News / Asia

UN Rights Chief: Sri Lanka Drifting Toward Authoritarian Rule

Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, Sept. 24, 2013.
Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, Sept. 24, 2013.
Reuters
Four years after it crushed a long separatist rebellion, Sri Lanka may be sliding into an authoritarian system as President Mahinda Rajapaksa gathers power around him, the U.N. human rights chief said on Wednesday.

The report by Navi Pillay, said the largely Buddhist South Asian state also was seeing a surge of violence against religious minorities - Christians, Muslims and Hindus - while the Colombo government stood by.

Pillay said she had found great disquiet “about the degree to which the rule of law and democratic institutions in Sri Lanka are being undermined and eroded.”

She said a newly created Ministry of Law and Order would come under Rajapaksa's direct control, as had happened with the Defense Ministry, and that recent changes to the Sri Lankan constitution had weakened checks and balances on his rule.

She said this year's removal of an outspoken chief justice had eroded the long-standing independence of the judiciary.

The report, presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council, was rejected as “unsubstantiated” and biased by Sri Lanka's ambassador in Geneva, Ravinatha P. Aryasinha, who said it was inspired “by parties with a vested interest.”

This was an allusion to Western states which the Rajapaksa government accuses of waging a vendetta against it since its  defeat in 2009 of Tamil Tiger rebels in the north of the country amid allegations of atrocities against civilians by the army.

Rajapaksa's administration, which suffered a severe rebuff in elections in the Tamil-populated north of the country last weekend, is highly sensitive to criticism of its human rights record ahead of a Commonwealth summit on the island in November.

There have been calls from international rights groups, echoed by some governments, for the venue to be switched because of what they say are continuing disappearances and killings of opponents and critics of the president.

In an interview with Reuters in Geneva, the father of a student killed with five others during the civil war in 2006 in the northern city of Trincomalee said victims would get justice only via international investigations, rejected by Rajapaksa.

“Sri Lanka is not a human rights country,” said the man, Dr. K. Manoharan, after delivering a 50,000-signature petition on behalf of Amnesty International to Aryasinha.

Pillay spoke of “high levels of harassment and intimidation meted out to human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists” and of “white vans” that picked up dissenters around the country.

The former International Criminal Court judge said inquiries ordered by the Colombo government into alleged atrocities at the end of the war with Tamil Tigers had produced few results.

Aryasinha told the Geneva rights council that Rajapaksa was committed to democracy and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Christmas Gains Popularity in Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid