US and UK condemn arrest of Lankan human rights activists

The United States and Britain on Tuesday condemned the Sri Lankan government for the arrest and detention of two human rights activists calling the act unacceptable and further proof for an international probe.

By Qadijah Irshad

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Published: Thu 20 Mar 2014, 12:31 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 1:39 AM

The US said in a statement that it is this kind of ‘ongoing human rights concerns’ that have led many in the international community to push for a UN Human Rights Council resolution on the situation in Lanka.

“With these latest actions, we remain convinced that continued scrutiny by the Human Rights Council is necessary,” read the statement.

British Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire called the arrests of Father Praveen Mahesan, a Tamil Catholic priest and human rights defender, and Ruki Fernando, a Catholic human rights activist from the majority Sinhala community, “deeply concerning” and “not acceptable.” Swire called on the Lankan government to allow the two individuals who have “a strong record of promoting peace, justice and reconciliation across the country” immediate access to lawyers and their families. In contrast to the British minister’s description of Fernando and Father Mahesan, the police on Tuesday said that the rights activists are a threat to the national security.

“The Terrorism Investigation Department (TID) has sufficient evidence to prove that they have been involved in many activities that have been a threat to national security,” police spokesman Ajith Rohana told Khaleej Times. Although the police refused to reveal the nature of the duo’s threat, they stand firm that the two men were “damaging national harmony.”

On Sunday, Fernando and Father Mahesan who were visiting the former de facto capital of the Tamil Tiger rebels were arrested by the TID. Fernando sent a text message — via his cell phone to his friends saying the priest and he were detained at the Kilinochchi police station. The police spokesman confirmed that the two activists remain in custody of the TID in the country’s capital Colombo, and are being interrogated. —

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