In a statement released earlier today, the international NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) called out the Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for “pursuing policies that are hostile to the Tamil and Muslim communities” and using the military to “intimidate and suppress human rights activists and the families of victims of enforced disappearance.”
The HRW statement considered the report released in late February by the UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet on the grave and deteriorating human rights situation in the island.
Agreeing with the assessment of the High Commissioner, the HRW called on UN member states to impose targeted sanctions on Sri Lankan rights violators and provide asylum for those under persecution in the country.
It also focussed on the abuse of the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) which the statement said has been used “for decades to enable prolonged arbitrary detention and torture.”
As a result of international pressure, the Sri Lankan government submitted proposed amendments to the law on February 10, which UN experts found yesterday to have fallen short of the island’s international human rights obligations.
As for the families of the enforced disappearances, Michelle Bachelet found that the Office of Missing Persons (OMP), touted by Colombo as a domestic mechanism to deliver accountability to the families of the disappeared, is more keen on “reducing the caseload and closing files.”
“The Sri Lankan government is actively targeting minorities and civil society groups, while it protects alleged rights violators and undermines the rule of law,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of HRW.
The statement called for sustained international pressure to make the Sri Lankan government respect human rights.