The human rights of Sri Lanka’s people are continuing to be threatened four and a half years on from the end of a brutal armed conflict in the country – good enough reason for the British Government to boycott the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting being held there.
Stockton North MP, Alex Cunningham, has joined the calls for a boycott and challenged the Prime Minister to send the Sri Lankan government a clear message that they can’t bask in the glory of a political event when so many of their people still live in fear.
Following the end of the conflict, major questions remain about the extent to which human rights are being upheld. Particular concerns are mounting about military engagement in civilian activities in the north of the country, including torture and sexual abuse. People also continue to disappear and there are clear questions over what has happened to detainees from the war.
On top of this, reports are rampant that democracy and the rule of law are being weakened, with examples of hatred and violence against religious minorities, intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders, and a growing authoritarianism highlighted by the abduction and murder of journalists and questionable impeachment of the Chief Justice.
“Despite the United Nations finding credible allegations that the Sri Lankan military and government committed human rights violations and caused the deaths of thousands of civilians, no independent investigation into the atrocities has yet taken place and those responsible remain unpunished.
“The presence of the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary in Colombo for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting would signify a tacit endorsement of the Sri Lankan regime and lend kudos to the utter disregard they have demonstrated for human rights and the rule of law.
“The Government has an opportunity to ramp up the pressure on Sri Lanka to ensure that full and independent investigations take place and that justice is done. I urge the Prime Minister to follow the lead taken by his Canadian counterpart through boycotting the meeting in Colombo unless convincing and verified evidence of substantial and sustainable improvements in human and political rights is received.”