Lanka lambasted on human rights, press freedom fronts

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New York, May 23 (UNI) Sri Lanka has come under criticism from two city-based organisations in the areas of human rights and press freedom.

Enforcing standards of rights, members of the 47-member UN Human Rights Council ejected Sri Lanka from the council by not re-electing it on Wednesday. In reconstituting the rights body in 2006, the UN had required council members to ''uphold the highest standards'' of rights.

A coalition of Sri Lankan NGOs and Nobel laureates such as Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter successfully campaigned against election of Colombo to the council.

''We applaud the UN members for rejecting an abusive state which has used its position on the Human Rights Council not to promote human rights, but to protect itself and other violator states from scrutiny,'' said Steve Crawshaw, the UN Advocacy Director at New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Mr Crawshaw, who is also a spokesman for the NGO Coalition for an Effective Human Rights Council, added: ''The defeat of Sri Lanka this year and of Belarus last year will help discourage other human rights violators from seeking or winning election to the council.'' An affiliated body of Human Rights Watch also took Colombo to task yesterday.

The rejection of Sri Lanka after a global campaign would lend vital support to the victims of abuse and send a strong message to the government, Michael Anthony, program coordinator of the Asian Human Rights Commission in Hong Kong, said.

''We hope this result will open a new international dialogue with Sri Lanka that encourages the government to put an end to rampant violations by its security forces, and accept the assistance of human rights monitors from the United Nations.'' The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also joined the fellow city organisation in lambasting the Sri Lankan government yesterday.

A columnist for The Nation newspaper in the island, Keith Noyahr, went missing outside his home in Colombo. He was reportedly abducted by unidentified persons.

''We are very concerned for the safety of the missing journalist,'' CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz said.

''Authorities must act immediately to locate him and ensure his safe return.'' UNI XC SYU AS0950

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