Ranitha Gnanarajah, a Tamil lawyer who has campaigned years against Sri Lanka’s draconian Prevention of Terrorism act, is to be awarded the United States’ International Women of Courage award during a virtual ceremony on 8 March, hosted by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken.
Commenting on her accomplishments the US State Department described Gnanarajah as follows:
Ranitha Gnanarajah, a lawyer, continues to fight for and defend the rights of the marginalized and vulnerable communities in the country, despite threats and challenges by the state. Ranitha has dedicated her career to accountability and justice for victims of enforced disappearances and prisoners detained often for years without charge under Sri Lanka’s Prevention of Terrorism Act by providing free legal aid and related services. As an individual personally affected by the conflict and based on her extensive experience working with victims and their families, Ranitha has demonstrated tremendous passion and dedication to justice and accountability, especially for Sri Lanka’s most vulnerable populations.
The Prevention of Terrorism Act, which has been widely criticised as existed for over 42 years despite pledges from Sri Lanka that it would repeal the draconian legislation which has been linked to accounts of state torture. It has also been used disproportionately against Tamils.
Earlier this week, the US House Foreign Affairs Committee called on Washington to “reassert its leadership role on human rights and support calls for justice in Sri Lanka,” as the United Nations Human Rights Council continues to discuss a new resolution on accountability for mass atrocities.
Read the full US statement here.