Six international human rights advocating bodies have written to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to Geneva Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha calling upon the Council to condemn the systematic reprisals faced by Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) in Sri Lanka.
Amnesty International, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation, International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), International Movement Against Discrimination and All Form of Racism (IMADR) and the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) in a joint statement have also called upon the UNHTC to remind Sri Lanka of its obligation to ensure that all persons can exercise their right to free and unhindered access to UN human rights mechanisms.
They have also urged the member and observer states of the UNHRC to be resolute in addressing the continued harassment and intimidated of HRDs from Sri Lanka who engage with the UNHRC system through every step necessary including mobilization of their diplomatic representatives in Sri Lanka.
While expressing their deep concern over the ongoing attacks against HRDs and others who seek to engage with the UNHRC, the organizations have pointed out that these cases will only intensify in the lead up to the 27th and 28th sessions of the UNHRC.
In accordance to the obligations specified under International Humanitarian Law, the HR advocacy organizations have also called upon the UNHRC to publicly condemn all acts of threats and reprisals against Sri Lankan HRDs, as they have recalled the most recent of such incidents – the disruption of a meeting held at the Center for Society and Religion for families of the disappeared by the mob of extremist monks and Rajapaksa supporters and Police inaction over the incident.
The letter has also referred to an article that had been published in the Sinhala mainstream newspaper Divaina, where local civil society actors had been accused of ‘conducting an operation to betray the country’ while labeling organizers of such events as ‘traitors’ for engaging with UN human rights mechanisms. Furthermore in the article, it had been noted that such individuals should be shot and thrown into forests to be fed on by foxes but had added that since Sri Lankans are not of such a tribal mentality, the pedigree of such individuals from their birth should be exposed instead.
“This concern is heightened by the fact that the article specifically names certain defenders: Ruki Fernando, Nimalka Fernando, Brito Fernando, JC Weliamuna and Father Sathayavail,” the letter states further.
Furthermore in the letter, the organizations have noted that Sri Lanka as a state party to the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is obliged to protect HRDs and other individuals from harassments and other attacks not just by government officials but also non-state actors.