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Sri Lanka

    February 24, 2014

    The international community must act on a robust new UN report calling for an international investigation into alleged human rights violations and war crimes in Sri Lanka, Amnesty International said.

    “It’s utterly shameful that five years after Sri Lanka’s armed conflict ended, the victims and family members have yet to see justice. Navi Pillay’s latest report is another urgent and poignant reminder that an international investigation into alleged human rights violations and war crimes cannot wait,” said Polly Truscott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.

    “Sri Lanka has so far done all it can to throw sand in the eyes of the international community and to block attempts to bring genuine accountability for past human rights violations.

    “This report has to be an eye-opener, and we urge the UN Human Rights Council in March to pass a strong resolution establishing international investigation.”

    November 17, 2013

    The international community must keep up pressure on the Sri Lankan government to address its human rights crisis, Amnesty International said as the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo draws to a close.

    Steve Crawshaw, Director of the Office of Amnesty International Secretary General, said from Colombo:

    “Sri Lanka may well regret having hosted the Commonwealth summit which has proved a PR disaster for the government. Most of the focus has rightly been on the country’s appalling human rights record.

    “The challenge for the international community is now to keep up the pressure on the Sri Lankan government. Those responsible for past violations, including war crimes, must be held accountable, and ongoing human rights violations stopped irrespective of rank - victims and survivors must see justice done. The past week has provided clear examples of the government’s repressive tactics”

    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”.

    November 13, 2013

    Commonwealth leaders must use their summit in Colombo this week to pressure the Sri Lankan authorities to end their alarming crackdown on civil society, Amnesty International said.

    Sri Lankan military this morning blocked scores of family members of disappeared people from attending a human rights vigil in Colombo, the latest move to stifle freedom of expression and assembly ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) on 15-17 November.

    “It may be astonishing to some that even on the eve of CHOGM, the Sri Lankan government feels free to abuse rights at the heart of the Commonwealth charter. But such government repression of civil society was expected. Commonwealth leaders must not just turn a blind eye,” said Steve Crawshaw, Director of the Office of the Secretary General who is in Colombo representing Amnesty International around CHOGM.

    “Sri Lanka is trying to use CHOGM to whitewash its despicable human rights record and hide ongoing abuses under the carpet. The government must not be allowed yet again to get away with this.”

    October 17, 2013

    Diplomats from Commonwealth countries meeting in London today must push Sri Lanka to end its continuing crackdown on human rights defenders, Amnesty International said.

    The Commonwealth Committee of the Whole is meeting 17-18 October to prepare for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo in November.

    “Commonwealth countries must agree new measures to address the continuing human rights crisis in Sri Lanka and especially to monitor and condemn any civil society repression around CHOGM,” said Polly Truscott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Program Director.

    “Sri Lanka has a disturbing record of repressing civil society activism. Its officials have intimidated, threatened and even attacked human rights defenders around previous international events. We are extremely worried about the safety of such activists around the summit in Colombo in November.”

    October 10, 2013

    Sri Lanka’s reported decision to ban all protests in its capital Colombo and other locations around a key Commonwealth summit would be a blatant attempt to sweep human rights abuses under the carpet, said Amnesty International.

    According to [delete: a] Sri Lankan news reports, the government today announced that protests, marches and the display of banners and black flags will be banned in the city of Colombo and other locations where delegates are expected to visit during the first three weeks of November. This coincides with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo on 15-17 November.  

    “This sounds like another blatant attempt to stifle civil society activism as Commonwealth heads of state meet. Sadly, it fits very well with the government’s aggressive and heavy handed efforts to silence any dissent over the past years,” said Polly Truscott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.

    September 26, 2013

    Posted at 0001 GMT 27 September, 2013

    Sri Lanka’s disturbing human rights record means it should be barred from hosting a key Commonwealth summit in November or chairing the organization, Amnesty International said ahead of a key meeting of Commonwealth foreign ministers today.

    The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group - made up of foreign ministers and Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma, who gather to address violations of the Commonwealth’s fundamental values, including human rights - is meeting in New York today.

    “Today’s meeting is an opportunity for the Commonwealth to show some real leadership on human rights. The organization has been shamefully silent so far about Sri Lanka’s human rights crisis– including the persistent lack of justice for past crimes and ongoing attacks on human rights defenders and other activists,” said Polly Truscott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia- Pacific Director.

    August 31, 2013

             

    Sri Lankan leaders must address the persistent climate of fear in the country, Amnesty International said as the UN human rights chief Navi Pillay concluded her visit to the island.

    Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, made her first official visit to Sri Lanka from 25-31 August. It comes just before the UN andCommonwealth review the country’s human rights situation in September

    At her concluding press conference today, Pillay stressed that many who met or wanted to meet her during the visit had been threatened by security forces, and that critical voices in Sri Lanka are “quite often attacked or even permanently silenced”.

    “Navi Pillay’s take on the human rights situation during her visit very much echoes our own findings. Being critical of government policy in Sri Lanka is highly risky, and the extent to which people are being harassed into silence is shocking”, said Polly Truscott Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

    August 05, 2013

    The Sri Lankan authorities must not allow the army to investigate itself over allegations of excessive use of force by its members after three protesters demonstrating over access to drinking water were killed over the weekend, Amnesty International said.  

    “The Sri Lankan army should have never been policing unarmed demonstrators in the first place, and having them investigate their own alleged abuses is simply ridiculous,” said Polly Truscott, Deputy Asia Pacific Director at Amnesty International.

    “Sri Lankan authorities must urgently initiate an effective investigation into this tragic incident. The investigation must be independent, impartial and conducted with the professionalism, resources and powers necessary to unearth the truth about this incident. The army cannot be seen to investigate itself. Anything less will send the message that using excessive force against protesters is permitted.”

    Sri Lanka is legally bound by international human rights treaties to respect and protect the right to life, and provide effective remedy when this right is violated.

    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.

    April 30, 2013
    Dissent is a dangerous undertaking in Sri Lanka.

    Following the end of the armed conflict new forms of political and social activism are beginning to emerge but intolerance of criticism is still very much the modus operandi of Sri Lankan government officials. Mounting evidence that violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, in some instances amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity, were committed by parties to Sri Lanka’s protracted armed conflict has fuelled both domestic and international criticism of Sri Lanka’s human rights record and calls for accountability. Sri Lankan officials and those working at their behest assault, jail, abduct and even kill those who challenge their authority; to avoid the legal and political consequences of their war-time actions, they attempt to silence those who could expose the truth.

    April 29, 2013

    Posted at 0001 GMT 30 April 2013

    The Sri Lankan government is intensifying its crackdown on critics through threats, harassment, imprisonment and violent attacks, Amnesty International said in a report released today.

    The document, Assault on Dissent, reveals how the government led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa is promoting an official attitude that equates criticism with “treason” in a bid to tighten its grip on power.

    Journalists, the judiciary, human rights activists and opposition politicians are among those who have been targeted in a disturbing pattern of government-sanctioned abuse, often involving the security forces or their proxies.

    “Violent repression of dissent and the consolidation of political power go hand in hand in Sri Lanka,” said Polly Truscott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

    “Over the past few years we have seen space for criticism decrease. There is a real climate of fear in Sri Lanka, with those brave enough to speak out against the government often having to suffer badly for it.”

    March 21, 2013

    A new UN resolution does a good job of highlighting past and ongoing human rights violations in Sri Lanka, but regrettably fails to establish an independent and international investigation into alleged crimes under international law, Amnesty International said.

    The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva this morning passed a resolution on the need to promote reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka following the country’s armed conflict, which ended in 2009.

    Yolanda Foster, Amnesty International’s Sri Lanka expert, said:

    “This is a positive development. UN Member States have sent a clear signal to the Sri Lankan government that crimes of the past cannot simply be ignored, but need to be investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice.

    “The text also crucially highlights the still very worrying human rights situation in Sri Lanka today, and calls for regular UN reporting on the implementation of the resolution, including of ongoing human rights violations.

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