by Jim McDonald, Sri Lanka Country Specialist, AIUSA
More than four years after the end of Sri Lanka’s brutal civil war, appalling human rights abuses continue to occur every day, including torture, enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention. This can’t go on. Amnesty International has recently launched a campaign calling on the Sri Lankan government to tell the truth about human rights violations in the country. The campaign includes a global petition asking the government to take six specific steps to improve the protection of human rights in Sri Lanka. Our goal is to get 10,000 signatures on the petition by September 1. Please sign the petition and share it widely.
by Jim McDonald, AIUSA Sri Lanka country specialist
It’s been a year since the war ended in Sri Lanka, with the government’s defeat of the Tamil Tiger rebels. In the final months of the war, Amnesty International received credible reports of violations of human rights and war crimes being committed by both sides. The Tigers kept civilians trapped in the war zone and shot those trying to flee. The government shelled areas heavily populated by the trapped civilians. Thousands of civilians were killed or injured. A State Department report issued last year recounted these crimes in detail.
Earlier today, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced the World Press Freedom Prize 2009 will be awarded posthumously to Sri Lankan journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge. Wickramatunga is a well-known editor of the Sri Lankan Sunday Leader newspaper and a lawyer. He was murdered while on his way to work on January 8, 2009. The Sunday Leader has carried a number of articles exposing political corruption in privatization deals and also highlighted human rights abuses in the context of renewed fighting. The killing came two days after the privately-owned TV studios of another media group critical of the government had been ransacked by a gang of attackers.
23 January 2009
Sri Lanka: Media must be allowed to work freely and safely
Sri Lankan authorities must ensure that the country’s media are allowed to work without restriction and in safety, Amnesty International said today.
“The Sri Lankan authorities are doing little to ensure the safety of the country’s media, or to prosecute those responsible for murdering or attacking them. They are also directly responsible for subjecting journalists to harassment and interrogation,” said Yolanda Foster, Amnesty International’s Sri Lanka Researcher.
Sandaruwan Senadheera, editor of ‘Lanka-e-news’ was questioned for six hours today by officers from the special wing of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) at their headquarters in Colombo Fort about a complaint lodged by the Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse.
Amnesty International Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, Jan. 8, 2009
Amnesty International Calls for Investigation into Sri Lankan Newspaper Editor’s Shooting Death
Human Rights Organization Cites Numerous Incidents of Press Intimidation, Torture and Killings in Sri Lanka
Contact: AIUSA media office, 202-544-0200 x302, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Washington) — Amnesty International urges the government of Sri Lanka to publicly condemn the shooting of Lasantha Wickramatunga, editor of the Sri Lankan Sunday Leader newspaper, and other attacks on the media. The human rights organization calls on Sri Lankan authorities to launch an independent investigation into the incident and other reported attacks on journalists.
Mr Wickramatunga was shot Thursday morning by unidentified gunmen while traveling in Mount Lavinia, Colombo, and rushed to Kalubowila hospital where he died. His newspaper, the Sunday Leader has carried a number of articles exposing political interference and corruption in privatization deals. Sunday Leader commentators have also drawn attention to human rights abuses in the context of intensified fighting.