Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Monday he will boycott a summit of Commonwealth nations next month, citing serious rights abuses that he says remain unaddressed by host nation Sri Lanka.
"Canada is deeply concerned about the situation in Sri Lanka," Harper said in a statement formally announcing his decision to send a lower-ranking official to represent Ottawa at the November 15-17 summit of nations with ties to the former British Empire.
In Sri Lanka, Harper said, "the absence of accountability for the serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian standards during and after the civil war is unacceptable."
Harper said Ottawa will be represented at the November 15-17 summit by Deepak Obhrai, Canada's parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs and for international human rights.
"Canada believes that if the Commonwealth is to remain relevant it must stand in defense of the basic principles of freedom, democracy, and respect for human dignity, which are the very foundation upon which the Commonwealth was built," he added.
Human Rights Watch last month called for members of the 54-nation Commonwealth bloc to shun the gathering because it says Colombo has failed to hold anyone in the military accountable for war crimes during Sri Lanka's decades-long fight against Tamil separatists.
Harper cited Ottawa's concern over the impeachment of Sri Lanka's chief justice earlier this year, and said his government also is "disturbed" over alleged "intimidation and incarceration of political leaders and journalists, harassment of minorities, reported disappearances, and allegations of extra judicial killings."
The Canadian leader said his government had hoped that Colombo would use its platform as Commonwealth host nation this year "to improve human rights conditions and take steps towards reconciliation and accountability.
"Unfortunately, this has not been the case," Harper said.
The prime minister vowed to work with through international channels to draw attention to the situation in Sri Lanka.
The government of Gambia announced last week that it was pulling out of the Commonwealth, saying it would "never be a member of any neo-colonial institution."
Australia's new Prime Minister Tony Abbott declared that his country will not heed the call to boycott the gathering, vowing on Monday to "do my best to make a constructive contribution" at the meeting.