Sri Lanka has instilled a “climate of fear” as it intensifies its repression of critics in the build-up to Colombo’s expected censure by the UN’s Human Rights Council, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.
In a new report, the London-based advocacy group documented the cases of several human rights defenders who had been targeted for harassment and surveillance by the Sri Lankan regime, including death threats.
“The pattern of harassment, surveillance and attacks against those opposing the Sri Lankan authorities is deeply disturbing and shows no sign of letting up,” said Polly Truscott, Amnesty deputy director for the Asia-Pacific region.
“Repression usually intensifies whenever Sri Lanka’s human rights situation is in focus internationally, something we are already seeing ahead of the UN Human Rights Council next month.”
In its 16-page report, Amnesty detailed the intimidation against the prominent rights activist Nimalka Fernando, including a state radio broadcast that called for her “elimination”.
It added that Colombo had deported several foreign visitors for allegedly participating in human rights-related meetings.
The United States has said it will move a third censure motion in as many years against Sri Lanka at next month’s UNHRC meeting
The UN rights chief Navi Pillay has already asked member states to order an international investigation into allegations that Sri Lankan forces killed up to 40,000 civilians in the final stages of their battle with Tamil separatist rebels in May 2009.
Sri Lanka has denounced Pillay for her “unwarranted interference” and denied its troops were responsible for any civilian deaths during the bloody finale to an ethnic war that lasted 37 years.
Amnesty said it continued to receive credible reports of activists facing surveillance and harassment.
“The climate of fear is very real in Sri Lanka. Many people are too afraid to speak out. But Sri Lanka also has some very brave activists, who continue to be vocal despite facing retaliation,” Truscott said.
“Some even dare to attend international meetings that could actually lead to an improved human rights situation. The UN should make every effort to ensure that they are protected.”