Amnesty International has described comments by Lord Dennis Rogan, former president of the Ulster Unionist Party, praising the Sri Lankan government of President Rajapaksa after a visit to the country, as "fawning" over "a regime with blood on its hands".
Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty's Northern Ireland programme director, said: “Lord Rogan’s fawning comments which describe Sri Lanka as a country at ‘harmony’ where ‘peace has descended’ are grossly at odds with the findings of Amnesty International and the United Nations.
“President Rajapaksa, Lord Rogan’s host, is the very same President who presided over the final bloody months of Sri Lanka’s armed conflict in 2009, when as many as 40,000 civilians were killed – corralled into alleged ‘no fire zones’ on beaches in the North of the country only to be brutally shelled, with hospitals deliberately targeted.
“Rajapaksa has aggressively resisted any sort of independent inquiry into those events and has moved to consolidate his power, whilst silencing opposition. Lord Rogan’s misplaced praise does a disservice to the Sri Lankans living under that government.
"Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights who recently visited the country, warned that critical voices in Sri Lanka are ‘quite often attacked or even permanently silenced’.
“Rather than indulging in platitudes to a regime with blood on its hands, Lord Rogan should publicly condemn Sri Lanka’s human rights record and continuing reprisals against civil society and join Amnesty in calling for an independent, international investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
Amnesty International has said repeatedly that Sri Lanka’s disturbing human rights record means it should be barred from hosting a key Commonwealth summit in November or chairing the Commonwealth thereafter. Last week Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper branded President Rajapaksa a serial abuser of human rights and said he would not attend next month's summit of the Commonwealth in Sri Lanka because of the country's human rights record.