UK Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth office Hugo Swire said that while UK respects 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, the British high commissioner to Sri Lanka has made clear to the Sri Lankan government that the 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.
“We believe that this development is not conducive to a successful reconciliation process and will continue to monitor developments closely,” he said.
Swire also said that UK continues to have serious concerns about respect for human rights in Sri Lanka, in particular continued intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders and activists.
He says Britain has consistently made clear to the Sri Lankan Government the importance of safeguarding freedom of expression and protecting human rights defenders, and continue 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.
“I made clear to the Sri Lankan Government following the arrest of Ruki Fernando and Father Praveen—who have now been released—that it is important that human rights defenders are not subject to intimidation and have a right to freedom of expression. We are also aware of the arrests of Mrs Jeyakumari Balendran and others in Sri Lanka. Officials at our high commission in Colombo have raised concerns with the Sri Lankan Government, in particular on the lack of clarity around the evidence against the suspects and the charges brought,” he said.
He also recalled that Britain has previously raised concerns with the Sri Lankan government about the length of time individuals can be detained without charge under the Prevention of Terrorism Act adding that on 27 March, the UN Human Rights Council agreed a resolution which 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. (Colombo Gazette)