UK to continue monitoring the situation of Tamil detainees in Sri Lanka

The United Kingdom says that it will continue to monitor the situation of Tamil detainees held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act closely and to raise issues of ongoing concern with the Sri Lankan government.

British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Hugo Swire responding to a written question presented by MP Joan Ryan, said the UK government raises matters of concern with the Sri Lankan government, including the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the detention of prisoners without trial.

“We regularly raise matters of concern with the Sri Lankan government, including the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the detention of Tamil political prisoners without trial,” Swire said.

Responding to a question on the hunger strike staged by the Tamil detainees in Sri Lanka, the UK Minister noted that on 17 November the hunger strike by Tamil detainees was temporarily suspended until 15 December.

Swire said he has also been encouraged by the recent announcements that bail has been granted to 39 prisoners being held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

According to the UK State Minister, the officials from the British High Commission regularly meet with political and civil society groups, including the Tamil National Alliance, to discuss political issues in Sri Lanka.

“We will continue to monitor the situation of detainees held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act closely and to raise issues of ongoing concern with the Sri Lankan government,” Swire said.

When asked what recent discussions he has had with his Sri Lankan counterpart on the application of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1978 in Sri Lanka, Swire replied that he met Sri Lankan Foreign Minister, Mangala Samaraweera, on 14 September in Geneva during the Huma Rights Council session.

Swire said he was encouraged by the discussion with the Sri Lankan Minister and his speech to the UN Human Rights Council.

“Amongst other commitments, he told members of the UN Human Rights Council that the Sri Lankan government would review and repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act and replace it with anti-terrorism legislation in line with contemporary international best practices,” Swire said.

He said the UK’s policy is unchanged and the UK remains committed to working closely with the Sri Lankan government and international partners to support the implementation of the commitments made by Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council in September, and in the UN Human Rights Council resolution of 1 October.

Speaking of the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, the state minister said the UK welcomes the resolution on promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights which was co-sponsored by Sri Lanka and adopted by the UN Human Rights Council on 1 October.

He noted that since President Maithripala Sirisena came to power in January, there have been improvements in the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, including on freedom of expression, some return of military held land, and improved relations between different communities.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will provide a further assessment in its 2015 Annual Human Rights and Democracy Report, the state minister said.

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