NfR, a network of Sri Lankan journalists and human rights defenders, expresses its strongest indignation to the Government of Sri Lanka for its dastardly act of blocking Tamil civilians travelling to Colombo to demand justice for the disappeared. Police has used their trucks to block the buses they were travelling with.
On 5th March 2013 the family members, who were travelling to Colombo to participate in a protest campaign and to hand over a petition to UN regarding their disappeared relatives, were blocked in Vavuniya by a joint operation of the police and the military. This is a clear attempt to create a fear-psychosis among the Tamil people demanding accountability and justice for the disappeared.
The pretext given for the blockade was that the police is not in a position to guarantee the safety of the travellers in the night. This is in complete contrast to the picture the GoSL is otherwise painting saying that normalcy has returned, including the freedom to travel at any time any where in the country.
NfR views this open intimidation of family members of the disappeared and blatant violation of people’s basic right to peaceful protest as an escalation of the militarization in the North and the suppression of Tamil people in Sri Lanka.
Reports reaching NfR from Colombo indicate that nearly about 800 people had been stranded as a result of this unlawful police action. When the political party leaders from the South intervened, an assurance was given that those people could start their journey on the next morning (6th March 2013). The family members of the disappeared were surrounded by the police and they were not allowed to leave the buses. It was only after 3 hours and intense negotiations that the people were allowed to move to places where they could have a rest in the night.
In the meanwhile, the police has threatened the bus drivers for carrying the family members of the disappeared to Colombo and the drivers have reported the threats to the organizers. They were told that if they travel to Colombo with the family members that they will have to face problems when they come back to the Vanni. After the threats 8 out of 10 buses have gone back leaving the people behind. Consequently, there were only two buses for 600 people to travel to the UN office in Colombo. This also means that the Government of Sri Lanka has effectively blocked hundreds of family members of the disappeared to reach Colombo and to hand their petition to the United Nations.
This inhumane and autocratic act of the Government of Sri Lanka, at a time when the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva is scheduled to discuss the human rights situation in the country and the GoSL is promising to uphold rule of law and human rights as a response to the HRC deliberations, shows that all promises of the GoSL are mere words.
NfR calls on members of the United Nations Human Rights Council to consider this openly undemocratic behaviour of the GoSL as a direct challenge to the world’s human rights body they represent and to act accordingly.
NfR calls on the UN Human Rights High Commissioner to take up this issue – of blocking the family members of the disappeared coming to the UN office in Sri Lanka expecting some kind of redress – with all relevant authorities, including the representatives of the GoSL.
NfR urges the international human rights community to show their solidarity with these families of the disappeared and to make a representation to the Government of Sri Lanka in the strongest possible terms.