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Joseph Stalin

human rights defender, General Secretary
Ceylon Teachers Union

Joseph Stalin is a human rights defender, the General Secretary of Ceylon Teachers Union and a prominent advocate for education rights and reforms. He has campaigned against militarization of education in Sri Lanka and for the rights of teachers and students against regressive state polices. From the inception of countrywide protests linked to the economic crisis in around March 2022, Joseph Stalin has been at the forefront of peaceful campaigns seeking a system change and more transparent, accountable governance. Protesters demand an end to corruption, abolishing the executive presidency which centralizes power and removal of the Rajapaksa family and their allies, including current President Ranil Wickremesinghe from power. The Sri Lankan government has responded with violence, mis and dis information against protesters and widespread arrest of protesters and perceived leaders.

Despite the end of the armed conflict with the Tamil Tigers in 2009, strict security laws are in force and the situation for HRDs working on enforced disappearances, torture and land rights remains critical. HRDs seeking accountability for violations committed by both parties to the conflict face serious risks, including death threats, smear campaigns, judicial harassment, torture, enforced disappearance and killing. The army has also imposed some restrictions on assembly in Tamil regions. Impunity for crimes against HRDs is a major concern, since the current government shows no real intention to hold security forces responsible for the crimes they committed against HRDs and journalists during the civil war and the Rajapaksa years. Press freedom remains fragile, as journalists still face difficulties covering certain topics and are subject to harassment and intimidation.