Repression of Dissent

Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka [OCT 2014]




As the deadline for submissions for the UN Human Rights Council appointed investigation into alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law approached, a Tamil person in the North was arrested and several others were searched and compelled to hide, for attempting to cooperate with the UN investigation. The Presidentially appointed Governor of the Northern Province sought “clarification” into why an outspoken Tamil Councilor of the Northern Provincial Council had asked for an extension of the deadline for submissions for the UN investigation. Media reported that the government has launched an investigation into the Tamil National Alliance’s (TNA) alleged “plot to provide unsubstantiated information to UN war crimes investigators” and that emails to the investigation team would be monitored. Well-known human rights defenders were labeled as terrorist sympathizers by a Sinhalese newspaper, accused of sending information to the UN investigation team and supporting the revival of the LTTE. The President of the Vavuniya Citizens Committee in the North was assaulted and had to be hospitalized after he was involved in a protest campaign to free a Tamil woman HRD detained without charges since March 2014.

A group of opposition parliamentarians and two journalists were attacked by a mob when they visited the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) Security Training Institute at Slave Island on a fact-finding mission. There were harassments and obstacles to an event on journalism organized by Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL), with the senior staff, their family members, resource persons and participants receiving threatening phone calls and SMS messages. The Military harassed a monthly Tamil newspaper which stands for the right to self-determination, demanding that the printers alert them before printing the paper. A distributor of the paper was interrogated at a Military camp and later assaulted. A senior Tamil journalist and press freedom activist in Jaffna was also subjected to interrogation. An injunction was issued against a strike by railway employees while Trade Union leaders and protesting fisher folks were attacked physically. A poster was put up discrediting human rights defenders involved in organizing an annual remembrance for disappeared persons and one of their houses was stoned the night before the event. Student activists involved in protests were attacked at least three times in three separate places and incidents, causing injuries to many students. The Minister for Higher Education discredited students again, referring to them as “flies” and 12 students were arrested in relation to the Minister’s visit to a university.

Freedom of movement was curtailed against those who were considered as persons who could pass critical comments against the government. On two separate occasions, a wife and a mother of a Tamil man, who was killed for allegedly being involved in attempting to revive the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), were prevented from going abroad, although they possessed valid visas and had no formal court orders restricting overseas travel. Foreign passport holders were barred from travelling to most parts of the war-ravaged Northern Province without permission of the Ministry of Defense, and a UN official was turned back when going for an event related to the World Food Day.

The Police, Military and the Government were directly implicated in many of the incidents, while other incidents were perpetrated by “unidentified persons / groups” who appeared to have links to the Defense establishment. Based on media reports, the Government and Police have not taken decisive actions to arrest and prosecute those responsible for any of the incidents.


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