SRI LANKAN ACTIVISTS THREATENED
On 2 March, a Sri Lankan news website, Lankanewsweb, published the names of human rights defenders and journalists featured on a list it alleged was compiled by a Sri Lankan intelligence unit. Amnesty International fears that the list was leaked to the press as part of a government campaign to intimidate those named on it, and stop them from speaking out against the authorities. Two male human rights defenders, Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu and J. C. Weliamuna, are at particular risk.
The list names 35 media activists, NGO heads and individuals engaged in “international outreach” and grades them , apparently according to their importance to the intelligence services. Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Executive Director of the Sri Lankan NGO, the Centre for Policy Alternatives, and J.C. Weliamuna, Sri Lanka Director of international NGO Transparency International, have both been threatened previously and are graded as being of great interest to the intelligence services on the list. Other colleagues from their organizations are also named.
In September 2008, a grenade was thrown at the house of J.C. Weliamuna, damaging property but causing no injuries. That attack was thought to be in retaliation for his legal representation of clients in human rights cases where the Defence Ministry was implicated. Despite of demands from local and international human rights groups, there was no credible inquiry into this attack (see UA 277/08). Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu received a death threat via an anonymous letter posted to his home in August 2009, which was linked to his human rights work.
On 8 March, the Asian Human Rights Commission reported that the government was planning to arrest J.C. Weliamuna in connection with reports Transparency International had issued during the presidential election campaign in December and January, alleging violation of election laws and misuse of public resources by the ruling party. In late January 2010, Sri Lankan government spokespeople were quoted in newspaper articles attacking suspected political opponents and other critics, including human rights defenders and journalists. In February Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister accused NGOs of trying to “”destabilize the country.” An article that appeared in the national daily newspaper, Sri Lanka Guardian, on 20 February reporting on a meeting between President Mahinda Rajapaksa and a group of ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party lawyers, mentioned J.C. Weliamuna, specifically , saying “something must be done about him.”
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