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Ven. Wekandawala Rahula Thero

HRD, Member
Centre for Environment and Nature Studies

Ven. Rahula Thero is a human rights defender and environmental rights activist campaigning on issues of social justice, environmental rights, and human rights since 2005. He is an active member of the Centre for Environment and Nature Studies and has created space at his temple, Bodhirukkārāma in Kudabibula, near Weeraketiya for community members, professionals and civil society to engage on issues of human rights, justice and the environment. His human rights work, and public support in solidarity with victims of violations including persecuted religious and ethnic minorities is especially significant given his location, in the Hambantota district, a stronghold of the ruling Rajapaksa family. Rahula Thero has been vocal on several issues, including the construction of a road through the Sinharaja forest, the contamination of water and the shooting of civilian protesters in Rathupaswala, against racist attacks on Muslim villagers in the Wilpattu conservation environmental crisis, and most recently in the struggle launched by farmers in Hambantota seeking resolution of the human elephant conflict.

The situation for human Rights Defenders has significantly improved since Maithripala Sirisena came to power in January 2015, with improved conditions for freedom of expression, civil society and judicial independence. The Sirisena administration has ushered in a broad reversal of the country’s authoritarian drift under Mahinda Rajapaksa, but human rights defenders fighting against corruption, enforced disappearances or defending environmental rights remain at great risk.