Sri Lanka: Smear campaign and threats against Ms. Nimalka Fernando
LKA 002 / 1113 / OBS 089
Death threats /
Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of
the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation
for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your urgent intervention in the following
situation in Sri Lanka.
Description of the information:
Observatory has received with great concern information from reliable sources
about the smear campaign and threats suffered by Ms. Nimalka Fernando,
attorney-at-law, women’s rights activist and President of the International
Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) in Sri Lanka.
Ms. Fernando was also a convener of the alternative summit to the Commonwealth Heads of
Government Meeting (CHOGM), which is taking place in Sri Lanka from November 10
to 17, 2013 amid strong criticism of the country’s human rights abuses.
to the information received, on November 4, 2013, Ms. Nimalka Fernando
was defamed on a radio programme called Rata Yana Atha (“the way the
country is forging ahead”) on the Commercial Channel of the State-owned
Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC).
that day, the radio show, entitled “Stoning the Sinner Woman”, was presented by
Mr. Hudson Samarasinghe, Chairman of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation,
who broadcast fragments of an interview Ms. Fernando had previously granted to HIRU
TV on November 3. Ms. Fernando was described as a 59-year old
divorced woman who had served 30 different organisations, and “since 1989 carried
number of listeners subsequently phoned the radio to react, and some of them
threatened Ms. Nimalka
Fernando in those terms: “We cannot allow persons like Nimalka Fernando to live in this
society”; “If we do something to them
the government will be blamed by the human rights people. We should use a lorry
and cause an accident”, “There is something call cleaning in the army.
[...] We should hand her over to the cleaning system” or “We use
insecticides to eliminate the spread of mosquitoes. Some mosquitoes develop a
resistance to such spray. These people are like that. We have to find a method
to destroy them”. Ms. Fernando was also called a prostitute.
Reportedly, most of the callers were men, and
some of them identified themselves as having served the armed forces and
retired. Mr. Samarasinghe did not stop the callers in their offensive and
violent statements against Ms. Fernando, and even seemed to encourage them.
Subsequently, Ms. Nimalka
Fernando lodged a complaint to the Human
Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRC-SL) and the Inspector General of Police
an investigation for criminal offence and violation of her fundamental rights,
and also demanding that the tapes be secured for proof together with
information of the callers and their telephone numbers.
is not the first time Ms. Nimalka Fernando has been subjected to a smear
campaign in a State media. For instance, in March 2012, Ms. Fernando, along
with three other human rights defenders, was accused of being a traitor and
working against the interests of the country to obtain “dollars”. In addition,
the Minister of Public Relations threatened Ms. Fernando and the other defenders
involved to “break their limbs” in public if they were to dare to set foot in
Observatory firmly condemns the death threats and smear campaign against Ms.
Nimalka Fernando, and considers it as an attempt to delegitimise her efforts to
defend human rights in the country. The Observatory urges the Sri Lankan
authorities to guarantee in all circumstances her physical and psychological integrity.
On October 25, 2013, Ms. Maheesha Mudugamuwa
of the Island newspaper asked Ms. Nimalka
comment on three questions: the report of the Health Ministry that indicated
that there are over 40,000 sex workers, her views related to abortion and the
increase of AIDs patients in Sri Lanka. Among others, Ms. Fernando called for
the abolition of abortion laws in Sri Lanka, for safe sex and for promoting a
more protective reproductive health approach in Sri Lanka. She also requested
the journalist not to use the word prostitution. On October 27, 2013, the
journalist wrote her article with the caption “Call for Legalising
Prostitution”. Following this article another
reporter from the Mawbima (the Nation) asked for a clarification and he
too wrote an article with the caption “Legalise Prostitution”. These two
newspaper articles became the centrepiece of debates in few newspapers while
those for and against initiated a public debate. Several FM channels got Ms.
Fernando to clarify her statement and she also had an opportunity to engage in
a public debate over one of the FM channels with the Secretary of the JHU
(Buddhist monk lead political party in Sri Lanka) since they issued a press
statement related to her position, accusing her of destroying culture and
traditional norms of Sri Lanka. Several days later, the TV
channel Hiru also requested her to give few comments under their segment
titled “Hard Talk”.
Please write to the authorities in Sri
Lanka, urging them to:
in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Nimalka Fernando as well as of all human rights defenders in Sri Lanka;
an immediate, thorough, transparent investigation into the facts denounced
above in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an
independent tribunal, and apply them the sanctions provided by the law;
an end to any kind of harassment against Ms. Nimalka Fernando and more
generally against all human rights defenders in Sri Lanka;
with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by
the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially
regarding the following Articles:
1: everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to
promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and
fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels;
12.2: the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by
the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with
others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse
discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his
or her legitimate exercise of his or her rights [...];
in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in
accordance with international human rights standards and international
instruments ratified by Sri Lanka.
· President Mahinda
Rajapakse, Presidential Secretariat, C/ Office of the President, Temple Trees
150, Galle Road, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka, Fax: (+94) 11 472100 / (+94) 11 2446657
/ (+94) 11 243 0590, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
D.M. Jayaratne, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, No.
58, Sir Ernest De Silva Mawatha, Colombo 07, Sri Lanka. Fax no: (+94) 112
575454. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rambukwella, Minister of Mass Media and Information, 63,
Kirulappona Mawatha, Polhengoda, Colombo 05, Sri Lanka. Fax no: +94 11 251 4352. Email: email@example.com
Mr. Sarath Palitha Fernando, Attorney General,
Attorney General's Department. Colombo 12, Sri Lanka. Fax: (+94) 11 2 436421.
Inspector General of Police, Police Headquarters, Colombo 01, Sri Lanka.
Fax: 00 94 11 2440440. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Justice Priyantha R.P. Perera, Chairman, Human
Rights Commission of Sri Lanka. No: 165 Kynsey Road, Borella, Colombo 8, Sri
Lanka. Tel.: (+94) 11 2 696470 Fax: (+94) 11 2 694924. Email: email@example.com
· H.E. Mr. Ravinatha P. Aryasinha, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations. 56, rue de
Moillebeau, PO Box 436,1211 Geneva 19. Switzerland. Tel.: (+41) (0) 22 91 91
251, (0) 22 91 91 250. Fax: (+41) (0) 2273 49 084. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Sri Lanka in your
Geneva-Paris, November 14, 2013
inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your
an OMCT and FIDH venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights
Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.
contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
Tel and fax OMCT + 41
(0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1
43 55 18 80