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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

Ali Regained Title in Historic Fight 40 Years Ago

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid