By Easwaran Rutnam
UN Secretary General António Guterres has raised concerns on Sri Lanka, in a report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva.
The report, which will be formally presented to the Council at its ongoing 45th Session today, notes alleged surveillance of Sri Lankan civil society organizations, human rights defenders and others in Sri Lanka and in Geneva.
Guterres notes in the report that allegations were raised with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) that several participants at the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council were questioned by authorities before and after travelling to Geneva, and several organizations reported incidents of surveillance during the Human Rights Council session and its side events in March 2020.
The report also notes that in December 2019, the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights addressed patterns of intimidation and reprisals to the Government in writing.
“OHCHR received continued allegations of surveillance of civil society organizations, human rights defenders and families of victims of violations, including repeated visits by police and intelligence services, questioning organizations about, inter alia, their staff and activities related to the UN,” Guterres said.
In her February 2020 report, the High Commissioner for Human Rights noted that harassment or surveillance of human rights defenders and victims of human rights violations increased during 2019 and “in some cases, Sri Lankans who travelled to Geneva to attend sessions of the Human Rights Council were questioned about the motives of their trips, either at the airport or during visits by the police to their homes upon their return”.
The High Commissioner had urged the authorities to immediately end the intimidating visits by State agents and all forms of surveillance and harassment of and reprisals against human rights defenders, social actors and victims of human rights violations and their families. (Daily Mirror/Colombo Gazette)