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ICC Note:

The human rights situation in Sri Lanka has shown a marked improvement in 2015 following the election of a new government in January. For the country’s Christians, attacks on Christians and their places of worship has diminished significantly as compared to 2014. However, there has been a recent increase in attacks on Christians and their places of worship causing many to remain concerned for religious freedom in Sri Lanka. Will Sri Lanka continue to improve or will the country backslide? 

7/16/2015 Sri Lanka (Colombo Gazette) – The human rights situation in Sri Lanka improved during the first half of 2015, although some concerns remain, a British Foreign Office report said.

The Foreign Office report on human rights said that following the election of President Maithripala Sirisena in January and the appointment of a new government, Sri Lanka took a number of positive steps to address human rights and democracy concerns, including establishing new institutions and undertaking legal reforms.

Freedom of expression improved, with exiled journalists invited to return to the country and a number of banned websites unblocked. The democratic space has opened up with travel bans on foreign nationals visiting the north lifted, and the NGO Secretariat moved from the Ministry of Defense to the Ministry of Policy Planning and Economic Affairs. Local contacts in the north and east noted a significant reduction in surveillance by security forces with increased space for journalists and civil society activism.

However, the report said that challenges remained, including those related to high levels of militarization, such as military involvement in civilian life, and the continued occupation of land by the armed forces. There were also concerns over women’s security as well as reports of journalists being intimidated.

There has been no progress on investigations into widespread disappearances that occurred during the conflict, including those of missing ex-combatants (who allegedly surrendered to Sri Lankan security forces). Tamil activists and politicians continued to allege the existence of secret detention centers, which authorities have denied.

Violence targeting Muslims and Evangelical Christians reduced significantly during the first two months of 2015 but increased since, although to a much lower level than in previous years. Sporadic incidents continued however, including mob attacks targeting places of worship.

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