HRW alleges families of the missing are being harassed

Human Rights Watch is alleging that Sri Lankan security forces and intelligence agencies have intensified surveillance and threats against families of victims of enforced disappearance and activists supporting them.

In a report released last night in New York, the US-based watchdog said these activities had begun after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa took office in November 2019.

“The Sri Lankan government should fulfil its commitments to the United Nations Human Rights Council to strengthen efforts to locate the “disappeared” and bring those responsible to justice,” it said.

The report went on to say that activists “working in six locations in the northern and eastern parts of the country on behalf of relatives of the forcibly disappeared told Human Rights Watch that there has been a significant increase in government surveillance and intimidation.”

HRW claimed that one activist said that “prior to a recent victims’ meeting, “every one of the mothers got at least six telephone calls from different intelligence agencies asking, ‘Where is the meeting?’ ‘Who is organizing the meeting?’ ‘What is being said?’” Another activist said, “We can’t do any visible programs.… We’ve stopped everything.”

“The families of Sri Lanka’s ‘disappeared’ have spent years waiting for answers, but with the Rajapaksas back in power, security forces are threatening them to drop their demands for truth and accountability,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director. “The government needs to stop the harassment immediately and abide by Sri Lanka’s pledges to the UN to uncover the fate of the ‘disappeared’ and provide justice to victims’ families.”

Thousands of people, primarily ethnic Tamils, are believed to have been forcibly disappeared in state custody between 2005 and 2015, the report said.

-Arjuna Ranawana

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