Sri Lanka: Father Elil Rajan summoned for the third time in one week over commemorative event for civil war victims
June 1, 2017, 7:56 am

On 20 May 2017, Father Elil Rajan was summoned in relation to a commemorative event he organised near St. Paul’s Church in East Mullivaaikkal, a village on the north-east coast of Sri Lanka which was the scene of the final battle of the civil war. The event consisted of placing rocks carved with the names of Tamil victims of this final battle. While the police summons was withdrawn, the human rights defender was asked to provide the list of names that was engraved on the rocks. Father Elil Rajan had previously been summoned and questioned on 16 May by the Mullaitivu Police and on 19 May by the Vavuniya Police over the event he organised for Mullivaikkal Remembrance Day on 18 May, a commemorative day observed by Tamil people to remember those who died in the final stages of the civil war.

The ongoing harassment of Father Elil Rajan is part of a broader crackdown on Tamil civil society, which has been subjected to other forms of harassment, intimidation and surveillance which hinder non-exclusionary truth and reconciliation efforts by restricting the recognition and remembrance of human rights violations suffered by Tamil people during the civil war. Human rights defenders such as Father Elil Rajan who work on Tamil issues and for the inclusion of the Tamil perspective in truth and reconciliation efforts, are particularly targeted through surveillance, and freedom of expression and assembly is restricted in Tamil regions, especially in military-occupied territories affected by the civil war. Police occasionally use excessive force to disperse protesters, and the army has imposed some restrictions on assembly in the North and East, particularly for planned memorial events concerning the end of the war, which impact human rights defenders working on violations perpetrated in the region both during and after the civil war. These restrictions have disproportionately affected Tamil people.