Sandya Eknaligoda wife of disappeared journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda with their two sons Sathyajith Sanjaya and Harith Danajaya.
On Jan. 24, 2010, Prageeth Eknaligoda, a Sri Lankan journalist and cartoonist, disappeared shortly after leaving work. A few days earlier, he had published an article critical of President Rajapaksa. Local residents told the Sri Lankan press that they had seen a white van without numbered plates close to his house around the time of his disappearance.
Prageeth had earlier been abducted in August, 2009 by a group who arrived in a white van; that time, he was released the following day, with his abductors saying that they had made a mistake. But since Jan. 24, 2010, no one has heard from him.
Over recent decades, Sri Lanka has experienced tens of thousands of enforced disappearances during civil conflict, with government forces or their agents detaining people and then denying all knowledge of their whereabouts. In virtually all cases, no one has been held accountable for these crimes.
More than three years after the end of Sri Lanka’s brutal civil war, security laws enacted to combat armed opposition groups continue to be used against outspoken, peaceful critics, including journalists, and others.
No one has been held accountable for these crimes. Impunity for human rights violations is the norm in Sri Lanka.
17 journalists have been killed so far in 2012 and there are currently 179 journalists imprisoned around the world.
Low pay, long hours, and dwindling job opportunities are professional challenges faced by many journalists. For some, however, the risks can be considerably steeper.
At least 17 journalists have been killed so far in 2012 and there are currently 179 journalists imprisoned around the world because of their work.
These numbers only begin to describe the risks faced by journalists, bloggers, filmmakers and others who dare bring to light uncomfortable truths that powerful interests would prefer to conceal. Most of those detained or killed were reporting on human rights failings in their country.
Today on World Press Freedom Day (May 3), here is a brief look at five countries where people risk much in the service of truth:
India’s foreign policy is acombination of realpolitik and old-school “nonaligned” mumbo-jumbo that made little sense even when it was more relevant during the Cold War. In any case, they definitely don’t want to talk about country-specific human rights issues (lest Kashmir might get more play). Yet, they joined the majority to support a human rights resolution on Sri Lanka.
India has refused to condemn Syria’s brutal crackdown on its own citizens. There, it was pure cynicism on the part of South Block (India’s Ministry of External Affairs) knowing that India won’t take a hit for not condemning Syria’s war against its people.
On Tuesday the United States sponsored a resolution at United Nations Human Rights Council calling on Sri Lanka to investigate alleged human rights abuses that occurred in the final days of the country’s struggle with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
A United Nations Panel of Experts has estimated that as many as 40,000 civilians may have been killed in the final stages of the conflict as the Sri Lankan Army overran the last few pockets of LTTE opposition.
As Amnesty’s recent report Locked Away: Sri Lanka’s security detainees makes clear, there are good reasons to believe that human rights abuses still continue to this day. Instances of arbitrary and illegal detention have been widely reported, as have acts of torture and extrajudicial execution.
I want to tell you a story about a man arrested in Sri Lanka. It’s shocking.
In June 2008, “Roshan” (not his real name) was arrested in Colombo by unknown assailants who he later learned were plainclothes police. The police suspected him of links to the opposition Tamil Tigers. He was held for two years without ever being charged or tried and was repeatedly tortured, before eventually being released. No one has been held accountable for his treatment.
I’ve been waiting for months for the final report from Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (often referred to as the “LLRC”). The commission had been appointed by President Rajapaksa in May 2010 to examine events during the last seven years of the war between the government and the Tamil Tigers (the war ended in May 2009 with the government’s victory over the Tigers).
The Sri Lankan government has used the existence of the commission to say that an international investigation into war crimes and other human rights abuses committed by both sides during the war in Sri Lanka wasn’t needed. On Dec. 16, the Sri Lankan government released the LLRC’s final report. I have to say that I’m disappointed with the report.
Fall is my favorite time of year: the air is cooler, the leaves are pretty, Amnesty International student groups are back together again, and people start signing up for the Write for Rights Global Write-a-thon.
In this—the world’s largest human rights event—we use letters, cards and more to demand the human rights of individuals are respected, protected and fulfilled. We show solidarity with those suffering abuses and work to improve people’s lives.
On August 30, Amnesty International and other human rights groups around the world will observe the International Day of the Disappeared. We’ll be pressing governments to disclose the status of the disappeared and to prosecute those responsible for enforced disappearances. Here’s how you can join us:
Amnesty International condemns all enforced disappearances as crimes under international law. And on August 30, we’ll be doing something about them.
Sandya Eknaligoda wife of disappeared journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda, Sri Lanka, 10 January 2011
An enforced disappearance occurs when a person is arrested or abducted by the state or agents of the state, who then deny that the person is being held or conceal their whereabouts, placing them outside the protection of the law.
Enforced disappearances take place around in the world, including in countries such as China, Nepal, Chad, Sri Lanka and North Korea. In Sri Lanka, tens of thousands of enforced disappearances occurred during decades of civil conflict on the island. One recent example is the journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda, who went missing after work on Jan. 24, 2010.