Advocacy statements

Statement on Sri Lanka’s Universal Periodic Review (2023)

  • Date / 2023
  • Location / Sri Lanka
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Item / UN Human Rights Council


Humanists International

53rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council (19 June 2023 to 14 July 2023)

Item 6: Universal Periodic Review – Sri Lanka

Mr President,

We are deeply concerned about the suppression of freedom of expression – particularly when it comes to dissenting voices, – the persecution of religious and belief minorities, and the targeting of individuals based on their activism or artistic endeavors in the country. Allowing space for dissent, minority belief systems and artistic creativity is central to fostering an inclusive and genuine democracy. We were therefore very disappointed to read that Sri Lanka has rejected some key recommendations in this area.1

Since the last review, we have seen an increased pressure on dissenting voices in Sri Lanka, exemplified by the arrest under vague charges of social media activist Sepal Amarasinghe who is known for his critical online commentary.2 The arrest of stand-up comedian Natasha Edirisooriya while she attempted to flee the country3 showcases the shrinking space for artistic expression and the suppression of creativity. Both arrests raise renewed concerns about the ICCPR Act of 2007 being used as a tool for the Sri Lankan state to crack down on dissent and curtail free speech.

Likewise with those of minority religions and beliefs; the arrest of Buddhist monk Rajangane Saddhartharathna,4 belonging to a minority sect, sheds some light on the vulnerability and marginalization faced by certain religious groups. Humanists also face persecution and very often cannot openly identify as non-religious for fear of reprisals. Mr President, it is for that reason it is me delivering this statement rather than a humanist from Sri Lanka.

[We urge Sri Lanka to honor its membership of this Council by accepting and implementing all UPR recommendations on protecting free expression and countering violence and hostility against minorities.]

Thank you.


1 For example: 65.85; 65.134; 65.147; 65.153.

Suggested academic reference

'Statement on Sri Lanka’s Universal Periodic Review (2023)', Humanists International

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