x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Sri Lanka accuses UN rights chief of prejudice

UN rights chief Nivi Pillay says Sri Lanka is a place where the rule of law has eroded and the independence of the judiciary is undermined.

COLOMBO // Sri Lanka's state-run media yesterday accused the UN human rights chief of being "prejudiced", a day after she warned that the island was becoming "increasingly authoritarian".

Navi Pillay ended a United Nations fact-finding mission to the country to probe allegations of war crimes on Saturday by saying Sri Lanka was a place where the rule of law had eroded and the independence of the judiciary was undermined.

"She came with a prejudiced mind and she is leaving with a prejudiced mind," the Sunday Observer said in a front-page article headlined: "She hasn't changed a bit".

"She probably thought of the visit in some way as an opportunity to give credence to her preconceived judgements, and nothing else."

Ms Pillay accused military officials of harassing and intimidating priests, journalists and other civilians as punishment for meeting her during her visit.

"This type of surveillance and harassment appears to be getting worse in Sri Lanka, which is a country where critical voices are quite often attacked or even permanently silenced," she said.

The government did not immediately respond.

Her visit was marred by personal attacks against her by government activists, including three government ministers.

She said that the president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, had personally "apologised" to her for the abuse.

The privately run, pro-government Sunday Island reported Ms Pillay's claim that people were being punished for talking to her could not be accepted as "absolute fact", but that the government must investigate it.

"The people have a right to know whether there had been any kind of intimidation as alleged and if so those responsible must be brought to account," the paper said.