The embassies of France, Germany, Great Britain and Switzerland today strongly condemn the disruption of a meeting in which families of disappeared Tamils were briefing Colombo-based diplomats and civil society activists.
Issuing a joint statement, the embassies stated that “an organized group including monks” had disrupted the civil society meeting, on the theme “Sharing and listening session with families of the disappeared” organized by Families of the Disappeared in the Centre for Society and Religion, on the 4th of August 2014.
Over 30 family members of disappeared persons having travelled from the Northern Province, members of civil society and NGOs as well as members of the diplomatic community were in the premises when the disruption took place.
“All those present felt that their security was under threat,” the statement said.
The four nations urged the Sri Lankan government to ensure and respect freedom of assembly and expression in Sri Lanka and to ensure the safety of those who participated in the meeting.
“We strongly urge the government to ensure and respect freedom of assembly and expression in Sri Lanka. We sincerely hope that the security of those having travelled from the Northern Province to share their experience will be assured upon their return,” they said.
The US Embassy in Colombo had also expressed concern over the incident while claiming that the initial reaction of the local police to this disruption appeared to be in “support of the mob’s efforts to shut down the meeting.”
The meeting that included U.S. Embassy officials was interrupted by angry protesters forcing their way into the meeting on the grounds of a Colombo Catholic church, where families of disappeared persons from the civil conflict were sharing their stories with civil society groups and members of the diplomatic community.
It said that the protesters were not exercising their right to peaceful protest, but rather were disrupting a peaceful gathering of conflict survivors, including children. The strong impression was that the protesters were seeking to “intimidate and silence” those in attendance, it said.
The United States strongly urged the Government of Sri Lanka to enforce the rule of law and permit all citizens to exercise their most basic human rights, including freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.
“We also call on the Government of Sri Lanka take all possible steps to ensure the safety of families who had traveled from the North to attend this meeting, both in Colombo and upon their return home,” the US Embassy said in release on Monday.