Repression of Dissent

Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka [July-December 2019]


Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka

Before and after Elections

Download full Report here: English

I. Executive Summary

i. Context

When the tensions created by Easter Sunday bombings in April 2019 were slowly being reduced, the emergency regulations were also partially lifted. Then elections were formally announced on 18th September, making Presidential election becoming the major focus of public discourse during this entire period.  Since the Easter Sunday Bomb attacks in Sri Lanka, there was an increased discussion on national security, and fear of terrorism which became the key topic in many political debates during this period.

There were two major candidates among 35 total number candidates contested in this election: Gotabaya Rajapaksa who represented Podujana Party (SLPP) and Sajith Premadasa who represented United National Party (UNP). Sajith Premadasa was the son of late President Ranasinghe Premadasa who was assassinated by the LTTE in 1993. Gotabaya Rajapaksa was the former Defence Secretary and the brother of former President Mahinda Rajapakse, who has been accused of crimes against humanity during the war, who also received lot of popularity among Sinhalese for ending the war. Presidential Election was held on 16th November; Candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa won the election and sworn as the 7th Executive President of Sri Lanka on 18th November 2019.  In his sworn in ceremony speech, President Gotabaya Rajapakse noted that most of the support he received was from the Sinhala Buddhist majority, though he would like invite (ethnic) minorities to join with him.

Previously, when a journalist asked candidate Rajapakse (who later elected as the President) about alleged disappearances of LTTE cadres who surrendered to the Sri Lankan government forces, he refused such claims, and also told that he cannot recognize what UN have signed with past governments on accountability indirectly referring to UN Human Rights council resolution 30/1 on Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka. After he being appointed as the President, controversial appointments of Retired Major General Kamal Gunaratne and Priyanka Fernando steered debate on accountability and impunity[1].

Under the election law in Sri Lanka, one must be a Sri Lankan national either to become a voter or to be appointed as public representative in Sri Lanka. US citizenship of the candidate Gotabaya Rajapakse which he claimed to have renounced became a hot topic of public discussion.  In September, a writ petition was filed by two civil society activists Gamini Viyangoda and Prof. Chandraguptha Thenuwara in the Court of Appeal[2] seeking an Interim Order restraining candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa from holding out or claiming that he is a citizen of Sri Lanka and from acting on the basis of the purported Dual Citizenship certificate[3]. This petition was dismissed by the Court of Appeal, and after the victory of Gotabaya Rajapakse two activists received death threats and were subjected to online hate speech.

Two UN special rapporteurs also visited Sri Lanka before the elections. United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion, or belief visited Sri Lanka in August 2019[4], while United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association also visited Sri Lanka in July[5]

ii. Summary of the incidents in this Report

The emergency regulations were extended each month since the Easter Sunday bomb attacks in April, 2019 up to 22nd August. These emergency regulations restricted freedom of assembly, association, and many other rights and freedoms. Though these regulations were lifted on 22nd August, a new gazette notification was issued “calling out the members of the Armed Forces for the maintenance of public order” giving the military special powers. Newly appointed President Rajapakse also continued extending this order[6]

Earlier, president Maithreepala Sirisena made public statements at least at two events saying that those stood against the implementation of death penalty as those who aid drug dealers.  Meanwhile several persons accused of crimes related to the last phase of war were appointed to the key positions in the military both before and after Presidential election. NGO Secretariat which was previously under the Ministry of National Integration, Reconciliation and Official Languages was placed under the Ministry of Defence after the elections. This change has coincided with increased surveillance on NGOs and families of disappeared .

Repression of journalists and media workers was a major pattern observed in this period both before and after elections.  24 incidents relating to restrictions, threats, assaults and interrogation of journalists and media workers were reported. While 15 incidents reported before the Presidential election, 9 incidents were reported after the election.  

The former President took over the state television Sri Lanka Rupavahni Corporation (SLRC) under the purview of Defense Ministry immediately before announcing the Presidential elections. A female journalist was arbitrarily arrested, assaulted by the Police and was released without any charges. Her home was stoned by mobs few days later. A minister threatened a journalist after he exposed alleged corruption in a development project. Another journalist was threatened with death by few local politicians inside the local council premises, after he reported about a clash between two local politicians. A journalist who exposed an illegal toddy trade was assaulted by a group of persons linked toddy businessmen and local politicians. Two media institutions and few journalists who supported defeated candidate were searched, and interrogated. In total, there were 8 incidents of journalists facing physical attacks, and 6 journalists, being interrogated by the Police, while one newspaper distributor was arrested.

Category of incidents Pre-Election Post-Election Sub Total
visits to offices 0 2 2
Questioning 3 2 5
verbal threats 2 0 2
physical attacks 3 5 8
Institutional/legal/policy changes 1 0 1
Social media account blocks 4 0 4
arrests 1 0 1
Other incidents 1 0 1
Total 15 9 24

Table 1: Repression faced by journalists

Table 1 provides a breakdown of 24 incidents of repression against journalists before and after election. Out of the total 8 cases of physical attacks to journalists, 5 were reported during the post-election period. Also number of incidents per a day against journalists and media workers increased from 0.11 during pre-election, up to 0.20 incidents in the post-election period. 

The pattern of alleged threats by Buddhist monks against those who dissent was evident before the election. The controversial Buddhist monk Galabodaththe Gnanasara who received presidential pardon in May, 2019 along with group of other Buddhist monks allegedly violated a court order, assaulted a lawyer and 2 others, and threatened the protesters in Mullaitivu. In another incident, Buddhist monks made complaints to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) against a minister who talked about alleged child sexual abuse in temples, and the minister was forced to seek pardon from the high priest of the order in Kandy. In another incident, a scientist who named 6 newly discovered geckoes after national heroes was criticized by an ultra-nationalist politician, and immediately a group of Buddhist monks complained to the IGP demanding legal action against the scientist for insulting the national heroes. In both of the last incidents they were also subjected to online hate speech campaigns. In the post-election period, a Buddhist monk linked to an extremist organization intimidated and threatened an interpretator of a foreign journalist with arrest for having different political views. In another incident, an extremist Buddhist monk in Batticaloa slapped a freelance evangelist church worker at a public place, which was exposed after a video of assault went viral[7]. However in general there was a decrease of violations committed by Buddhist monks after the election. In November 2019, the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS): the extremist, ultra-nationalist Buddhist organization accused of committing many violations against human rights defenders and responsible for popularizing islamophobia and allegedly attacking Muslims, issued a statement saying that they will dissolve their organization after general election in 2020 as their goal has been achieved after the appointment of new president[8].

Attacks and restrictions on protesters were also reported as a pattern. 6 incidents of protests being attacked with tear gas and water cannons were reported before the election. 4 of them were organized by student activists mainly against the privatization of higher education. A protest by unemployed graduates on unequal employment opportunities in public sector, and a protest by civilians against the burial of the remains of the suicide bomber in Batticaloa were also attacked with water cannons and tear gas. An environmental activist (a Buddhist monk) was arrested after he protested against environmentally damaging plantation of a private company.

While no tear gas and water cannon attacks or any other attacks on protesters in the South were reported in the post-election period, 3 incidents of repression of protesters were reported from Northern Province after the election.  An unknown group of hooligans attacked the villagers who were protesting against the environmental degradation and land disputes regarding a windmill project Chavakachcheri in Jaffna District[9]. During another protest against sand mining in Thottaveli village in Mannar district, Police had verbally threatened a catholic priest and other villagers while remembering them of the violence during the last stage of the war. In another protest organized by families of Disappeared held in Mullaitivu,  the intelligence officers have photographed the protesters as a form of intimidation and surveillance.

Repression against the activists in North and East also continued in this period same as the previous years.  An anti-disappearance activist in Ampara was summoned by Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) of Sri Lanka Police. Another anti-disappearance activist was pushed off from her motorcycle causing injury when she was travelling with her daughter. Stones were thrown at house of a family of a disappeared person in the East, who had been campaigning for truth and justice. The lawyers who appeared for a disappearance case were photographed inside the court premises without their consent, by a person accompanied by the Deputy Solicitor General.  Few days later, the office of an NGO headed by a human rights activist and one of the lawyers who appeared in the previous case was visited and interrogated by the intelligence officers. INFORM was told by several NGOs in the North and East working on various Human Rights issues had their offices visited by the Intelligence officers in civil clothes, and details were asked about ongoing projects, funding, details of the staff, and how events were organized, and information about other organizations in the area. NGOs in North and East as well as some NGOs in Colombo have faced increasing surveillance after the Presidential election. Some NGO representatioves were summoned to Colombo for questioning.

Among the other incidents reported, temporary blocking of facebook accounts belonging to several journalists, and political activists for several months beginning from Easter Sunday bomb attacks in April was a notable trend. However this trend did not continue until the election time.  

While the election day was generally peaceful except several reported incidents of assaults,  more than 20 incidents of violence have been reported in the post election period. However even during the pre-election period, there were systematic attempts to intimidate people of ethnic minorities and to prevent them from voting, and reprisals against ethnic minorities especially against estate Tamils during the post-election period. A large number of Internally displaced Muslims (IDP) had to travel around 180 Km to cast their votes. Two buses carrying IDPs going to vote were attacked during the wee hours of the election day. In addition there were allegations that large numbers of registered voters belonging to ethnic minorities were selectively removed in few areas in Colombo. The traditional media and social media were largely biased towards either of two major political candidates, and politicians used ethnonationalism and anti-minority sentiments during their campaigns. While religious places were used to promote specific candidates,  female Buddhist monks were prevented from voting as they have not been issued with national identity cards for number of years due to the opposition came from patriarchal Buddhist order.

iii. Progress on Previous Cases

Shakthika Sathkumara: the writer who was detained for more than 4 months for writing a short story was granted bail by the High court of Kurunegala on 5th August 2019. Though he had been released on bail, case against him still continues at the magistrate court in Polgahawela, if proven guilty, he could be imprisoned up to 10 years.   

Before the election, there was relatively increased attention of law enforcing authorities on several major crimes against journalists, human rights defenders and others which occurred during last regime. This may be due to the visits by UN special rapporteurs, and pressure of the election. 

On 11th September 2019, at the Gampaha High Court, Attorney General filed indictments against 4 army officers relating to an incident occurred six years ago in which a group of army officers shot at the protesters during a demonstration demanding clean water, in Rathupaswala in Gampaha district killing three civilians and causing injuries to more than 30 individuals.

Two army officers were arrested in connection with the abduction of the journalist: Keith Noyar in July[10] and August[11] separately.

In August 2019, Attorney General had instructed the acting IGP to expedite the conclusion of investigations relating to five high profile cases without further delay as the investigations of these cases had not been concluded so far despite the continuous reminders by the Attorney General[12]. Accordingly acting IGP has asked Criminal investigation Department to submit six separate reports into the investigations of the Lasantha Wickrematunge murder case, Waseem Thajudeen murder inquiry, abduction of Keith Noyar, the disappearance of 11 Tamil youths, murders of 17 aid workers of Action against Hunger (ACF) in Muttur in 2006, and abduction of journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda. On 27th November, indictments were filed against 9 army officials regarding the disappearance of Prageeth Ekneligoda: a journalist who disappeared in 2010[13]. Sandya Ekneligoda, a prominent female activist and wife of disappeared journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda, had told media that “some officers serving in the military intelligence are trying to destroy evidence and intimidate the witnesses[14].” Meanwhile Ahimsa Wickramatunga: the daughter of assassinated journalist Lasantha Wickrmatunga filed a lawsuit against Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the United States District Court for the Central District of California regarding his alleged involvement in the assassination of her father.  However, the case was dismissed on the basis that Gotabaya is entitled to official immunity as the alleged acts were committed in his official capacity as the defence secretary of Sri Lanka.

II. Coverage of Incidents

While in the narrative report includes the incidents under 76 topics, for the statistical analysis a total of  115 incidents were considered. This occurred as election violence related incidents discussed under common topics, 18 NGOs visited, inspected and questioned by intelligence forces, 6 social media profiles of journalists and activists which were blocked, 2 controversial appointments made in the post-election period were considered as separate incidents in the statistical analysis even though they have been reported under common topics in the narrative report. However when two or more people faced violations due to the same incident, they were considered as single incidents same as they are reported in the narrative report.

Type of violation Number Percentage
physical attacks 31 27.0%
visits to offices 21 18.3%
institutional/legal/policy changes 12 10.4%
verbal threats 12 10.4%
Questioning 7 6.1%
Facebook account blocks 6 5.2%
Tear gas and water cannon Attacks 6 5.2%
intimidation 5 4.3%
arrest 3 2.6%
other 12 10.4%
Total 115 100.0%

Table 2: Type of violations

When looked at the above graph, the highest percentage 27% of incidents reported in relation to physical attacks excluding tear gas and water cannon attacks faced by protestors.  Secondly 18% of the incidents were visits, inspection, and questioning of staff by the intelligence officers. This included 15 NGOs in the North and East and 4 NGOs in Colombo and 2 media institutions. While this has been a regular pattern in North and East, NGOs in Colombo faced this mainly in the post-election period.

There are 10% of incidents which are related to repressive institutional, legal or policy changes which contribute to increase of repression of dissent. There are also another 10% of the incidents are related to verbal threats. 6% of incidents each were related to questioning and interrogation of activists by Police and military,  and blocking of facebook accounts of activists and journalists.

When looked at above details, physical attacks were the major trend.  Subsequently we looked further into details of who faced physical attacks. Below graph shows the distribution of the physical attacks.

The majority of the incidents relating to physical attacks were directly or indirectly related to election related violence where the party member, supporters, voters, journalists and human rights activists and their property were attacked. However this report only looks at selected incidents relating to election with a specific focus on repression of dissent. All the 6 incidents related to physical attacks on voters were relating to voters from ethnic minorites.  There are 8 incidents of physical violence against media workers and journalists, while 4 incidents are relating to anti-disappearence activists, and 1 incident relating to other human rights activists.

Below table describes the categories of victims in relation to all the incidents reported in this report.

Type of victims Number Percentage
media workers 24 20.9%
NGOs 20 17.4%
Political Party member or supporters 13 11.3%
Voters 9 7.8%
Anti-Disappearence Activists 7 6.1%
Student activists 4 3.5%
Other human rights activists 8 7.0%
Villagers 5 4.3%
Lawyers 3 2.6%
Others 13 11.3%
Not Applicable 9 7.8%
Total 115 100.0%

Table 3: Types of victims

Those who faced repression are mainly media workers (21%) and NGOs (17%). When taken together, media workers and NGOs have faced 38% of the total number of incidents. Thirdly party members and their supporters have faced 11% of incidents. The voters belonging ethnic minorites have faced 8% of incidents.  General human rights activists (7%) and those who work on justice and accountability in cases of disappearances (6%) have also faced significant number of incidents related to repression of dissent. In addition, the student activists (3.5%) who organized protests were subjected tear gas attacks prior to the election a general pattern observed during last several years. It seems tear gas attacks on protestors have stopped after election.

Ethnicity of the victim Number Percentage
Sinhala 32 27.8%
Tamil 25 21.7%
Muslim 7 6.1%
Not Applicable 39 33.9%
Not mentioned 12 10.4%
Total 115 100.0%

Table 4: ethnicity of the victim

28% of Sinhalese, 22% of Tamils and 6% of Muslims have faced violations. Ethnic and gender categorizations were considered as not applicable for NGOs and groups. Taking into consideration that Tamils are a minority, it is clearly evident that more Tamil activists mostly based in North and East face more issues. Those marked as ‘not mentioned’are some of the incidents which we were unable to verify the ethnicity of the victim, they were mainly related to election violence. However looking at the geopraphical distribution of which they have occurred it could be assumed those victims could be mostly Sinhala persons.   Those incidents reported from Matara, Badulla, Puttalam, Kegalle, Galle, Kurunegala,Monaragala, Gampaha and Kalutara districts while 3 incidents were reported from Galle.

Gender of the victim Number Percentage
Male 39 33.9%
Female 13 11.3%
Not Applicable 51 44.3%
Not mentioned 12 10.4%
Total 115 100.0%

Table 5: gender of the victims

While 34% of cases are related to men, 11% are related women. In 46% of cases, gender categorizations are not applicable. While there are less number of women activists due to the patriarchal norms existing in the society, the violations they face could be underreported in media due to the same reason. Also when it comes to groups and organizations, even though women activists may play key roles, in this statistical analysis groups and organizations were considered as categories that gender identity is not applicable. In 10% of the cases, we were unable to verify the gender related information.

Perpetrator/ Responsible party Number Percentage
Military and Police 41 35.7%
Politician/ Political supporters 32 27.8%
social media company 6 5.2%
Buddhist monks 5 4.3%
Government or related officers 4 3.5%
Employer 2 1.7%
Court 1 0.9%
Unknown 9 7.8%
Other 8 7.0%
Not Applicable 7 6.1%
Total 115 100.0%

Table 6: types of perpetrator or responsible party

In majority of incidents (36%) military and Police were responsible for the violations. Secondly 28% of the cases were committed either by a Politician or political supporters. In 5% of the cases apparently social media companies were responsible for temporarily blocking social media accounts of activists and journalists. In 4.3% of cases Buddhist monks were responsible.  In 3.5% of cases government or government officers were responsible, while 8% of cases belonged to other category where responsible party was unknown.

Geographical area Number Percentage
North and East 38 33.0%
Western province 30 25.2%
Other districts 24 21.7%
online 10 8.7%
Not Applicable 13 11.3%
Total 115 100.0%

Table 7: Geographical area of the incidents

The majority 33% of the incidents were reported from the North and East region, though they were not necessarily organized under the theme of repression of activists in the North and East. For example, some cases relating to journalists in North and East have been presented under  repression of journalists and media. 25% of the cases were reported from Western Province. There were 21% of cases from other districts such as Galle, Nuwara Eliya, Kandy, Polonnaruwa etc. 9% of the cases were online.

Time number of incidents incidents per day
After Election 48 1.07
Before Election 53 0.39
both 14 0.08
Total 115 0.63

Table 8: Regularity of incidents

Number of days included in the pre-election and post-election periods were different from each other. Since comparison was difficult at a glance, we calculated how many incidents occurred per a day from dividing number of incidents by number of days, to understand how frequent the violations were. Then we found that the number of the incidents relating to repression of dissent happening per a day have increased more than double in the post-election situation, when compared with the pre-election situation.  Also more than one incident per day was reported in the post election period.

List of incidents

  Date Place/District Description Source
A Repression of Dissent during Election      
1 Late October Not mentioned President’s Counsel says “Muslims have to face consequences, if they failed to vote for Gotabaya” Colombo Telegraph “Vote Gota Or Prepare “To Get It In A Big Way”: Ali Sabry Video Warning Muslims Goes Viral” 28th October 2019
2 N/A N/A Female Buddhist monks denied of voting rights
3 16th November 2019 Various places Muslim women are harassed for wearing Niqab and Burqa in polling booths Center for monitoring Election Violence
4 N/A Colombo Arbitrary and illegal tampering of minority voters from registered voter lists Letter submitted to Election Commission by CMEV Colombo Telegraph. “Equality Eroded In Our Democracy: A Trust Deficit”  
5 15th-18th November 2019 Kandy, Kegalle Intimidation targeted at estate Tamils to prevent them from voting  “Petrol bomb attack in Kandy” Petrol bomb attack in Gampola estate
6 16th November 2019 Anuradhapura Buses transporting Muslim voters attacked Sunday Observer. “Mannar and Deraniyagala: Two major cases of election-related violence reported” published on 17th November 2019. The Guardian. “Sri Lanka presidential election: buses carrying Muslim voters attacked” 16th November 2019.
7 10th Nov -18th November Batticaloa, Matara, Badulla, Colombo, Puttalam, Kegalle, Galle, Kurunegala, Monaragala Gampaha, Kalutara Other notable incidents of Election Violence Tweets by CMEV
B Repression of journalists and media        
  Before Election      
8 21st July 2019 Kandy Muslim Journalist blocked by security personnel  Free Media Movement
9 13th Aug 2019 Gampaha Death threats to journalist
10 13th Aug 2019 Gampaha Assault on female journalist
11 17th Aug 2019 Gampaha Mob stones to female journalist’s house  
 12 4th Aug 2019 Nuwara Eliya Minister Palani Digambaram’s threat to up-country journalist K. Prasanna
13 10th Sep 2019 Colombo Taking over Rupavahini Corporation by Defense Ministry (01) (02)
14 5th Sep 2019 Vavuniya Journalist interrogated by Terrorism Investigation Division (TID)
15 11th July 2019 Mullaitivu Tamil newspaper distributor arrested
16 20th Sep 2019 Mullaitivu Tamil Guardian journalist summoned by TID
17 4th Oct 2019 Jaffna Virakesari journalist summoned to police Colombo HQ
18 30th Oct 2019 Colombo Assault on a Tamil language journalist from Colombo
  After Election      
19 25th Nov  2019 Vavuniya Sri Lankan police questions Thinappuyal and demands staff details.
20 27th Nov 2019 Colombo frisked by police with invalid search warrant.  
21 5th Dec 2019 Kalutara Lankadeepa correspondent assaulted for reporting on illegal toddy trade   
22 14th Nov 2019 Galle Attack on Author Lasantha Wijeratne
23 4th Nov 2019 Batticaloa Batticaloa TV journalist assaulted
24 26th Nov 2019 Colombo Lakehouse New Media and digital department journalist assaulted.
25 19th Dec 2019 Putt lam Journalist attacked while reporting the protest against illegal sand mining
26 26th Nov 2019 Colombo journalist summoned and questioned by the CID
27 28th Nov 2019 Colombo The editor of the website, summoned for questioning by the CID
Sri Lanka: FMM expresses its concerns over journalists being questioned
C Attacks and restrictions on protestors      
  Before Election      
28 9-Jul-19  Colombo Tear gas and water cannon attack on protest against Batticaloa Campus
 29 5-Aug-19 Colombo Tear gas and water cannon attack on protesters against the Private Universities Act Police Fire tear gas at Protesting Students (1)   (2)  (3)
30 28th Augst Colombo A protest was organized by the Inter University Students’ Federation (IUSF) against attempts to pass the Quality Assurance and Accreditation Council (QAAC) was attacked with teargas and water cannons
31 7-Aug-19 Colombo Water cannon and tear gas attack to HNDA student activists (1)  (2) (3) HNDA student’s union kandy facebook page
32 29-Aug-19 Colombo Tear gas attack to protest by unemployed graduates (1) Graduates protest over irregularities in recruitment. News First. 29th July 2019   (2) Hiru Gossip News.
33 4-Sep-19 Puttalam Protests in Puttalam main road  against Aruwakkalu landfill site barred Court bars protest against Aruwakkalu sanitary landfill in Puttalam
34 27-Jul-19 Batticaloa Protest in Batticaloa attacked with tear gas and 4 Protestors injured (1) 4 Protestors injured in Batticaloa  (2) Police fire tear gas at protesters in Batticaloa
35 27-Aug-19 Galle Environmental Activist Chandrajothi Thero arrested during Protest (1)  (2)
36 23-Sep-19 Mullaitivu Buddhist monks threaten protestors and assaults a lawyer and two others
  After Election      
37 December Jaffna Protesters attacked by hooligans in Chavakatchery to stop Windmill project
38 11th Dec 2019 Mullaitivu Intelligence officers photograph the Families of the disappeared in a rally in Mullaitivu
39 21 Dec 2019 Mannar Sri Lankan police threatened priest and residents protesting against sand mining.
D Repression of Activists in North and East      
  Before Election      
40 4-Aug-19 Batticaloa Anti-Disappearance activist and her daughter attacked in Batticaloa
41 1-Aug-19 Jaffna Men in civics photograph lawyers and petitiners of a disappearance case at the Court‘sinhala-speaking-men’-sri-lanka’s-attorney-general-intimidate-tamil-lawyers-court
42 6-Aug-19 Jaffna TID officials question Adayaalam Centre for Policy Research
43 30-Sep-19 Ampara Ampara district  Anti-Disappearance Activist summoned by the TID Based on an interview conducted by INFORM
44 30-Jul-19 Colombo Former Tamil political activist denied entry to Sri Lanka
45 July-September North and East Provinces Patterns of general intimidation faced by Human Rights organizations in North and East This section is based on the interviews conducted by INFORM. 5 organizations in the North East confirmed that their offices were visited by intelligence officers and that they were questioned on their work and funding. 
46 9th Nov 2019 Jaffna Human Rights Lawyer Kumaravadivel Guruparan barred from practising  (Better put local statement as reference or
47 12th Oct 2019 Ampara Human Elevation Organisation (HEO) book launch impeded by Election Commission
  After Election      
48 30th Dec 2019 Vavuniya  Vavuniya Citizens Committee Leader K. Rajkumar assaulted and Based on an interview conducted by INFORM
49 30th Dec 2019 Kilinochchi Kilinochchi Human Rights activist’s son attacked Based on an interview conducted by INFORM    
E Institution and Legal Changes      
  Before Election      
50 31st July 2019   State of emergency continued until August 22 Third extension for Emergency Regulations passed in Parliament. Sunday Times. 31st July 2019.
51 22-Aug-19 N/A Security forces given special powers on maintaining public order Extra Ordinary Gazette. GoSL.
52 19th Aug 2019 N/A State appointments with possible negative impact on accountability Concerns over the appointment of Major General Shavendra Silva as the Commander of the Sri Lanka Army and the need for urgent reforms. Center for Policy Alternative (CPA). 19 Aug 2019.
  After Election    
53 11th Dec 2019 N/A NGO Secretariat which was under the Ministry of National Integration, Reconciliation and Official Languages, placed under the Ministry of Defence.  
54 19 Nov 2019 N/A State appointments with possible negative impact on accountability
55 23 Nov 2019 N/A Security forces given special powers on maintaining public order
  Before Election      
56 11 Oct 2019 Colombo SLPP Presidential Candidate refuses to honour commitments at the UN  
57 12th Oct 2019 Online Online hate speech targeting Prof.Chandragupta Thenuwara
58 8th Oct 2019 Colombo Threats faced by Professor Chandragupta Thenuwara and Gamini Viyangoda
59 July – September  online Blocking Facebook Accounts of six activists and journalists Various online sources including  (1)   (2)පොහොට්ටු-වේදිකාවේ-මහගෙද/
60 2nd July 2019 and 6th July 2019 N/A President says “anyone who stands against death penalty is aiding to drug users” (1) I am facing death threats: Prez  (2) Sirisena Says Anyone Who Stands Against Death Penalty Is Aiding Drug Dealers. July 6th 2019.
61 27-Jul-19 Colombo CID Director is threatened for not supporting ethnic profiling against Muslim doctor CID director files complaint against attorney Manoj Gamage. Darshana Sanjeewa Balasuriya, Daily News. 30th July 2019.
62 Jul-19 Colombo/ Kandy/ online Minister threatened by monks after speaking about Child abuse incidents at temples Rajan Ramanayake Interview clip with youtuber Ashen
63 20th August Colombo/ Online Scientist faces reprisals for naming newly discovered geckos after national heroes Dilrukshi Handunnetti . What’s in a name? For Sri Lanka’s newest geckos, a political firestorm. Published in Mogabay on 27th August 2019  
  After Election      
64 21st November 2019 N/A Head Criminal Investigation Department of the Police is transferred into a lower position  “NPC approves transfer of SSP Shani Abeysekera” published 21st November 2019
65 23rd November 2019 N/A Crime investigations officer flees the country and Travel ban on 700 CID officers “Top CID investigator Nishantha Silva leaves country” published on 24th November 2019
66 19th Nov 2019 Badulla District Interpreter of foreign journalist intimidated and threatened with arrest by BBS affiliated Monk Ambalae Rathana Thero. Based on an interview conducted by INFORM
67 After elections Eastern Province Stones were thrown at house of a female activist campaigning against disappearances Based on an interview conducted by INFORM
68 After elections Northern Province Female former LTTE cadre was questioned by several intelligence personnel about a book written by her on war time experiences. Based on an interview conducted by INFORM
69 after elections Gampaha District Rights activist and campaigner for losing presidential candidate threatened with death Based on an interview conducted by INFORM
70 after elections   Wife of disappeared journalist Sandya Ekneligoda says children threatened, harassed and attempts to intimidate witnesses and  
71 16th December 2019 Colombo Swiss embassy employee in Sri Lanka arrested after claiming she was abducted  Swiss embassy employee in Sri Lanka arrested after claiming she was abducted, sexually assaulted and interrogated published on 17th December 2019
72 19th December Colombo Removal of Anti-American street painting criticizing MCC agreement  and social media related sources
73 16th Nov 2019 Colombo Threats faced by activist advocating and seeking justice for Welikada Prison massacre Based on an interview conducted by INFORM
74 20-27th December 2019 Batticaloa Monk slaps a former evangelic church worker in public for spreading his religion
75 12th December 2019 Sri Lanka Lawyer faces threats after appearing for alleged abducted employee of Swiss embassy
76 November -December 2019 Sri Lanka Surveillance on NGOs and Human Rights Defenders Based on an interview conducted by INFORM and according to the Sri Lanka Brief Post Presidential Election Update No 03/16 December 2019

Download full report here : English




[4]  Preliminary findings of Country Visit to Sri Lanka by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief

[5] End of Mission Statement – United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association  



[8]                      Bodu Bala Sena to disband after General Election


[10]                    Keith Noyar case – Intel. officer Lalith named a suspect. Daily Mirror. 9th July 2019—Intel–officer-Lalith-named-a-suspect/108-170759


[12]                    Acting IGP calls reports from CID on 6 high profile cases


[14] and


  1. […] Please find a a report, based on both incidents reported in mostly local media, but also some not reported, but narrated to me and colleagues directly in private. published Friday, 21st Feb. night SL time […]

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