South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR), a regional network of human rights defenders, expresses concern over the statement issued by the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry on 4, February 2022 as a response to the statement made by a prominent human rights lawyer Ambika Satkunanathan at the hearing of the European Parliament’s subcommittee on Human Rights on 27 January 2022.
We believe that Satkunanathan, a leading rights advocate and a former Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka has delivered a critical assessment of the human rights situation in Sri Lanka and provided recommendations to the member states of the European Union. SAHR stands in solidarity with her liberty to express her views and speak out as a rights activist on the state’s international and national obligations to its citizens
SAHR considers this response of the Foreign Ministry representing the present government as a form of intimidation aimed at stifling dissent and freedom of expression is similar to the action that has been taking place quite often in the regional states in the recent past resulting in the shrinking of civic space. It also firmly believes that the right to defend human rights should be respected by governments.
SAHR urges the government of Sri Lanka to engage proactively regarding the issues raised by Ambika Satkunanathan in order to ensure the rights of the citizens as enshrined in the constitution; and also, to provide a conducive environment for human rights defenders to express their views by upholding human rights and respect for democratic values.
On behalf of the members of South Asians for Human Rights,
Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy
Dr. Roshmi Goswami