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Human rights in Sri Lanka continue to deteriorate warns UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office

The UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), has published an updated report on 30 countries of human rights concerns, noting that the “human rights environment in Sri Lanka worsened”.


Human rights under attack

The report highlights specific concerns over the surveillance and intimidation of activists, human rights defenders, and high-profile human rights lawyers whilst also raising alarm over the pardoning of Sunil Ratnayake. They note that this was “the only member of the armed forces convicted of a wartime atrocity”.

The FCDO also notes the withdrawal of Sri Lanka’s support from the UN-sponsored human rights resolution 30/1. Whilst they note Sri Lanka’s claim to commit to a domestic mechanism for reconciliation, they have previously expressed scepticism given past failures to address issues of reconciliation. The Sri Lankan government has not yet established this domestic mechanism.

A further issue the FCDO raised was the increasing militarisation of civil society, noting that the military “was given oversight of further civilian functions, and military appointments to government roles included individuals accused of war crimes”.

Specific concerns were also raised over the lack of parliamentary oversight due to parliament not being reconvened and elections being delayed twice due to COVID-19. The report also highlights that the establishment of presidential ‘task forces’, was problematic as they were, “operating beyond parliamentary scrutiny”.

The rising anti-Muslim sentiment was a further concern and has been promoted by disinformation around COVID-19. The UK is critical of the government’s imposition of mandatory cremations, noting that it breaks from Islamic religious practices. They have also stressed the importance of states to respect human rights obligations whilst responding to COVID-19.


Magnitsky sanctions

In this recent statement, the FCDO highlight the new Global Human Rights (Magnitsky) sanction regime, implemented on 6 July 2020. Thus far the government has imposed sanctions on 49 individuals and organisations responsible for human rights abuses.

Recently British MPs, have called on Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, to implement sanctions against senior Sri Lankan officials.

Read the full report here.

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