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UN notes allegations of reprisals in SL

Some 240 individuals of civil society, activists, and journalists in 45 countries, including Sri Lanka, have faced intimidation and reprisals for co-operating with the United Nations (UN), according to the UN annual report on reprisals.

In its segment on Sri Lanka, the report, which was presented to the Human Rights Council in Geneva by UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ilze Brands Kehris on Wednesday (29 September), noted that in February 2021, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet had observed that “a pattern of intensified surveillance and harassment of civil society organisations, human rights defenders, and victims appears to have intensified over the past year, including of those who supported the implementation of Human Rights Council resolution 30/1”, which is “creating a chilling effect on civic and democratic space and leading to self-censorship”.

The report also noted: “Further to the adoption of resolution 46/1 by the Human Rights Council in March 2021, a senior government official accused civil society activists and members of the political opposition in state-owned media of being ‘traitors’ for their co-operation with UN human rights mechanisms.

“On 10 August 2021, the Government responded to the note verbale sent in connection to the present report refuting the claims of ‘harassment, threats, and surveillance’. It invited all parties alleged to have faced harassment to submit their complaints to the relevant national mechanisms, including law enforcement, and independent institutions such as the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka or the National Police Commission, for investigation and potential action. The Government reiterated its active interaction with civil society and stated that apart from routine security checks by the Security Forces no specific group in the country is monitored.”

Among the other nations mentioned in the reprisals report are Bangladesh, China, India, Israel, the Maldives, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.