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Sri Lanka

    May 18, 2017

    On the eighth anniversary of the end of Sri Lanka’s decades-long conflict, Amnesty International calls on the government to repeal the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and ensure that any legislation it introduces to replace it meets international standards.

    The failure to repeal the notorious law is one of several commitments that the to victims of the conflict, and enact reforms that would prevent further human rights violations.

    “The PTA is a highly repressive law that contributed to many of the human rights violations that took place during and following Sri Lanka’s conflict. Despite being in power for two years, the current government has failed on its promise to repeal the law,” said Biraj Patnaik, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director.

    “What’s worse, it’s considering adopting a new Counter Terrorism Act that would continue to give the police very broad powers to arrest and detain suspects without charge and place them in administrative detention.”

    December 08, 2016

    The Sri Lankan authorities must take decisive action to stop torture and other ill-treatment, investigate complaints, and hold perpetrators accountable, Amnesty International said today following the publication of the concluding observations by the UN Committee against Torture on Sri Lanka.

    “If the Sri Lankan authorities are serious about breaking with the harrowing legacy of the country’s decades-long conflict, it must end impunity for torture and other acts of ill-treatment,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director.

    “Sri Lanka has taken important and positive steps. However, we also share the UN Committee against Torture’s alarm over Sri Lanka’s failure to prevent these crimes by the security forces and their concern that torture and other ill-treatment continue to take place. Impunity persists for perpetrators, as well as for those who have committed enforced disappearances, and deaths in custody and the use of coerced confessions continue to be reported.”

    Lingering shadow of the conflict

    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.

    October 01, 2015

    A crucial resolution adopted at the UN Human Rights Council today offers the victims of Sri Lanka’s armed conflict the prospect of finally getting the truth and justice they deserve, Amnesty International said.

    The resolution was adopted without a vote today at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, following the publication earlier this month of a UN report into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights by all sides during Sri Lanka’s armed conflict.  

    “The adoption of this resolution is a turning point for human rights in Sri Lanka, and crucially recognizes terrible crimes committed by both parties during the armed conflict. Although far from perfect, if the resolution and the underlying commitments of Sri Lanka’s government are implemented in good faith it presents an opportunity for victims to finally get the truth and justice they have been waiting for,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s South Asia Research Director.

    February 16, 2015

    The decision by the UN Human Rights Council to delay, until September, the release of a key report into widespread human rights violations during the conflict in Sri Lanka must not allow the perpetrators of horrific crimes during the country’s armed conflict to escape punishment, said Amnesty International.

    “Sri Lankan victims of human rights violations deserve truth and justice. Survivors of torture, including sexual abuse, people whose family members were killed or forcibly disappeared have waited a long time for this report,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific Director.

    “A delay is only justifiable if more time will lead to a stronger document and to a concrete commitment by the new Sri Lankan authorities to actively pursue accountability. This includes by co-operating with the UN to investigate conflict-era abuses and bring perpetrators to justice.”

    The Human Rights Council must also be vigilant and ensure that all those coming forward to give testimony are protected from any potential threats from those who do not want justice to prevail.

    January 09, 2015

    Sri Lanka’s new government must urgently address a legacy of pressing human rights issues left by the previous administration, Amnesty International said.

    Outgoing President Mahinda Rajapaksa today conceded defeat to the joint opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena, who won the presidential poll with 51.3 per cent of the vote according to the official results.

    “Although the campaign was marked by intimidation and attacks primarily against opposition campaigners, it was heartening to see the election day passed largely without violence. This is to the credit of the thousands of courageous election observers who ensured that all Sri Lankans were able to enjoy their right to political participation without fear,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

    “The new government now has an opportunity to usher in a new era of genuine respect for human rights – it is one that must not be missed.”

    In a human rights agenda aimed at the presidential candidates, Amnesty International highlighted seven key issues the new administration must make a priority.

    January 07, 2015

    Sri Lankan authorities must hold to account those who threatened three prominent activists with death today and ensure that tomorrow’s presidential elections passes without further violence, Amnesty International said.

    Opposition campaigners Brito Fernando, Phillip Dissanayake and Prasanga Fernando – who are all well-known human rights defenders active with families of the “disappeared” – today received phone calls from unknown people who threatened them with death. Prasanga Fernando was told the three should “make your funeral arrangements at your homes”.

    “These death threats against activists who have been peacefully defending human rights are utterly deplorable. The Sri Lankan authorities must do their utmost to find and hold to account those responsible, and send a clear signal that threats and violence around the elections will not be tolerated,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

    January 06, 2015

    Amidst a surge in election-related harassment and violence ahead of the 8 January presidential poll, Sri Lankan authorities must ensure that people’s right to political participation is respected, Amnesty International said.

    “The growing harassment and violence against those campaigning in the coming elections is deeply troubling – the authorities have a responsibility to ensure that all people in Sri Lanka can exercise their rights to political participation and freedom of expression without facing threats or violence, and that on election day they can vote without fear,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

    “Reports of a potential organized plan to obstruct voters on election day – allegedly orchestrated by the government through the military – is also a matter of grave concern.”

    October 06, 2014

    Posted at 0001 BST  7 October 2014

    Sri Lanka must stop making empty promises to the international community and the Sri Lankan people on improving the country’s still desperate human rights situation, Amnesty International said ahead of a UN review of the country’s rights record.

    The UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) in Geneva, Switzerland, will on 7 and 8 October 2014 be reviewing Sri Lanka’s respect for rights enshrined in the key human rights treaty: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). This is the first such assessment since 2003.

    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.

    June 17, 2014

    Sri Lankan authorities must act immediately to end anti-Muslim violence in the country, and to rein in groups that violently target religious minorities, Amnesty International said.

    At least four people have been reported killed and scores injured in the southern coastal towns of Aluthgama and Beruwala since an anti-Muslim riot broke out following a rally organized by the hard-line Buddhist group Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) on Sunday. Violent incidents have also been reported in other towns since Sunday.

    “This is the worst outbreak of communal violence in Sri Lanka in years and there is a real risk of it spreading further. The government must do everything in its power to end it immediately, while respecting the human rights of all concerned. Those responsible for killings and other acts of violence must be held to account, and at-risk Muslim communities given the protection they need,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

    March 27, 2014

    The Sri Lankan government must end a nationwide crackdown on dissent and cooperate with UN investigators, Amnesty International said today after the UN Human Rights Council established an inquiry into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the country.

    “The UN inquiry brings new hope for the thousands of victims of abuses in Sri Lanka,” said David Griffiths, Asia-Pacific Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

    “The Sri Lankan government has twice ignored calls by the UN Human Rights Council to conduct an independent and credible investigation into allegations of violations during the country’s horrific civil conflict. Now they have a fresh opportunity to restore some international credibility by cooperating with the investigation.”

    On Thursday morning, the UN Human Rights Council voted to task the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to investigate allegations of abuses and crimes committed by all sides of the brutal conflict that saw tens of thousands killed and wounded.

    March 19, 2014

    The Sri Lankan government’s ongoing dirty tactics to silence and smear dissidents are a brazen attempt to deflect criticism as the country faces fresh scrutiny at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Amnesty International said today.

    The Council is due to vote next week on a resolution calling for an international investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sri Lanka during the protracted and bloody internal armed conflict with the LTTE (Tamil Tigers). Since the end of the conflict in May 2009, the government under President Mahinda Rajapaksa has pursued a crackdown on its critics.

    “Sri Lanka must put an end to the campaign of intimidation and dirty tactics against outspoken human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and families of the disappeared,” said Peter Splinter, Amnesty International Representative to the United Nations in Geneva.

    March 18, 2014

    The arbitrary arrest and detention of prominent human rights defenders is an attempt to silence criticism and divert the spotlight from ongoing abuses, leading global and Asian human rights monitors said today in a joint statement.

    The statement was issued by Amnesty International, Forum Asia, Human Rights Watch, the International Crisis Group, and the International Commission of Jurists.

    Arbitrary arrest and detention

    Ruki Fernando of the Colombo-based INFORM and Father Praveen Mahesan, a Catholic priest, were arrested in Kilinochchi on March 16, and are believed to be detained without formal charges under Sri Lanka’s notoriously draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

    “The Sri Lankan authorities need to release Fernando and Father Praveen, and end the ongoing state harassment of human rights defenders,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Asia Pacific.

    “How can the international community take Sri Lanka’s claims to respect rights seriously when rights defenders continue to face intimidation and criminal charges for demanding accountability and human rights protection?”

    February 25, 2014

    Posted at 0001 GMT  26 February 2014

    The Sri Lankan government’s targeting of critics persists at alarming levels, with more surveillance and harassment reported ahead of next month’s UN Human Rights Council (HRC) session, Amnesty International said in a new briefing today.

    Suppressing calls for justice, examines the Sri Lankan authorities’ intolerance of dissent and its attacks on critics over the past six months, either directly or through proxies that range from security forces to supporters of Buddhist-nationalist groups and even immigration officials.

    “The pattern of harassment, surveillance and attacks against those opposing the Sri Lankan authorities is deeply disturbing and shows no sign of letting up,” said Polly Truscott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia- Pacific Director.

    “Repression usually intensifies whenever Sri Lanka’s human rights situation is in focus internationally, something we are already seeing ahead of the UN Human Rights Council next month.”

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