Friday, May 8, 2009

HR Watch official black listed - Well Done ---- Proud to be a Sri Lankan

A top Human Rights Watch official has been ‘black listed’ in Sri Lanka after she allegedly used forged documents to visit the country in February this year.

Anna Neistat, the Senior Emergencies Researcher at Human Rights Watch, had allegedly infiltrated the camps of internally displaced people (IDP) in Vavuniya in February, and interviewed the refugees who had fled the fighting in the north, without obtaining the necessary clearance to carry out such research in the country.

“She has violated Sri Lanka’s immigration and emigration laws, so we have decided not allow her to enter Sri Lanka,” Immigration and Emigration controller P.B.Abeykoon told Daily Mirror yesterday.

He said that she had come to Sri Lanka on a tourist visa and visited Vavuniya: “In her passport she has given forged details. Her name in the passport was also wrong,” said Mr. Abeykoon.

Earlier, the government had launched a probe into to how Ms. Neistat had managed to visit Vavuniya and interview the displaced people without obtaining the necessary clearance.

On her return Ms. Neistat had told the US Senate, during a hearing on Sri Lanka, and later said in a statement to the press, that she had visited Sri Lanka and carried out research on the plight of the displaced people from the Wanni.

This is not the first time that the government has accused the HRW of violating local immigration laws. In 2007, a team from HRW came to Sri Lanka as tourists and carried out similar research -- and also held a press conference before departing.

When contacted in March by Daily Mirror, Ms. Neistat had confirmed that she had visited Vavuniya and interviewed people there: “I was in the hospital and at the camp sites, but not inside the camps. But I did interview IDPs who were outside the camps as well as people who work in the camps,” she told Daily Mirror.

However, when asked at the time if clearance had been given to the HRW to carry out such research in Sri Lanka, Human Rights and Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Samarasingha and the Foreign Ministry said no such clearance had been issued and thata probe into the matter had been launched.

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