David Cameron urged to to boycott Sri Lanka summit over 'human rights abuses'

Canada 'appalled' that Colombo had been selected to host the Commonwealth meeting

David Cameron is facing mounting calls to boycott an important Commonwealth meeting in Colombo amid continuing allegations that the Sri Lankan government is failing to end human rights abuses.

Mr Cameron is scheduled to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Sri Lanka in November. At the start of the three-day meeting, the presidency of the group is to he handed to Sri Lanka’s president, Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The Queen, or else another member of the royal family, is also due to take part in the biennial event.

But there are growing demands that Mr Cameron and the British delegation should not take part amid continuing concern about abuses in Sri Lanka. Last week, Canada’s foreign minister said the country was “appalled” that Sri Lanka had been selected to host the event.

The latest criticism of the Sri Lanka authorities comes from Amnesty International. In a report published on Tuesday, the group accuses the government of Mr Rajapaksa of sanctioning attacks on journalists, the judiciary, activists and opposition politicians. It says a climate of fear permeates the country.

“Violent repression of dissent and the consolidation of political power go hand in hand in Sri Lanka,” said Amnesty’s Polly Truscott. “The  CHOGM meeting must not be allowed to go ahead in Colombo unless the government has demonstrated beforehand that it has stopped systematic violations of human rights.”

The government of Mr Rajapaksa has been repeatedly accused of overseeing abuses since the spring of 2009, when the Sri Lankan armed forces crushed the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which had fought a bloody civil war for three decades.

A UN-appointed panel has said there are credible allegations that war crimes were committed by both sides amid reports that tens of thousands of civilians may have been killed in the final stages of the conflict. Since then, the government has been accused of targeting dissidents, the media  and activists. It has also been accused of failing to address political demands of the country’s Tamil minority

Against such a backdrop, activists say Mr Cameron’s attendance at the meeting would send out the wrong signal. 

“If Cameron goes he will be placing the seal of approval on the summit and other Commonwealth members who were on the fence will be pressured to attend,” said Fred Carver of the Sri Lanka campaign.

“If Cameron goes he will go going against the advice of Desmond Tutu, Geoffrey Robertson, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association, Malcolm Rifikind, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and virtually every Commonwealth charity and NGO.”

The Sri Lankan authorities have yet to formally respond to Amnesty’s report. But Rajiva Wijesinha, a member of parliament and the president’s envoy on reconciliation, said the report appeared designed to be “political” rather than to suggest solutions.

He said since 2009 the government had spent millions of pounds on building infrastructure in the north of Sri Lanka, including roads, schools and hospitals. He said while more work was required, it would be wrong “not to register that Sri Lanka has done an awful lot that no other country in the same situation has done”.

There have been suggestions Britain’s decision could be announced in a matter of weeks. Elsewhere, British officials have suggested the formal September deadline for replying to the invitation is probably flexible while a determination is made on whether Sri Lanka is making progress on addressing various issues.

One of the things being scrutinised are the elections for the northern provincial council, which Mr Rajapaksa has said will take place in September. The election of the council is seen by Tamil groups as a crucial test of whether the government is prepared to devolve some power.

A foreign office statement issued on Tuesday, said: “No final decision on the level of UK attendance at CHOGM has yet been made. Whatever the formal agenda, and whoever attends, the spotlight will be on Sri Lanka, and it will either highlight progress or focus attention and pressure on the lack of it.”

A spokeswoman for Buckingham Palace said “no announcement has been made” on whether the Queen or any member of the royal family will attend.

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence