In its latest assessment of the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, the global watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) noted the deterioration of civil liberties and the growing oppression of minorities in the island. South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly said, “No one should be in any doubt that Sri Lanka’s human rights situation is deeply alarming and getting worse.”
Ahead of the UN Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) 48th session which starts on September 13, the HRW urged member states to bring international pressure to bear on Sri Lanka and push the Rajapaksa government to improve its record on human rights.
“Continued international attention and pressure can help reduce the risks faced by minority communities, activists, and journalists, who live in heightened fear of the authorities” Ganguly said.
The HRW drew attention to the expansion of surveillance by the state of civilians who demand justice. “The administration is using its security and intelligence agencies to surveil and intimidate the families of abuse victims and others who are seeking to uphold human rights,” it said.
The rights watchdog also emphasised the role of the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) in carrying out arbitrary detentions and stifling civil society.
The assessment also criticised Sri Lanka’s attempt to persuade member states of the UNHRC that it is making progress on delivering justice to victims. It noted,
“On August 31, the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry circulated a document to foreign diplomats in which the government claims, without basis, to have made ‘continued and tangible progress … in addressing issues related to achieving peace, reconciliation, and development, including accountability, within the domestic legal framework of Sri Lanka.’”
The HRW encouraged foreign governments to “take firm and coordinated action to press the Sri Lankan government to reverse course.” In particular, it called on Europe to make its tariff-free access to Sri Lanka conditional on the latter’s commitment to human rights.
Read more on the Human Rights Watch here.