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Sri Lanka: Alarming crackdown on activists continues

26 February 2014

Sri Lanka: Alarming crackdown on activists continues ahead of UN human rights session

Three months after the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) took place in Colombo a new report on further human rights abuse in Sri Lanka leaves no room for New Zealand to stay silent, Amnesty International said.

Suppressing calls for justice exposes the Sri Lankan government’s persistent and alarming crackdown on critics, with more surveillance and harassment reported ahead of next month’s United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) session.

“With the HRC session around the corner providing an opportunity for an independent investigation into alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka, New Zealand needs to step up, speak out and take the side of the international community and human rights in supporting a strong resolution,” said Grant Bayldon, Executive Director at Amnesty International.

“Three months ago Sri Lanka’s appalling human rights record was on the world stage at CHOGM. Not only have we not seen any progress since then, but the crackdown on dissent continues.”

“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.”

“UN member states, including New Zealand, can and must use the HRC to establish an independent international investigation that is long overdue. They must make sure that those responsible for ongoing and past abuses, including war crimes, are held accountable - victims and survivors must see justice done.”

Amnesty International’s calls are echoed by a robust new UN report which also calls for an international investigation into alleged human rights violations and war crimes in Sri Lanka.

“It’s utterly shameful that five years after Sri Lanka’s armed conflict ended, the victims and family members have yet to see justice,” said Bayldon.

Amnesty International has continued to receive credible reports of activists facing surveillance and harassment and the new briefing examines the Sri Lankan authorities’ attacks on critics over the past six months, either directly or through security forces, 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 Bayldon.

Activists demanding an end to enforced disappearances by security forces have received threatening phone calls and visits, and on several occasions police stood idly by as mobs attacked peaceful protests for accountability.

“The climate of fear is very real in Sri Lanka. Many people are too afraid to speak out. But Sri Lanka also has some very brave activists, who continue to be vocal despite facing retaliation,” said Bayldon.

The briefing also documents how Sri Lanka’s political leadership have launched threats and smear campaigns against human rights defenders, minority opposition politicians, and international visitors who advocate human rights.

“These new examples of human rights abuse in Sri Lanka are simply another urgent and poignant reminder that justice in Sri Lanka cannot wait and highlights the important role that countries such as New Zealand must play in ensuring that happens,” added Bayldon.

“The HRC session is one more opportunity for New Zealand to prove that it can and will take a principled stand on international human rights issues.”

ENDS

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