Amnesty Intl. sirens deterioration of human rights in Sri Lanka

Wednesday, 29 March 2023 01:17 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

 Amnesty International Senior Director Deprose Muchena (centre), South Asia Regional Director Yamini Mishra (left) and Amnesty International Nepal Section Director Nirajan Thapaliya, Former Under Secretary General and The Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy, senior journalist Dilrukshi Handunetti and Centre for Policy Alternatives  Executive Director Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu show off the Amnesty International’s Annual Report 2022/23 launched in Colombo for South Asia yesterday - Pic by Lasantha Kumara 


  • Selecting Colombo first time as launch pad for its Annual Report says response to deterioration of rights in South Asia including SL exposes an international system unfit to deal with global crises
  • Highlights double standards throughout world on human rights and failure of international community to unite around consistently applied human rights and universal values
  • Robust response to Ukrainian crisis in West is in sharp contrast with deplorable lack of meaningful action on plummeting rights in Afghanistan and intense crackdown on right to protest in SL and other SA nations
  • Women’s rights and freedom to protest are threatened as states fail to protect and respect rights at home
  • AI insists that rules-based international systems must be founded on human rights and applied to everyone, everywhere

The failure of global and regional institutions – hamstrung by the self-interest of their members – to respond adequately to global conflicts, climate change and global energy and food crises has disrupted an already weak multilateral system, Amnesty International said as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world.

Amnesty International Report 2022/23: The State of the World’s Human Rights found that double standards on human rights abuses taking place around the world fuelled impunity and instability, including deplorable lack of meaningful action on the plummeting human rights record in Afghanistan, inadequate responses to a spiralling economic crisis in Sri Lanka and the refusal to confront the crackdown on dissent and persecution of minorities in multiple South Asian countries.

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was created 75 years ago, recognising the inalienable rights and fundamental freedoms of all people. Global economic dynamics and shifting power structures are unleashing chaos in which it is easy to lose sight of human rights. As South Asia sits on the brink of a volatile and unpredictable future, it is important now, more than ever, to keep rights squarely in the centre of all negotiations and conversations,” said Amnesty International Senior Director Deprose Muchena. 

He said that people took to the streets across the region to protest against injustice, deprivation and discrimination, but in most countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka they were met with intense crackdowns and excessive, sometimes lethal, force.

In Sri Lanka, he said, emergency powers were used to curtail mass protests. 

“The police used live ammunition, tear gas and water cannon against largely peaceful crowds protesting against the spiralling economic crisis, causing deaths and injuries. Protesters in Sri Lanka were arrested, arbitrarily detained and charged with terror-related and other offences,” he said.

In Afghanistan, peaceful protesters faced arbitrary arrests, torture and enforced disappearance. Police in Bangladesh used live and rubber bullets, sound grenades and tear gas to disperse protests by students and workers. In Pakistan, authorities forcibly broke up peaceful protests by activists and family members of victims of enforced disappearances. Protesting victims of loan sharks in Nepal were met with police baton charges and arbitrarily detained. In India, a 15-year-old boy and another protester were shot and killed by police during demonstrations in Jharkhand state.

Attacks on press freedom persisted in multiple countries. In Afghanistan, journalists faced arbitrary arrest and detention as well as torture and other ill-treatment for reporting that was critical of the Taliban. In Bangladesh, where journalists experienced physical assaults, judicial harassment and other reprisals for their reporting, a draft data protection law threatened to further curtail freedom of expression. Media workers in Pakistan also came under increased pressure as journalists and others were arrested on spurious charges.

The Indian government likewise tried to prevent the human rights situation there from being discussed abroad by imposing international travel bans on human rights defenders and detention without trial. It also used money laundering laws and other pretexts to harass media organisations and NGOs. In Nepal, comedians were among those who faced prison sentences in relation to their performances. The Maldives parliament passed a law that could force journalists to reveal their sources. Encouragingly, the Maldives government was considering amending the law, but faced strong criticism.

“South Asian countries seem to apply human rights law on a selective basis in a staggering show of blatant hypocrisy and double standards. They only criticise human rights violations when it aligns with their global and regional politics but are mute spectators to similar abuses at their own doorstep just because their interests are at stake. It is unconscionable and undermines the entire fabric of universal human rights," said Amnesty International Regional Director for South Asia Yamini Mishra. 

AI also said that economic crises fuelled by pandemic-related recession, economic mismanagement and climate change induced disasters within and beyond the region severely affected economic and social rights, including in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, where food, healthcare and an adequate standard of living became increasingly inaccessible.

In Afghanistan, the spiralling economic crisis plunged 97% of the population into poverty, while in Sri Lanka, inflation exceeded 73% in September 2022 with the poorest and most marginalised suffering the greatest consequences.

The devastating costs of the unchecked climate crisis were made abundantly clear in 2022. Specifically in Pakistan where heatwaves, droughts and then devastating floods had a catastrophic impact on lives and livelihoods of nearly 750,000 people. Against this backdrop, it was particularly disappointing to note that the global community failed to act in the best interests of humanity and address fossil fuel dependency, the main driver pushing us toward the biggest threat to life as we know it. This collective failure was another stark example of the weakness of current multilateral systems.

“South Asia is besieged by an onslaught of intersecting and interconnected crises including ‘man-made’ crises - with at least three countries in the region in the middle of an economic crisis and burdened with high debts - and natural crises, with South Asia often being ground zero for extreme heatwaves to destructive widespread floods. We stand no chance of surviving these crises if our national and international institutions aren’t fit for purpose,” said Yamini Mishra.

AI added that the Russia-Ukraine war diverted resources and attention away from the climate crisis, other long-standing conflicts and human suffering the world over and in South Asia in particular. The West’s double standards only embolden and enable countries to evade, ignore and deflect criticism of their human rights record.

“There is no denying that an effective and consistently applied rules-based international order is the need of the hour. The Russian war of aggression in Ukraine demonstrated that some of the richest countries in the world were more than capable of receiving large numbers of people seeking safety and giving them access to health, education and accommodation. However, the West did not offer the same treatment to the Afghans and Rohingyas escaping war and repression. This shameless double standard must be challenged and countries must step up their efforts for a renewed rules-based order," said Deprose Muchena.

“The double standards of wealthy nations are as evident in their sickening COVID -19 vaccine nationalism as it is in their large contribution to climate change. As South Asia increasingly becomes ground zero for many climate emergencies, it further highlights the need for reparations for loss and damage in these nations with greater investment in global reduction in dependency on fossil fuels. We also need countries, including in South Asia, that have so far failed to take a stand against human rights abuses in the world to speak up now before it is too late for everyone, everywhere.”