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Sri Lanka (Detainees)

Volume 515: debated on Tuesday 14 September 2010

3. What recent discussions he has had with his Sri Lankan counterpart on access to detainees in that country by the International Committee of the Red Cross. (14848)

I spoke to the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka on 16 June and again this morning about a variety of issues, including human rights and access to former combatants. We hope to continue the dialogue with the Foreign Minister when he comes to London in October.

I thank the Minister for that answer. Will he outline the role he believes the international community should play with respect to this issue, as we repeatedly hear concerns about the treatment of detainees and human rights abuses in Sri Lanka? Does he support the call for an international inquiry, particularly into the abuses in the final week leading up to the end of the war in May 2009?

Let us separate the two issues. As to detainees, I am sure that the hon. Lady will be pleased to hear that the International Organisation for Migration does have access to the camps. The Sri Lanka Minister told me this morning that negotiations continue on giving the Red Cross access, which we would certainly support. As far as allegations about what happened during the end of the conflict are concerned, we have repeatedly called upon Sri Lanka to make sure that there is a full, independent and credible inquiry so that these past allegations can be raised transparently. That would be in the interest of reconciliation in the future.

Will my hon. Friend take up with the high commissioner the issue of why, in my role as the chairman of the all-party Tamils group, I am receiving reports that people who have returned to their homes are still being intimidated, singled out for abuse and are not being treated with the respect that they should be given? Can this issue please be raised with the high commissioner?

The number of internally displaced people who have been returned has grown significantly since the end of the conflict, but we remain concerned about reports of abuses of freedom, lack of freedom of expression and continued problems in the north. These issues are raised quite regularly with the Sri Lanka Government and the high commissioner, and the next time I see him, I will certainly make sure that my hon. Friend’s concerns are pressed.