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Sri Lanka: UN speaks out against protests trapping staff inside Colombo office

Sri Lanka: UN speaks out against protests trapping staff inside Colombo office

Former IDPs queue for relief supplies in Batticaloa District, Sri Lanka
The United Nations has registered its strong objections to protests organized outside its offices in Colombo today by a Sri Lankan cabinet minister that prevented the world body’s staff and visitors from entering or leaving the premises.

“While respecting the right of citizens to demonstrate peacefully, preventing access to UN offices hinders the vital work being carried out by the United Nations each day to help the people of Sri Lanka,” UN spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters in New York.

“The Government has provided assurances for the safety and security of our staff and for their full access to their offices,” he added. “We will be closely monitoring developments and trust these commitments will be honoured.”

Hundreds of people took part in the protests, which were reportedly led by Housing Minister Wimal Weerawansa and which called for an end to the UN advisory panel set up last month by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Mr. Ban appointed a panel of experts to advise him on accountability issues relating to alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the final stages of the conflict that ended last year between the Government and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The three-member panel – comprising Marzuki Darusman of Indonesia, Yasmin Sooka of South Africa and Steven Ratner of the United States – is expected to wrap up its responsibilities within four months of starting work.