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Sabharatnam Sivayoganathan

HRD, President
Batticaloa District Civil Society Forum

Seelan, also known as Sabharatnam Sivayoganathan,  is a longstanding human rights defender in Sri Lanka. During the ethnic conflict and civil war in Sri Lanka, Seelan supported victims of human rights violations in their fight for justice, many of whom are from vulnerable and impoverished communities. Seelan is an active committee member of the Batticaloa district NGO Consortium, a committee member of Transparency International Sri Lanka and the President of Batticaloa district civil society forum. Seelan has been part of several initiatives in relation to peace-building, transitional justice and the reconciliation processes. He has been vocal about the reprisals and intimidation faced by regional journalists, military land grabbing, militarization and the Presentation of Terrorism Act.

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. The revival of the Press Council - widely employed under Rajapaksa to target independent voices - in July 2015 has also alarmed HRDs.