Attack on Swiss Embassy staffer worrying, says Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission

Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Commission has expressed “deep concern” over a recent incident involving a Swiss Embassy employee in Colombo, who was attacked by a group of unknown men, and has sought a “thorough and impartial” probe.

“The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka is deeply concerned by media reports that an employee of a diplomatic mission in Sri Lanka had recently been abducted by a group of unknown persons who had allegedly demanded that she provide them information pertaining to Sri Lankans who have sought protection through that Embassy,” said the Commission’s chairperson in a letter to the police chief.

On Wednesday, the Foreign Ministry of Switzerland said one of its local staff members was “detained against her will on the street and threatened at length” by unidentified men, who “forced her to disclose Embassy-related information”. The Swiss envoy in Colombo also met Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena to brief them about the incident, Bern said in a statement.

Last week, the Sri Lanka police said that all airports were on high alert to stop police detectives from leaving the country without permission. The announcement was made after a top officer left the island and reportedly sought asylum in Switzerland, following alleged death threats in Sri Lanka.

The senior officer, Nishantha Silva, was with the Criminal Investigation Department, and probing key cases of murder and abductions reported in the island’s civil war years and soon after, when former President Mr. Mahinda was in power, and his brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa — Sri Lanka’s newly elected President — served as the Defence Secretary.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera told mediapersons that the names of 704 Criminal Investigation Division (CID) officers had been sent to immigration authorities, to prevent them from fleeing the country.

‘Taking a serious look’

Mr. Mahinda and Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry have said the government would take a serious look into the alleged incident.

Amid some media reports that Sri Lankan authorities were denied access to the Embassy employee, Swiss authorities on Friday said in a statement that the victim — who was detained, “forced into a car and seriously threatened at length” — was not in a state to testify due to “deteriorating” health.

The Human Rights Commission said unearthing those responsible was “absolutely essential” to strengthen public confidence in law enforcement and to dispel public fears.

“When the public entertains such fears, it has a chilling effect on democratic rights and freedoms. Not only must justice be done on behalf of the young woman who may be traumatised by the abduction, but the larger issue of the need to reassure the public also must be addressed,” the Commission said.

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Printable version | Jun 30, 2022 11:41:20 pm |