INFORM’s previous reports on repression of dissent from January to March and April to June this year had 22 and 18 incidents respectively, but the number had almost doubled during these three months to 35.
About half of these have been against Tamil activists in North and East. They include journalists and editors, families of disappeared and those supporting campaigns against disappearances of Tamils and Tamil politicians. The type of repression ranged from physical assaults, interrogation, summoning to police, especially to its Terrorist Investigation Division (TID). The military has also been behind some of the reprisals.
In addition to Tamil journalists and editors, other journalists and editors have also faced questioning, harassments and intimidations, including from politicians and a Trade Union leader.
There were also reports of restricting arts and literature, including books and theatre, and arrests, questioning and intimidation of artists. Many of these were based on allegations that they contain content critical or harmful to the country’s majority religion, Buddhism. Politicians and Buddhist Monks appear to be behind some of these.
Amongst those who faced threats was the Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, Dr. Deepika Udagama. The Catholic Archbishop of Colombo, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, also made public pronouncements criticizing the human rights framework. Both these drew strong condemnation from human rights activists.
Several of the victims were female activists. Amongst them were the Chair of the Human Rights Commission, the wife of disappeared person in the East, an activist supporting families of disappeared in the North, a journalist in the North and an activist who has been working with survivors of torture, in the southern part of Sri Lanka. Four of the above were physical assaults, though on one occasion, there was a narrow escape. One of the most brutal attacks on dissent was on female detainees who were protesting for their rights and basic needs.