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Amnesty International calls for urgent action on human rights in Sri Lanka following visit

May 20, Colombo (LNW): Amnesty International’s Secretary General, Agnès Callamard, concluded a five-day visit to Sri Lanka on Monday (20), where she engaged with officials and various societal stakeholders to discuss pressing human rights issues.

Reflecting on her visit, Callamard stated:

“This visit has offered a deeper understanding of the numerous challenges Sri Lanka faces 15 years after the civil war that has deeply affected and divided the nation. I am immensely grateful to those who shared their pain, perspectives, and aspirations with us.

“Amnesty International is committed to supporting genuine efforts to tackle long-standing impunity, address past and present violations, and end discrimination and the suppression of fundamental freedoms.

“We extend our gratitude to President Wickremesinghe for facilitating a constructive dialogue on Sri Lanka’s human rights challenges. As the host of our South Asia Regional Office, Sri Lanka is crucial to our mission, and we value the government’s ongoing support.

“New legislation, such as the Online Security Act and proposed NGO law, raises serious concerns about threats to Sri Lanka’s active civil society. Additionally, the crackdown on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, including arbitrary arrests under the ICCPR Act, is alarming.

These actions often occur without formal charges or evidence, leaving many in a state of uncertainty. This must be rectified.

“This year marks a significant milestone for Sri Lanka, 15 years since the end of the protracted internal conflict that resulted in countless injuries, deaths, displacements, and enforced disappearances.

The failure to address these issues extends beyond successive governments to all leaders, including elected officials, opposition leaders, the religious establishment, and the national media, who have not upheld the fight against impunity.

“The upcoming elections will have a profound impact on Sri Lanka’s future and its human rights landscape.

Political leaders must implement trust-building measures to bridge divisions, foster inter-ethnic solidarity, and promote meaningful healing.

Addressing past wrongs and creating an environment conducive to redress is essential, particularly as the government considers establishing a new Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“A lack of political will and complacency in delivering justice hinder reconciliation, fuel grievances, and contribute to instability. There should be no tolerance for complacency.

“We urge the international community to collaborate with national authorities to ensure truth and justice for all war victims and ongoing human rights violations, laying the groundwork for a freer and fairer Sri Lanka.”

Following a meeting with President Ranil Wickremesinghe on 16 May, the Amnesty International delegation visited Mullaitivu to meet families of the forcibly disappeared during the war.

Callamard participated in the 18 May commemoration at Mullivaikkal, marking the 15th anniversary of the end of the war and the suffering endured by the Tamil community.

She then returned to Colombo to meet with representatives of the Malaiyaha Tamil community, human rights defenders, protestors, civil society organisations, members of the international community, and government officials.

Throughout the visit, the delegation addressed key issues including the lack of accountability for grave human rights violations by both sides during the conflict, repression of peaceful assembly, and discrimination against groups such as the Malaiyaha Tamil community, the Muslim community, and LGBTI individuals.

They also highlighted threats to civil society, freedom of expression, and the right to peaceful protest, the use of anti-terror laws like the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) to suppress dissent, harassment, intimidation, surveillance, and obstacles to press freedom, particularly in the northern regions.

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