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Sri Lanka

    May 14, 2019

    Responding to the killing of at least one individual and the spate of attacks against Muslim-owned businesses, mosques and houses in several parts of Sri Lanka, Amnesty International’s South Asia Researcher, Thyagi Ruwanpathirana said:

    “The Sri Lankan authorities must protect the country’s Muslim minority as it is being targeted by mobs in horrific attacks on their homes, mosques and businesses in the wake of the Easter Sunday massacre. The authorities must take steps to promote unity in diversity against the forces of hatred, those promoting fear and violence, and pitting communities against each other.

    “The authorities must put the protection of human rights at the heart of its response and prevent further violence, including holding the suspected perpetrators of earlier attacks accountable. In particular, prosecutions must also meet international fair trial standards.

    “It is alarming to see reports that those suspected to be involved in the March 2018 anti-Muslim violence may have been involved in these recent attacks as well.

    April 26, 2019

    The Sri Lankan government should ensure that all communities are protected and that there is accountability for the heartrending crimes that resulted in more than 250 people being killed on Easter Sunday, Amnesty International said today.

    The human rights organization also called for leaders in Sri Lanka and across the world to demonstrate their solidarity with the victims and show unity against the forces of hatred behind this tragedy.

    “Our thoughts are first and foremost with the victims of last Sunday’s horrific attacks, many of whom were targeted because of their Christian faith while they were praying in church on one of their holiest days. They have been forced to lower loved ones into early graves, including children as young as a few months old,” said Biraj Patnaik, South Asia Director at Amnesty International.

    This tragedy comes just weeks after attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand saw 50 Muslims killed at Friday prayers.

    April 22, 2019

    The shocking Sunday morning bombing attacks targeting churches and hotels in three cities in Sri Lanka resulting in more than 290 deaths and leaving more than 500 people injured, is yet another grim wake-up to the intolerance and hatred surging through societies across the world, Amnesty International said today.

    “Amnesty International stands in complete solidarity with Sri Lanka in its time of grief and we extend our deepest sympathy to the victims, to their family, friends and communities. Our hearts go out to all the people of Sri Lanka and we call on the authorities to ensure truth and justice prevail to defeat this senseless violence. These horrific attacks are yet another reminder that all of us needs to take a unified stand against hatred,” said Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

    April 11, 2019
    DOWNLOAD PDF OF UA 45/19 HERE

    After 43 years without using the death penalty, President Maithripala Sirisena is reportedly planning to resume executions of prisoners on death row. There is complete secrecy around the identities of the prisoners who are expected to be executed imminently. No information about their case histories has been shared. It is unknown whether the individuals had fair trials, access to lawyers or whether they were able to engage in a meaningful clemency process. The last execution in Sri Lanka was in 1976. 2019 cannot be the year that we see this this progress reversed.

    Please send an urgent message to the president, making some of the points below.

    March 08, 2019

    Responding to the publication of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ report on ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka’, Amnesty International’s South Asia Researcher, Thyagi Ruwanpathirana, said:

    “The report importantly stresses the need to press ahead with truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan government should implement the report’s recommendations in full, in line with the commitments already made in the UN Human Rights Council resolution 30/1. As the High Commissioner has noted, slow progress on these commitments has resulted in few concrete results.

    “Amnesty International also calls on the UN Human Rights Council to welcome the High Commissioner’s report and keep the situation in Sri Lanka on its agenda. The council should also reaffirm its support for Resolution 30/1, ensure the Office of the High Commissioner continues to monitor progress on commitments, and urge the Sri Lankan government to meet those commitments in a time-bound manner.”

     

    February 26, 2019

    Sri Lanka’s President, Maithripala Sirisena, should halt his plans to resume executions after more than four decades to execute at least 13 people for drug-related crimes, Amnesty International said today.

    In an open letter published today, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, Kumi Naidoo, urges President Sirisena to fulfil Sri Lanka’s international commitments, respect the right to life, and shun executions that have been proven to have a unique  deterrent effect on crime.

    “Executions, Mr. President, are not a show of strength but an admission of weakness,” Kumi Naidoo writes in the open letter. “They represent the failure to create a society where the protection of the right to life triumphs over the temptations of vengeance.”

    “For those of us who believe that human life must hold the highest value, taking it away is the lowliest act. We understand this clearly when a person commits murder, but we choose to forget it when the state puts someone to death, inflicting the same pain and loss on others who bear no responsibility for the crime.”

    January 25, 2019

    Time is running out for the Sri Lankan authorities to deliver on its 2015 commitments to truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence, Amnesty International warned today in a new briefing.

    As the tenth anniversary of the end of Sri Lanka’s internal conflict looms in May, progress on UN Human Rights Council Resolution 30/1 has proceeded at a glacial pace, the hopes of the victims of crimes under international law and human rights violations and abuses during the conflict have been reduced to a flicker.

    “Where we have seen welcome and notable progress, it has been frustratingly slow. Meanwhile other commitments have seen no progress at all, especially when it comes to accountability. With the ten-year anniversary of the end of the conflict fast approaching, how much longer must the victims wait for the justice, truth and reparation they deserve?” said Dinushika Dissanayake, South Asia Research Director at Amnesty International.

    June 26, 2018

    The Sri Lankan authorities must urgently take action against those threatening human rights defender Sandhya Eknaligoda, Amnesty International said today.

    Over recent days, Sandhya Eknaligoda, a distinguished campaigner against enforced disappearances and the wife of disappeared cartoonist Prageeth Ekneligoda, has been subject to a barrage of hate, abuse, intimidation, harassment and death threats on social media.

    “The threats against Sandhya Eknaligoda are extremely worrying. The Sri Lankan authorities must urgently and effectively take appropriate action against those who seek to cause her harm,” said Dinushika Dissanayake, Deputy South Asia Director at Amnesty International.

    The threats against Sandhya Eknaligoda have escalated ever since the Homagama Magistrate’s Court convicted prominent Buddhist nationalist monk, Galagodatte Gnanasara Thero, on 24 May 2018 for threatening her outside the court building in 2016.

    Galagodatte Gnanasara Thero is appealing against the conviction.

    March 07, 2018

    The Sri Lankan authorities must respect human rights under the state of emergency, Amnesty International said today.

    A state of emergency has been declared after two incidents of serious violence against members of the country’s Muslim minority. On 5 March, a mob set homes, shops and a mosque ablaze in the Digana area of Kandy, in central Sri Lanka. The incident came just days after a similar attack in the eastern coastal district of Ampara, on 26 February.

    “It is important that the authorities take action against mobs who have incited hatred and carried out acts of violence against religious minorities. They have a duty to protect vulnerable groups and hold the perpetrators accountable. But a state of emergency must not become a pretext for further human rights abuses,” said Biraj Patnaik, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director.

    The declaration of the state of emergency comes amid fears that violence against members of the Muslim minority may spread to different parts of the country. Under emergency powers, the authorities have sweeping powers, including to search, arrest, and detain. A state of emergency was previously in force from 1971 to 2011.

    February 22, 2018
    Amnesty International publishes State of the World’s Human Rights report for 2017 to 2018 “Last year our world was immersed in crises, with prominent leaders offering us a nightmarish vision of a society blinded by hatred and fear. This emboldened those who promote bigotry, but it inspired far more people to campaign for a more hopeful future,” says Salil Shetty, head of Amnesty International

    The world is reaping the terrifying consequences of hate-filled rhetoric that threatens to normalize massive discrimination against marginalized groups, Amnesty International warned today as it launched its annual assessment of human rights.

    Nevertheless, the organization found that a growing movement of both first-time and seasoned activists campaigning for social justice provides real hope of reversing the slide towards oppression.

    The report, The State of the World’s Human Rights, covers 159 countries and delivers the most comprehensive analysis of the state of human rights in the world today.

    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.

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