders of more than a quarter of the world’s countries descend on Colombo to discuss a range of issues. To me it seems obvious that human rights must be top of the agenda and the opportunity must be used to press the Sri Lankan government to address its appalling record in this area.”
“We were disappointed that the UK Government was so quick to support CHOGM being held in Sri Lanka. We’d have liked to have seen them use the threat of re-locating the meeting to secure some significant progress on human rights from the Sri Lankan Government. However, they failed to do so, and they now need to use the meeting as an opportunity to secure such progress.”
“They must put pressure on Sri Lanka to end impunity for past abuses, use the September Session of the UN Human Rights Council to ensure human rights in Sri Lanka are scrutinized and they should support calls for an independent international investigation to be established into all allegations of war crimes.”
“Finally the UK Government must unequivocally condemn the escalating attacks on Sri Lankan human rights defenders and broader civil society, including the judiciary. Given the Sri Lankan Government’s reputation for intimidation and harassment of civil society we are deeply concerned that this may escalate in the run up to, and during CHOGM.”