Sri Lankan Church calls for UN rights probe

Clerics pen letter detailing abuses

Clergy in Sri Lanka have signed a letter to the United Nations Council for Human Rights (UNHRC) in which they appeal for an international investigation of human rights abuses in the country across 30 years.

Last week The Irish Catholic reported on the discovery of a mass grave in the north of the country which contained the remains of 80 people, including women and children. During prayers for the dead in February, Bishop Rayappu Joseph of Mannar issued a call for answers on the issue of people disappeared during the nation’s civil conflict.

Now, 205 clerics have added their voices to that call in their UN letter, stating that their own government has shown unwilling to treat questions and concerns seriously.

"Neither truth, nor justice have come from the investigations conducted by the Sri Lankan government," they state, adding, rather, that questions around the issue of human rights violations bring “threats and intimidation”.

“We are conscious that writing this letter and involving the UNHRC exposes us to risks, and many members of the clergy did not sign [for this reason], even if they agree with us," the clerics write.

Among abuses, both historical and continuing, cited by the clergy are "disappearances, sexual abuse, arrests, detention and torture under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, restrictions and attacks on freedom of assembly, expression, association and movement".

Between 1983 and 2009, Sri Lanka was engaged in a conflict between government forces and those of the rebel Tamil Tigers who wished to create an independent Tamil state in the country.