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Call for Australian boycott of Sri Lanka summit

November 11, 2013

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — An Australian senator has called on her government to boycott a summit of British Commonwealth leaders in Sri Lanka this week after she and a New Zealand lawmaker were detained by authorities there.

Lee Rhiannon said she and Jan Logie had been preparing to hold a press conference on human rights issues at a Colombo hotel on Sunday morning when immigration officials seized their passports and took them to their hotels for three hours of questioning.

Rhiannon flew out of Colombo late Sunday and was due to arrive in Sydney on Monday morning. The APNZ news service reported that Logie said she was “safe” after her detention, but did not report her movements.

Rhiannon told Australian Broadcasting Corp. before leaving Colombo that Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott should complain about her treatment and boycott the summit. Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to the incident Monday.

The decision to hold the summit in Colombo has come under severe criticism from some countries and human rights groups, who blame Sri Lanka for failing to address abuses that occurred during the country’s quarter-century civil war, which ended in 2009.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has told Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa that he won’t be attending the Nov. 15-17 meeting because of Sri Lanka’s human rights record. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is also boycotting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, known as CHOGM. There are 54 members of the Commonwealth, a loose association of mostly former British colonies.

“CHOGM should not have been held here, and CHOGM should not reward the Rajapaksa regime by allowing it to be chair of this Commonwealth organization for two years,” Rhiannon told ABC in an interview broadcast Monday.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed in a statement that Rhiannon had been questioned at her hotel by Sri Lankan immigration authorities. The department said she had not requested consular assistance.

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