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Sri Lanka

    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.”

    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.”

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