11 November 2013
A new report finds shocking threats to civil society in Sri Lanka amidst growing protests about the Commonwealth’s decision to host its Summit there despite strong criticism of the country’s human rights abuses.
Based on interviews with a diverse range of civil society leaders and research on the conditions affecting citizen participation, CIVICUS and the Centre for Policy Alternatives, Sri Lanka (CPA), document a litany of threats to civil society in Sri Lanka.
Read the full report here
The report – Sri Lanka’s Harassed Civil Society – finds:
- The right to express democratic dissent is seriously imperilled, with many civil society activists facing harassment, intimidation and violence.
- Abduction and assassination remain a constant threat for prominent journalists, activists and dissidents, with little effort by the authorities to investigate such attacks.
- Peaceful protests have been disrupted by security forces.
- Senior officials and state-owned media have issued inappropriate and threatening statements against civil society leaders and organisations.
- The legal environment for non-governmental organisations is restrictive, with administrative and regulatory obstacles impeding their effective operation.
- Civil society organisations are being subjected to increasing surveillance and official control, especially in the Northern Province.
- The ability of civil society organisations to find funding from overseas and work with international partners is severely hampered.
The report is published days before Commonwealth leaders arrive in Sri Lanka for the leaders Summit. It points out the hypocrisy of the Commonwealth, which claims that a free and vibrant civil society is a fundamental value of the 54-member association, hosting its flagship meeting in a country in which conditions are so bad.
“The space for CSOs to operate in Sri Lanka is under threat now more than ever. The governmental restrictions and attacks on civic space present a grave challenge to governance and reconciliation for the people of Sri Lanka post-2009. As our research demonstrates the aggressive suppression of CSOs through intimidatory tactics is of huge concern for the future of democracy in our country”, said Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Executive Director of the CPA.
“It is a shame that the Commonwealth has chosen to meet in a country in which one if its so-called core values is under such serious threat. We urge those leaders who have decided to attend the summit to push for urgent action from the Sri Lankan authorities to improve the situation immediately”, said CIVICUS Secretary-General, Dr Danny Sriskandarajah.
The report offers a series of recommendations to improve the environment for civil society in Sri Lanka. CIVICUS and CPA call on the Government of Sri Lanka to stop impeding and interfering in the ability of civil society to operate freely, to lift restrictions on freedom of expression, and to promptly investigate all cases of attacks on journalists and activists and bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice.