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HomeWorldInternational rights groups back Sri Lankan activist, condemn govt’s 'harassment'

International rights groups back Sri Lankan activist, condemn govt’s ‘harassment’

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Colombo, Feb 14 (PTI) Eight international organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have condemned the Sri Lankan government’s response to a prominent activist’s testimony before the European Parliament about the human rights situation in the country, terming it an act of “harassment and intimidation”.

The Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry on February 4 described as“misleading” and denounced the testimony given by Ambika Satkunanathan, a human rights lawyer and activist, to the European Parliament on January 27.

Satkunanathan had made a critical assessment of the human rights situation in Sri Lanka and its international and national obligations to its citizens, besides providing recommendations to European Union member states.

“The government statement clearly constitutes an act of harassment and intimidation. We condemn the Sri Lankan government’s tactics to intimidate human rights defenders, and express our full solidarity with Satkunanathan, a well-known, respected, and courageous human rights defender,” said the joint statement from the collective which included Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Targeting her for providing accurate testimony about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka to the European Parliament is completely unacceptable, and sends a chilling message to all Sri Lankan civil society, especially those in the north and east, who are already operating under considerable duress under the current administration, it said.

The joint statement from the eight organisations said the government’s response mirrors its repeated practice of falsely equating human rights defenders and human rights advocacy with those pursuing “terrorism.” The statement’s language aligns these baseless allegations with vague and frequently abused provisions under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), exposing Satkunanathan to a heightened risk of threats, attacks, and persecution, it said.

“We support Ms. Satkunanathan’s testimony to the European Parliament, which accurately described a situation already reported by the United Nations and many domestic and international human rights organisations,” it said.

The Foreign Ministry’s statement contains numerous false claims in an attempt to disparage and delegitimise a distinguished human rights advocate, placing her at risk of physical danger in retribution for her brave work, it said.

The government’s claim that her testimony was “reminiscent of LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] propaganda that once stoked hatred among communities,” and that “such allegations need to be refuted in the interest of social harmony” is particularly insidious and dangerous, it added.

Sri Lanka has been marred by over three-decade-long brutal civil war that ended with the death of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) chief Velupillai Prabhakaran in the coastal village of Mullaittivu in 2009.

The UN believes 80,000-100,000 people died in the conflict when the rebels sought to carve out a separate state for the Tamil minority and accused both sides of war crimes.

The UNHRC has passed a resolution censuring Colombo over its treatment of minorities and alleged failure to investigate atrocities during the civil war.

According to government figures, over 20,000 people are missing due to various conflicts. The Tamils allege that thousands were massacred during the final stages of the war.

The Sri Lankan Army denies the charge, claiming it was a humanitarian operation to rid the Tamils of LTTE’s control. PTI CORR MRJ MRJ

This report is auto-generated from PTI news service. ThePrint holds no responsibility for its content.

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