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Mar-23-2012 18:45printcomments

UN Warns Sri Lanka Against Retaliating Toward Humanitarian Activists

Urgent call also issued to support Bishop Rayappu Josep in Sri Lanka.

The Bishop and The President
The Bishop and The President

(SALEM / COLOMBO) - The Clerical Whispers blog revealed the tension enveloping church leaders in Sri Lanka this week. The tension is now quite public. A vindictive online attack has been orchestrated against Msgr Rayappu Josep Bishop of Mannar and his supporters. We are familiar with the harassment leveled even toward our media group for reporting from the Tamil perspective.

UN High Commissioner Navi Pillay

The picture changed, following the adoption of yesterday's resolution by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, calling on Sri Lanka to take "credible" steps to ensure accountability for alleged serious violations committed in 2009 during the final stages of the conflict between the Government and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and to ensure accountability.

The warning from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, was issued that hopefully will raise the level of safety for Catholic leaders who placed themselves at risk to speak out.

Pillay says there must be no reprisals against Sri Lankan human rights defenders in the wake of a resolution calling on its Government to probe alleged abuses during the country’s civil war.

The tension over the proceedings in Geneva reached as far as Brisbane where the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission spoke out in support of human rights for the Tamil population, a cause that is not always appreciated by some members of Brisbane's Sinhalese Catholic community.

Threats against the Catholic clergy came into play after Msgr Rayappu Josep, Bishop of Mannar in Northern Sri Lanka, together with 30 priests, wrote to the UN Human Rights Council urging them to call on the Government of Sri Lanka to implement the positive recommendations of the LLRC (Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Committee, the body of inquiry set up to investigate the Sri Lankan Civil War and provide recommendations for moving forward to an era of healing and peace building), among other things. The Bishops and the priests have since been attacked through intimidation and discredited by media and ever-active government-friendly groups.

As the Australian blog The Holy Irritant reported this week:

Concerned civil society groups in Sri Lanka and abroad are rallying around Bishop Rayappu Joseph and the priests for their “principled and courageous position” in the light of UN’s belated interest in the human rights situation in Sri Lanka.

Given this scenario, the pressure is thrown back to those opposing the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and civil society actors like Bp. Joseph and his priests. It is imperative thus, that they be affirmed and supported in their action, now more than ever.

To this end, ACPP and the Hotline Team appeal to you to send your notes and messages of solidarity to Bishop Rayappur Joseph and the 30 priests to affirm their courageous act of writing to the UN, to encourage them to be steadfast in their public stand and prophetic witness, and to give them support in the continuing and expected increased backlash on their action.

Read the text of the letter here and use this link to post your support.

You may address your messages of solidarity to:
E-mail: /

Terence Osorio Coordinator
Asian Center for the Progress of Peoples
Kowloon, Hong Kong

The threats against people criticizing Sri Lanka and urging responsive and meaningful action from the UNHRC, were in no way restricted to Sri Lanka.

Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner
for Human Rights (OHCHR)

“During this Human Rights Council session, there has been an unprecedented and totally unacceptable level of threats, harassment and intimidation directed at Sri Lankan activists who had travelled to Geneva to engage in the debate, including by members of the 71-member official Sri Lankan government delegation,” said Ms. Pillay’s spokesperson, Rupert Colville, at a press briefing in Geneva.

Mr. Colville said that intimidation and harassment of Sri Lankan civil society activists have also been reported in other locations around Geneva. In addition, the Sri Lankan ambassador in Geneva received an anonymous threatening letter which is being followed up by the police and UN security.

At the same time, newspapers, news websites and TV and radio stations in Sri Lanka have been running, since January, a “continuous campaign of vilification,” including naming and, in many cases, showing images of activists, describing them as an ‘NGO gang’ and repeatedly accusing them of treason, mercenary activities and association with terrorism.

“Some of these reports have contained barely veiled incitement and threats of retaliation,” Mr. Colville said. “At least two comments posted by readers of articles of this type have called for burning down of the houses of the civil society activists named in the articles, and at least one such comment called openly for them to be killed.”

The spokesperson said the High Commissioner had noted that some of the attacks on human rights defenders were carried in Sri Lankan state media and Government websites or were filed by journalists who had been officially accredited to the Council session by the Sri Lankan authorities.

By the same token, Sri Lanka is a land of disappeared and murdered journalists and there are scant few who report from the side of the argument examining war crimes and human rights abuses that are heavily documented.

“She is calling on the Government to ensure the protection of human rights defenders, to publicly disassociate itself from such statements, and to clearly uphold the right of Sri Lankan citizens to freely engage in international debate of this kind,” Mr. Colville said.

A new page has turned in the story of Ceylon; now Sri Lanka, and its recent Genocide just received a small slap on the wrist for the heinous crimes committed against the Tamil people.


Urgent call to support Bishop Rayappu Josep in Sri Lanka - The Holy Irritant

Senior UN official warns against harassing Sri Lankan human rights defenders - UN

Tim King's previous reports on Sri Lanka:

Mar-22-2012: White Flags, White Vans and White Lies? A Closer Look at the Death of Colonel Ramesh

Mar-18-2012: Is Google Earth Hiding Sri Lanka's Ghosts? - Tim King

Mar-15-2012: Channel-4 Documentary Proves Sri Lanka Committed War Crimes

Mar-11-2012: War Crime Court and its Conflicting Interests

Mar-08-2012: Sex Abuse and Murder in Sri Lanka- New Photos Emerge

Mar-02-2012: A Very Uncivil War - Ghastly Images- Gross Detail and Denial of Sri Lanka's Genocide

Feb-28-2012: Americans Praise Sri Lankan Politicians who Orchestrated Genocide

Feb-28-2012: Tweets from Tamil Eelam

Feb-24-2012: Two of Sri Lanka's Foulest War Crimes

Feb-19-2012: Will Another Documentary on Sri Lanka's Genocide Impact the Geneva Human Rights Session?

Feb-08-2012: The Questionable Effectiveness of Lighting Yourself on Fire

Feb-03-2012: Sri Lanka's Independence Day- a Black Day for Tamil Eelam

Jan-11-2012: While UN Claims Zero Tolerance, No Discipline of Sri Lankan Abusers in Haiti

Dec-28-2011: Why Was a Red Cross Manager on Vacation from Gaza Murdered in Sri Lanka?

Nov-24-2011: Fear, Genocide and Torture in Sri Lanka

Nov-21-2011: London Calling: Time for Sri Lanka's Release of Post-Conflict Report

Nov-11-2011: Ode to a Humble Hero of Sri Lanka: Dr Brian Senewiratne

Oct-15-2011: Genocide 101: World and Media Apathy

Oct-08-2011: Sri Lanka Joins Israel in Naval Attacks on Unarmed Fishermen

Oct-05-2011: War and its Aftermath... a Real Killer for Tourism

Oct-01-2011: Sri Lanka in the Crosshairs of Canadian Parliament

Sep-13-2011: Sri Lanka Recalls Diplomat Accused of War Crimes

Aug-31-2011: 'No Song and Dance' Over Sri Lanka War Crime Admissions

Jul-25-2011: Former Sri Lanka President's Children 'Reacted With Anguish' to Tamil Genocide Program

Jul-22-2011: M.I.A. - A Beautiful Reflection of the Besieged Tamils of Sri Lanka

Jul-17-2011: 44 Prisoners Join Hunger Strike at Vavuniya Prison in Sri Lanka

Jul-14-2011: The Bush Administration's Role in Sri Lanka's Tamil Genocide

Jul-13-2011: Fields Should be for Sports, not Genocide... Sri Lanka

Jun-29-2011: Sri Lanka Continues Genocide, Thumbing Nose at UN and World

Jun-20-2011: Sri Lanka's Violence Toward Tamil Minority Continues

Jun-18-2011: 'International Day in Support of Victims of Torture'Remember the Tamil Genocide

Jun-17-2011: European Tourists Waylaid in Sri Lanka, Resurgence of 'White Van' Crime

Jun-15-2011: Tamil Genocide Explored in Sri Lanka's Killing Fields

Jun-02-2011: UN Experts: Sri Lanka Tamil Genocide Video is Real

May-31-2011: New Song 'Depression' - Graphic Truth of Sri Lanka Tamil Genocide

May-31-2011: Sri Lanka Tamil Genocide: Killing the Messenger

May-03-2011: Confronting the Tamil Genocide in Sri Lanka

Apr-27-2011: Tamil Genocide in Sri Lanka Emerges Into Public View

Apr-22-2011: World Ignores Genocide of Sri Lanka's Tamil Population


Tim King in 2008, covering the Iraq War

Tim King: Editor and Writer

Tim King has more than twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. Tim is's Executive News Editor. His background includes covering the war in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, and reporting from the Iraq war in 2008. Tim is a former U.S. Marine.

Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing from The Associated Press the National Coalition of Motorcyclists, the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs, Electronic Media Association and The Red Cross In a personal capacity, Tim has written 2,026 articles as of March 2012 for since the new format designed by Matt Lintz was launched in December, 2005.

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Tim specializes in writing about political and military developments worldwide with an emphasis on Palestine and Sri Lanka, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the U.S. Marines. You can write to Tim at this address: Visit Tim's Facebook page (

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