Guidelines issued to protect human rights defenders in Sri Lanka

September 7, 2015

The Colombo Gazette of 17 July 2015 carried an article that is interesting in the light of efforts to create an enabling national environment for Human Rights Defenders in Sri Lanka:

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka has issued guideline for state authorities to ensure the protection of Human Rights Defenders (HRD) including ensuring their freedom of association.

The Human Rights Commission noted that Human Rights defenders act as the voice of vulnerable person or group or community or society and engage to ensure universally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms.

“They work very hard, for example; they document violations, reveal the human rights violations and help to redress these violations by peaceful means. HRDs are facing challenges in diverse political and social context at national, regional and international levels. Sometimes their activities are neglected or underestimated or seen as something negative by some of the authorities. Therefore they undergo severe risk when they carry out the activities to promote and protect human rights,” the Human Rights Commission said.

It said that the protection of HRDs is a corporate responsibility of the State, Civil societies and international communities. Although, State authorities have primary responsibility to protect the HRDs and ensure a conducive working environment where HRDs can operate free from hindrance and insecurity. All of them respect the rights of HRDs and support the activities of the HRDs to promote the overall enjoyment of human rights.

Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) as a National Human rights Institution (NHRI) has to perform as a defender of HRDs. HRCSL has serious concern for the Protection of HRDs. For this purpose the HRCSL has developed guideline for state authorities. These guidelines will assist the state authorities to protect the HRDs and ensure the internal dignity of the HRDs.

The guidelines call on State authorities to recognize the activities of the HRDs to protect and promote all human and fundamental freedoms which are guaranteed by the Sri Lankan laws including the Constitution of Sri Lanka and International human rights laws, be mindful of the fact that HRDs activities have the true intention to protect and promote human rights and fundamental freedom, are transparent, visible and accountable, are not a threat to state sovereignty, national unity and national security and are activate through peaceful means. 

The guidelines also note that all the human rights defenders or groups or organs of society shall be treated equally according to Article 12(2) of the Constitution which ensures “No citizen shall be discriminated against on the grounds of race, religion, language, caste, sex, political opinion, and place of birth or any one of such grounds”. Any special or unequal treatment or discrimination will be an express violation of Article 12 of the Constitution.

State authorities have also been told to recognize the freedom of association of human rights defenders or group or organs of society for a common purpose or joint action towards protecting and promoting human rights and fundamental freedom. Unreasonable restriction, suppression, dismissal, prohibition, negatively viewed or any such ways will be a sign of violation of the freedom of association which is guaranteed by Article 14 and 12 of the Constitution and other domestic laws.

State authorities should respect, protect and ensure the right of freedom of speech and expression of HRDs related to protect and promote human rights and fundamental freedom. Restrict, prohibit, show contempt, deform, criticize, comment negatively or any such ways will be an expression of violation of Article 14 and 12 of the Constitution.

HRCSL also notes that State authorities must ensure the right of movement of human rights defenders or groups or organs of society to meet the vulnerable groups particularly their rights violated or peaceful parade or travelling for peaceful gathering and seek, obtain and receive information for the purpose to facilitate the victim to seek appropriate remedies. If the movement of HRDs is unlawfully or unjustifiably restricted it violates article 14 of the Constitution.

https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/important-human-rights-council-side-event-on-11-march-to-be-followed-on-internet/

Guidelines issued to protect human rights defenders | Colombo Gazette.

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