News / Asia

Amnesty Accuses Sri Lanka of Intensifying Repression of Dissent

Journalists, rights activists and opposition lawmakers shout slogans and display placards during a demonstration alleging government suppression of media in Colombo, Sri Lanka, January 29, 2013.
Journalists, rights activists and opposition lawmakers shout slogans and display placards during a demonstration alleging government suppression of media in Colombo, Sri Lanka, January 29, 2013.
Anjana Pasricha
The international human rights group, Amnesty International, has accused the Sri Lankan government of intensifying repression of dissent in institutions such as the media and the judiciary. Amnesty says the sometimes violent crackdown is largely meant to tighten the government’s grip on power and silence criticism of rights violations during the final stages of a war with Tamil Tiger rebels. 

In a new report called Assault on Dissent, Amnesty says critics of the government in Colombo have been subjected to verbal and physical harassment, attacks and in some cases, killings.

It says the abuses are often committed by the security forces or their proxies. The targets: judges known to rule in favor of victims of human rights violations, media outlets that criticize official policies, opposition politicians and human rights activists.

Climate of fear

Steve Crawshaw, special adviser to Amnesty International’s secretary-general, expresses worry about an official attitude that he said equates criticism with treason. He says this is creating a climate of fear.

"What we have now ongoing is enormous pressure on those who dare to speak out about the rule of law, about the truth of what has happened. Those are facing enormous pressure, either removed from their posts, physically disappeared completely or forced to leave the country or in some cases even killed. These are all very worrying signs," said Crawshaw.  

Amnesty cites the impeachment in January of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake, which critics described as “politically motivated.”  A close aide of the president was appointed as the new chief justice. It also says that at least 15 journalists have been killed since 2006 and several others forced to flee the country after writing reports critical of the government.

Crawshaw said a constitutional amendment passed in 2010 has boosted the president’s control over the judiciary, police and election officials. 

"We have seen a very serious consolidation of power over the years. Whether it is in a political context, whether it is in a human rights context, it has become extremely difficult to be heard. I think it will be extremely hard to even use the word democracy in connection with the way the country is run at present," he said.

International scrutiny

The Sri Lankan government is under international scrutiny for the conduct of the final stages of its military campaign against Tamil Tiger rebels, when thousands of civilians died allegedly at the hands of the army and the rebels. The government has staunchly denied allegations of war crimes that include shooting prisoners. That civil conflict ended in 2009. 

The Sri Lankan government did not immediately comment on the Amnesty report, but in the past it has denied similar accusations.

The head of the independent National Peace Council in Colombo, Jehan Perera, said the environment in Sri Lanka has been “restrictive” for several years, but is not worsening. 

"There is intimidation of political opponents and there is a degree of self censorship in the media. It has always been there for a long time, and it does not show any sign of abatement. It is not getting any less, but I would not also say it is getting more," said Perera.

Amnesty has called on Commonwealth nations, whose heads will be meeting in Colombo in November, to pressure the Sri Lankan government to address what it calls an “alarming” human rights situation in the country.

You May Like

Video Iran Nuclear Deal Becomes US Campaign Issue

Voters in three crucial battleground states - Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania - overwhelmingly oppose nuclear deal with Iran More

With IS in Coalition Cross-Hairs, al-Qaida's Syria Affiliate Reemerges

Jabhat al-Nusra has rebounded, increasingly casting itself as a critical player in battle for Syria’s future More

Lessons Learned From Katrina, 10 Years Later

FEMA chief Craig Fugate says key changes include better preparation, improved coordination among state, federal assistance agencies More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs