UN raises fresh fears for Sri Lanka rights defenders

GENEVA, September 9, 2013 (AFP) – The UN rights chief Monday raised fresh concerns for the safety of Sri Lankan journalists and activists she said had been harassed by the authorities for meeting with her. Navi Pillay told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva she was worried about those she met during her week-long visit to the island, which is emerging from decades of ethnic war.

She stressed her “immediate concern for the protection of human rights defenders, journalists and communities I met during my visit from any reprisal, intimidation or attack.”

“I will be reporting on my observations later in the session,” she told the council.

She thanked the government of President Mahinda Rajapakse for “facilitating my recent comprehensive visit,” but alleged that those she held talks with had been harassed, without giving names.

Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry said its ambassador to the UN, Ravinatha Aryasinha, had urged Pillay to “adopt an objective and unbiased approach to Sri Lanka” and “not give credence to unsubstantiated allegations made by those with vested interests and agendas.”

“The government of Sri Lanka is fully committed to protecting human rights defenders, and in this reg