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David Cameron urged to boycott Sri Lanka Commonwealth summit

Ministers have urged Prime Minister David Cameron to boycott next year’s Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka over the country’s human rights record.

A parliamentary committee said it was wrong for the Island nation to host the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting amid reports of continuing rights abuses and suppression of media freedoms since the end of Sri Lanka’s Civil War in 2009.

The Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said there were “serious questions” about whether the meeting of the 54-member organization should even go ahead in November 2013.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has already said he will boycott the event unless there is ‘significant’ improvement in the Sri Lankan human rights record.

The Foreign Affairs COmmittee applauded Mr Harper’s stand and urged Prime Minister Cameron follow suit: “The UK prime minister should publicly state his unwillingness to attend the meeting unless he receives convincing and independently verified evidence of substantial and sustainable improvements in human and political rights.”

A 2011 report by the Foreign Office cited “frequent” human rights violations – including terrorist suspects being held without charge for long periods, reports of torture in custody, restrictions on freedom of expression and little progress in investigating disappearances of political activists.

Earlier this month, 27 prisoners were killed during clashes at the high-security Welikada prison in the capital Colombo. 

Some opposition parties claim it was a massacre and an attempt by the government to eliminate political prisoners. 

The Sri Lankan government’s 30-year war against Tamil separatists ended in May 2009. 

President Mahinda Rajapakse has since used the euphoria surrounding the end of the conflict to strengthen his hold on power, enacting constitutional changes paving the way for unlimited terms of power, suppressing political dissent and closing down independent media outlets.

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