Attacks on Human Rights Lawyers and Activists
Kumaravadivel Guruparan is a human rights lawyer and was a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Law at the University of Jaffna.
He appeared as counsel on behalf of victims in the case of 24 Tamil youth who went missing while in military custody at Navatkuli in 1996.
In November 2019, Guruparan was banned by the University Grants Commission from teaching law. A letter by the Sri Lankan army to the UGC questioned why Guruparan was permitted to engage in legal practice while being a member of the faculty. Guruparan resigned from the University on 16 July 2020.
Achala Senevirathne, a lawyer who represents families in a case involving the enforced disappearance of 11 youth in 2008, in which senior military commanders are implicated, has been attacked on social media, including with threats of physical violence and sexualized abuse. The police have failed to act on her complaints of threats to her safety.
On 10 June, Swastika Arulingam, a lawyer, was arrested when she inquired about the arrests of people conducting a peaceful Black Lives Matter solidarity protest.
In interviews with 15 Sri Lankan human rights defenders working in different locations around the country, Human Rights Watch heard consistent accounts of increased surveillance and pressure from security agencies. Police and intelligence officers have sought to instill fear and intimidate rights groups and activists who receive calls, threats, and warnings.
In February, the acting District Secretary in the Mullaitivu District (Northern Province) issued a directive that only NGOs with at least 70 percent of their activities focused on development would be allowed to work, effectively enabling arbitrary interference with and prevention of a broad range of human rights work.