UK says Sri Lanka’s human rights situation deteriorated in first half of 2021

The human rights situation in Sri Lanka continued to deteriorate during the first half of 2021, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the United Kingdom said in a statement.

The remark was mentioned in a ministerial statement published by the FCDO on 31 Human Rights Priority Countries for January to June 2021.

The statement read: “The January 2021 report on Sri Lanka by the Office of the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed deep concern over ‘trends emerging over the past year, which represent clear early warning signs of a deteriorating human rights situation and a significantly heightened risk of future violations’. The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted resolution 46/1 in March, expressing serious concern about these trends, and stressing the importance of a comprehensive accountability process for all human rights violations and abuses committed in Sri Lanka.”

The FCDO claimed that the Sri Lankan security forces have increased their surveillance and intimidation of human rights activists and their use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, with a number of arbitrary arrests.

The Sri Lankan government has proposed new regulations with powers to arrest and send individuals to rehabilitation centres to be ‘deradicalised’ with no judicial oversight or requirement for further process, the statement continued.

It also noted that the President pardoned a convicted murderer on death row and appointed controversial individuals to lead independent institutions such as the Office of Missing Persons.

The government initiated activity to obstruct accountability in a number of emblematic human rights cases, the FCDO alleged, adding that there were several deaths in custody which the Sri Lankan Bar Association described as having ‘all the hall-marks of extrajudicial killings.’”

The Office also pointed out that the government marginalisation of minority groups has continued on the island nation, “with the banning of several groups including Tamil and Muslim welfare organisations, and restrictions on memorialisation events particularly for communities in the North and East.”

In July this year, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office published the 2020 Annual Human Rights and Democracy Report.

This report provided an assessment of the global human rights situation, and set out the UK Government’s thematic, consular, and programme work to advance human rights throughout the world.

It focused on 31 countries where the UK is particularly concerned about human rights issues, and where it considers that it can make a real difference.

The aforementioned observations of the FCDO on Sri Lanka came as an updated assessment of the 31 priority countries from 1 January to 30 June, 2021.

The 31 Human Rights Priority Countries are: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Central African Republic, China, Colombia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Libya, Mali, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.

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