UN staff members possibly being tortured by the GoSL
UN News Centre – UN extremely concerned over detention of staff members in Sri Lanka
The United Nations continues to be extremely concerned with the case of two staff members arrested by Sri Lankan authorities in June, being particularly troubled over suggestions that they were mistreated during the early days of their detention.The UN was not given any notice when the two men, who are Sri Lankan nationals, were detained while deployed in Vavuniya, in the country’s north, UN spokesperson Marie Okabe told reporters in New York today.
Once it was discovered that they had “disappeared,” the UN protested their arrest with many levels of the Sri Lankan Government, she said.
If the allegations of mistreatment at the hands of authorities – which the UN has raised both orally and in writing with the Government – are validated, “this would be a violation of Sri Lankan and international law,” the spokesperson stated.
The world body, she added, has also helped the two staff members seek redress through the South Asian nation’s legal system.
“We called for due process to be swiftly applied,” Ms. Okabe underscored. “The Government should either notify the Secretary-General of the case and any charges against the two men and request for their immunity as UN staff to be waived, or they should be released.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon brought up the arrests when he met with President Mahinda Rajapaksa on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in July.
Ms. Okabe said Mr. Ban intends to raise the issue again when he speaks by telephone with Mr. Rajapaksa.
During the conversation, the Secretary-General will also discuss the expulsion over the weekend from the island nation of James Elder, an employee of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
The UN has voiced disappointment at Sri Lanka’s decision to Mr. Elder, saying the Government should be supporting the agency’s efforts to advocate on behalf of children.
The UN says it cannot continue to indefinitely fund the main refugee camp in Sri Lanka where the government is keeping nearly 300,000 people.
The Menik Farm camp holds the Tamils who fled the fighting in the months before the civil war ended in May.
Sri Lankan authorities say they are still screening everyone for possible links with the Tamil Tiger rebels.
The UN says the civilians living there should be allowed to leave as soon as possible.
Since the war ended in May, the Sri Lankan authorities have refused to let anyone leave this vast camp apart from some young children, elderly people and priests.
UN agencies help fund and run the camps but there are signs the UN is running out of patience.
“The best solution is obviously that as many people leave as soon as possible,” the UN’s Sri Lanka chief, Neil Buhne, told the BBC.
“And that the site can become – for the people who have no place else to go – that it becomes an open site.”
Mr Buhne also criticised the fact that the International Red Cross was being denied access to 10,000 of the Tamils whom the government calls Tiger suspects.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa said this week that it could still take six months or a year to work out how many of the displaced were to be prosecuted.
Separately, a UN spokeswoman in New York said the world body was “extremely concerned” about two of its Sri Lankan staff members arrested in June near the camps and still in detention.
She said there were allegations they had been mistreated at the hands of the authorities, adding that they should be released unless the government had charges to lay against them.