Sri Lankan forces harass Tamils who met UN official?

New York, Sep 4 (IANS) The Sri Lankan government should investigate allegations that security forces harassed people who met UN human rights chief Navi Pillay in that country, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.

Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, expressed concerns at the end of her week-long visit Aug 31 that victims of abuses and their family members, activists and journalists had received visits and threats from the authorities after meeting with her and other UN officials.

She said reprisals against people who talk to the UN were "an extremely serious matter" and she would report it to the UN Human Rights Council.

"It's outrageous for a government that is hosting the UN human rights chief to have their security forces harass the people who met with her," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

"The Sri Lankan government should announce that 'visits' or other forms of harassment of those who spoke to the high commissioner will be punished. And the government should make sure they punish officials who've already done so."

In Sri Lanka, Pillay held extensive meetings with people in the formerly embattled north and east of the country as well as with government officials, politicians and activists.

The Centre for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Trincomalee in eastern Sri Lanka reported being harassed by military personnel a few hours after its staff met Pillay.

Father Yogeswaran, who runs the centre, said they were visited at midnight and in the early morning and was aware that others who had met Pillay were similarly approached.

Several other victims, witnesses and rights activists told a leading Colombo-based group were visited by military personnel following meetings with Pillay.

Pillay said she had received disturbing reports about "the harassment and intimidation of a number of human rights defenders, journalists and many ordinary citizens who met with me, or planned to meet with me.

"I have received reports that people in villages and settlements in the Mullaitivu area were visited by police or military officers both before and after I arrived there in Trincomalee, several people I met were subsequently questioned about the content of our conversation."

Pillay is due to deliver an oral report on her trip to the UN Human Rights Council later in September.

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