A local journalist yesterday called on the Government of Sri Lanka to withdraw charges against civil activists charged under the PTA and discharge court cases on protest activists charged under the ICCPR at the Universal Periodic Review of the United Nation’s 59th Session.
The journalist called on the Government of Sri Lanka to withdraw charges against activist and lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah charged under the PTA, to discharge activist and comedian Nathasha Edirisooriya facing several court cases including under the ICCPR Act and to discharge protesters facing court cases related to protests under various laws.
Journalist Tharindu Jayawardena made these remarks delivering his oral statements at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Japan at the 29th Meeting of the 53rd Regular Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Jayawardena also called on to conduct impartial investigations and prosecutions in relation to violations committed by police and armed forces in the context of protests and repeal all draconian legislation used to criminalize activists.
His oral submissions are as follows; “Mr. President, the Centre for Society and Religion, Asia Legal Resource Centre and CIVICUS welcome the government of Sri Lanka’s engagement with the UPR process.
Since its last review, Sri Lanka did not implement any of the nine recommendations related to civic space. We note that Sri Lanka accepted 24 of the 31 recommendations on civic space it received during this cycle including ensuring a safe environment for civil society, including human rights defenders and journalists and refrain from imposing undue limitations on NGOs.
Despite these commitments, space for civil society has continued to come under attack in recent years. We have documented arbitrary arrests, detention, harassment and surveillance of activists and journalists and the misuse of the PTA and ICCPR Act and other laws to silence freedom of expression and assembly.
We also documented restrictions on protests and harassment and intimidation of protesters, including against families of disappeared persons in the North and East – and the use of excessive force and prosecution of protesters following the economic crisis. We are concerned the imminent “NGO law” will curtail freedom of association and legalize government interference in civil society,” Jayawardena concluded. (Kurulu Koojana Kariyakarawana)