URGENT APPEAL – THE OBSERVATORY
Sri Lanka/October 6, 2011
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation.
Brief description of the situation:
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the false allegations and death threats made against Mr. Sunanda Deshapriya, a human rights defender, press freedom campaigner and a journalist from Sri Lanka who was the Head of the Free Media Movement before going into exile in 20091.
According to the information received, on September 12, 2011, Mr. Sunanda Deshapriya attended a side event at the 18th session of the UN Human Rights Council organised by the Sri Lankan Government. H.E. Mohamed Nasheed, President of the Maldives, a number of Ministers and senior Government officials from Sri Lanka, as well as representatives from a number of diplomatic missions in Geneva, from international human rights organisations and some Sri Lankan human rights defenders participated in the event.
A few days later, several Sri Lankan media outlets controlled by the State or sympathetic to the Sri Lankan Government, including televisions, radios, newspapers and websites, published an inaccurate account of the event. They falsely claimed that the President of the Maldives accused Mr. Sunanda Deshapriya of having acted “against his country” by supporting the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) at the Human Rights Council and thus betraying his country’s interests2.
However, according to those who attended the event, these accounts were not accurate and they recounted that the Maldivian President had in fact engaged in a cordial conversation with Mr. Sunanda Deshapriya and other Sri Lankan human rights defenders after the meeting. Furthermore, on September 27, the President of the Maldives made a statement in which he expressed his good wishes to all Tamil people and his desire for all people to live peacefully together3.
Since these false allegations were made in the media, Mr. Sunanda Deshapriya has been receiving death threats through phone calls from hidden numbers and comments made in on line media. The Observatory recalls that Mr. Deshapriya has already been subjected to smear campaigns in the past. In May 2009, following his participation and oral intervention during the 11th Special Session on Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council, he was also subjected to threats, forcing him to go into exile.
The Observatory expresses its deep concern about those false allegations and threats against Mr. Sunanda Deshapriya, and in particular fears for the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Deshapriya’s family who remains in Sri Lanka.
1 Mr. Deshapriya is the author of a weekly column in which he often focuses on human rights issues for the Sinhalese newspaper Ravaya, edits the “Sri Lanka Brief”, a website about human rights in Sri Lanka, and
maintains a blog site that gathers information about human rights violations, with a particular focus on freedom of expression.
2 See Dinamina, September 13, 2011 or Divaina, September 15, 2011.
3 See President’s Office website, http://www.presidencymaldives.gov.mv/Index.aspx?lid=11&dcid=6001.