Aug 09, Colombo: The Sri Lankan government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is waging a campaign of fear and intimidation against human rights activists, journalists, lawyers, and others challenging government policy, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report Saturday.
According to the New York- based human rights watchdog, the crackdown on dissent under the Rajapaksa administration has intensified in recent months, facilitated by the government’s highly militarized response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and has included intimidation, death threats, physical assaults, and arbitrary arrests.
The HRW noted that the President Rajapaksa’s party secured a parliamentary majority in elections on August 5, 2020 and the results increased concerns that the government will exacerbate policies that are hostile to ethnic and religious minorities and further repress those seeking justice for abuses committed during the country’s 26-year civil war, which ended in 2009.
“The United Nations and governments that have previously called for accountability for past abuses should now call on the Sri Lanka government to stop targeting those pursuing justice,” HRW said in its report.
“President Rajapaksa is rapidly turning the clock back to the repression that prevailed during the previous Rajapaksa administration,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director. “The Sri Lankan government needs to hear that other countries are watching and will respond to renewed abuses.”
“There is real concern that fresh off parliamentary elections, the Rajapaksa government will feel emboldened to further disregard its international human rights obligations,” Ganguly said. “Sri Lanka’s international partners, including donor agencies and the UN, need to rapidly adjust their policies to respond to this disturbing situation and ensure that their assistance does not benefit government agencies that are committing rights violations.”
Read the full report