Anti-Tamil protesters threaten Karen Parker at UN
[TamilNet, Monday, 14 August 2000, 14:34 GMT]
Karen Parker, a human rights lawyer was intimidated and threatened by anti-LTTE demonstrators protesting outside the United Nation in Geneva Friday. Some of the demonstrators had pursued her, screaming insults and confronted her when they caught up, Ms. Parker, who is a well known figure in legal circles interested in Sri Lanka, told TamilNet Monday. She had been rescued by a passing Swiss national, she said, adding that the matter had been reported to the Swiss police and would be filed with the UN's Special Rapporteur on the independence of the judiciary.
Ms. Parker had left the UN building where the organisation's Commission on Human Rights was in session, before the day's scheduled activity had concluded, and she was alone when she walked towards a bus stop to go home, she told TamilNet when contacted Monday regarding reports of the incident.
She had to pass an estimated 100 Sinhala protesters to do this, and as she approached, one protestor shouted out her name and began screaming "there she is, the LTTE lawyer," where upon several others began shouting at her.
"They were saying I was an enemy of the Sinhala people, that I was living off the misery of the Sinhalese," Ms. Parker told TamilNet. "The said human rights lawyers lived off their misery."
The man who shouted out her name was rallying the mob, she said. "I was surprised -they were too far away to see my name tag, I wonder now if my photograph had been given to them by the Sri Lankan government."
"They were shouting that I was a paid lawyer of the LTTE -which is not true, I have not worked for the LTTE," she said.
"As I got further from the UN building and the UN guards, they [protestors] become more agitated and abusive," she said.
Ms. Parker had to cross a street to wait for the bus at the stop, which was deserted, and as she did so, a number of protestors broke away and pursued her, she said. They were led by a Sinhala protester and a white protestor who crossed the street behind her.
As the pair reached her, the white protestor got in front of her first, screaming at her. "He blocked my path and shouted at me. He claimed he was Canadian."
"His face was barely and inch from mine, and he was forcing me backwards," she said. "In the meantime a number of other demonstrators had arrived and were closing around me. I was frightened, thinking I was going to be attacked."
"Fortunately, a Swiss man who happened to come along intervened, forcing his way into the group and confronting the Canadian and forcing him to back away."
"The group moved a little distance away, and I stayed behind the bus stop sign and the Swiss man waited, remaining between the Sinhala protesters and me. The bus arrived shortly and I got on board. I was not able to thank the gentleman who saved me."
"I called the police when I reached downtown and they said they would investigate. I will also be taking up the matter with the UN's Special Rapporteur concerned with the independence of the judiciary and lawyers"
"I am shocked at their [demonstrators'] vehemence," she said. "I believe in free speech. By their intimidation, they are interfering with my practice as a human rights lawyer."