London, Oct. 17 (Reuters): Britain’s decision to set aside worries about Sri Lanka’s human rights record and back its selection as host of a Commonwealth leaders’ meeting showed a lack of principle, a panel of lawmakers said today.
The Sri Lankan government has faced condemnation of its rights record, in particular for its final campaign against separatist ethnic Tamil rebels, an offensive the United Nations said killed tens of thousands of civilians in 2009.
In a critical report, the British parliament’s foreign affairs committee said the government had opposed Sri Lankan attempts to host the meeting in 2011 on human rights grounds, only to support its 2013 bid without seeing evidence of change.
“That approach now appears timid,” it said. “The UK could and should have taken a more principled stand.... in the light of the continuing serious human rights abuses in Sri Lanka.”
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said he will not attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. Britain’s David Cameron will go and has promised to raise the issue of human rights.
In a statement, the British foreign office rejected the label of “timid and inconsistent”, saying it shared the lawmakers’ wish to see substantial and sustainable improvements in human rights in Sri Lanka.