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Sri Lanka

    October 08, 2015

    Amnesty International recently launched “Silenced Shadows”, a poetry competition on disappearances in Sri Lanka. Poet R Cheran, one of our competition judges, explains how literature can be a force for change.

    More than 80,000 people disappeared in Sri Lanka. Many people there, including me, have relatives or friends who have disappeared in the past 30 years during the war. It is still an open wound. When a friend or relative is killed, painful as that is, at least you know their fate and you can have some closure. But if someone you love disappears, it is more cruel. You will be like a small bird trapped in a dark cage, searching for a corner where none exists. This pain is unbearable.

    The major issue in Sri Lanka is the state’s brutality over the past 30 years. It is not just an ethnic chauvinist state, but one that is very willing to kill thousands of people or "disappear" them without hesitation. The state is the source of human rights violations. And when it comes to literature and fine arts, like many states in the world, it is illiterate.

    June 19, 2014
    Maran and Gloria stand up for refugee rights
    By Gloria Nafziger, Refugee, Migrants and Country Campaigner

    Maran was a journalist and owned his own media company in a country riddled with conflict. Believing that the media was a tool that he could use, he wanted to tell the story of his people to the world.  Telling these stories was a way to protect his people and bring peace to his country.  He faced horrible obstacles.  His land became a place of massacre.  At a certain point, he became helpless and lost the power to speak the truth and fight for freedom.  He had few choices - die, surrender to the Government and become a journalist of propaganda, or flee.  After his family was threatened because of his work, Maran fled.

    Leaving his family, he paid a smuggler who promised to take him to a country where he would be safe. He had no choice about the country, only a small hope that he would eventually be safe.

    November 15, 2013
    Commonwealth leaders are gathering in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo as human rights violations continue apace

    By Steve Crawshaw, Director of Amnesty International’s Office of the Secretary General, who is currently in Colombo

    Everybody in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, knows all about “CHOGM” – pronounced “choggum”. They speak with enthusiasm, resignation or indignation about the fact that the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting is taking place here. The streets are garlanded with banners welcoming CHOGM delegates, and the face of the President, Mahinda Rajapaksa.

    Inside the tranquil tropical gardens of the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall, journalists and delegates scurry back and forth from venue to venue. A clutch of events have been taking place all week ahead of the main summit that opens today (15 November), with Prince Charles representing the Queen as Head of the Commonwealth.

    For Rajapaksa and his government, it is obviously a privilege to be hosting CHOGM – a surprising choice, by any measure, given the country’s dismal human rights track record, including alleged war crimes and disappearances, and what a UN report described as “a grave assault on the entire regime of international law”.

    June 26, 2013

    By John Argue, Amnesty International Canada's Coordinator for Sri Lanka

    In November 2013, the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) is set to take place in Colombo, Sri Lanka.  Commonwealth countries share a commitment to basic values such as democracy, freedom, respect of human rights, and rule of law.

    Today, June 26, is recognized in and also beyond the Commonwealth as the international day for survivors of torture.  Yet in Sri Lanka, survivors of torture are still vulnerable to human rights violations, and to traumatic feelings of sheer injustice because authorities who committed torture have not even being charged with committing a crime or a human rights violation.

    Thevan (not his real name) is one person who has flashbacks of the impossible days he spent being tortured in a police cell in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo.  Thevan and a friend were both abducted 5 years ago in November, 2008, by men who drove a white van, and taken to a detention centre where they were beaten and tortured for three days.  Far worse, Thevan was ill-treated continually until he was finally released in 2011.