The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, says her office is on the look out for further reprisals by the Sri Lankan government against human rights activists and journalists who attend next month’s human rights council meeting in Geneva. This follows intimidation and death threats against Sri Lankan human rights defenders who travelled to Geneva last year. One government minister even threatened to break the legs of any journalist or activist who went to the Human Rights Council. Ms Pillay was responding to questions after giving a lecture entitled, “Freedom of Expression and Hate Speech: What International Human Rights Law Says”, at the London School of Economics.
The UN Commissioner for Human Rights said Sri Lanka had been reprimanded by the President of the Council last year for its behavior and added that she’d even written to the country’s Foreign Minister at the time to protest that some of the threats against civil society groups were carried on his own website. She said she hoped the reprisals that took place last March would not happen again, but added “we are on the watch out for this”.
Ms Pillay also said in response to a question that she welcomed the internal inquiry (known as the Petrie report) into the UN’s failures in protecting human rights in Sri Lanka at the climax of the civil war in 2009. She compared the Petrie report to that on Rwanda but added, “Rwanda’s lessons were not implemented in Sri Lanka by the UN”. Ms. Pillay pointed out that she’d referred to the Petrie report in her own report on Sri Lanka this week which examined at post-war accountability measures. She added that she was very pleased that the deputy Secretary General of the UN has set up a task force to look at policy and actions that could address the situation described by the Petrie report.