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Minister Kenney Voices Concern for Human Rights in Sri Lanka

COLOMBO, SRI LANKA -- (Marketwire) -- 01/07/13 -- Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney reiterated Canada's strong concerns about human rights, government accountability, and post-war reconciliation in Sri Lanka during his recent visit to Colombo.

"Canada wants to see a successful 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, but as host of the event, Sri Lanka is under close scrutiny for its adherence to Commonwealth values and principles," stated Minister Kenney. "Canada's level of representation at this meeting will depend on real progress on political reconciliation and accountability, including an independent investigation of allegations of human rights violations endured by civilians at the hands of both sides during the civil war," Minister Kenney stated.

During his visit, Minister Kenney met with key interlocutors of the Government of Sri Lanka as well as major opposition parties to convey Canada's concerns, including about the disappointing lack of progress toward reconciliation in post-war Sri Lanka. He also met with members of civil society organizations working on the ground to address humanitarian concerns and advocate improvements in the human rights situation.

Canada continues to be concerned about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, including the Sri Lankan government's failure to investigate accusations of bombing of hospitals and mass shelling of civilians by the military during the 2009 civil war.

Minister Kenney also voiced concern about the recent impeachment of Shirani Bandaranayake, Chief Justice of Sri Lanka, which does not appear to have followed the established procedures or traditional grounds for judicial impeachment - standards which are necessary to ensure the independence of the judiciary and the protection of rights in Commonwealth nations. He also raised concerns about the harassment of members of the media and non-governmental organizations as well as the recent and ongoing detention of students in Jaffna as troubling indications of a shrinking of democratic space in Sri Lanka.

"Canada will continue to stand up for freedom and political accountability in the world, including in fellow Commonwealth member nations," Minister Kenney said. "We further urge Sri Lanka to demonstrate its commitment to fundamental Commonwealth values and principles, including the importance of fundamental human rights, democracy, and the rule of law."

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Photos of Minister Kenney available at: www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/photos/high-res/index.asp.

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