October 16, 2019
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In September, a group of hardline Buddhist monks attacked the homes of Rohingya refugees in Boosa, southern Sri Lanka. In November, dozens of home and businesses of Muslims were attacked near the southern city of Galle. “Over the past year, the region was marked by assaults on civil society. Journalists, bloggers, activists and others human rights defenders have been vilified and subjected to threats and violence. Meanwhile, online, invasive new cybercrime legislation has been used to criminalize freedom of expression and subject people to unlawful surveillance,” said Biraj Patnaik, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director.“South Asia also remains one of the most dangerous regions to be a member of a religious minority. Muslims in India and Sri Lanka, Shi’as in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Hindus in Bangladesh have all come under attack over the past year. In each case, the governments have either failed to protect them, been indifferent to their fate, or even encouraged a climate of hostility.” Sri Lanka has been listed among countries unsafe for Muslims in a newly released world report.In the report, Amnesty International notes that Sri Lanka saw a rise in Buddhist nationalist sentiment last year, including attacks against Christians and Muslims. The State of the World’s Human Rights report for 2017 to 2018 by Amnesty International notes that in South Asia, governments invoked law and order, national security and religion as they engaged in attacks against religious minorities, criminalized freedom of expression and subjected civil society to a campaign of intimidation, threats, smears and violence The report also says that in Sri Lanka, families attempting to arrange stones as memorials for loved ones lost during the 26-year internal conflict were stopped by security forces last year. Human rights defenders were also subject to surveillance and intimidation. Women human rights defenders in the north and east reported that interactions with the police were often degrading and sexualized. (Colombo Gazette)

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