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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid