Sri Lanka: Activist Sunila Abeysekera Selected for Global Human Rights Defender Award
“We are honoring Hollman and Sunila for their tireless efforts to shed light into the shadowy corners of conflict, to expose and end the abuses that ruin the lives of so many in Colombia and Sri Lanka,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “Their work exemplifies the ideals of the human rights movement: courage, an unswerving commitment to justice and genuine concern for the rights of all victims.” He added that the work of the two is inspiring, which gives “a powerful message that governments and armed groups should end their abuses and respect the rights of the people around them.”
Sunila Abeysekera has worked as an activist on behalf of Sri Lankans victimised by government security forces and the armed opposition Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). She has been a leading human rights activist of women in Sri Lanka and beyond. Focusing on women puts her at the centre of Sri Lanka’s violent storm. “Women and children are the first victims of any kind of conflict,” she said.
As Executive Director of INFORM, a leading Sri Lankan human rights nongovernmental organisation, Abeysekera has fought to expose serious abuses committed in the civil war of the country. For more than two decades, she has struggled against the entrenched culture of impunity to hold perpetrators accountable for enforced disappearances, killings of civilians, violence against women, torture in detention, and the rights of displaced persons.
With a remarkable ability as a researcher, advocate, and spokesperson, Sunila Abeysekera is internationally recognised as a preeminent human rights activist in South Asia. Amidst a bloody civil war along an ethnic divide, she has refused to take sides, denouncing abuses by both the government and LTTE. Her fierce commitment and passion for the truth have won Abeysekera the respect of Tamils and Sinhalese alike. She has faced death threats for her work and was briefly forced to flee the country, but she has remained steadfast in her work. Human Rights Watch honours Sunila Abeysekera for upholding the human rights of all Sri Lankan citizens regardless of religion, ethnicity or gender.
12 October 2007