The Centre for Human Rights and Research (CHR) Sri Lanka, www.chrsrilanka.com the sister organization of Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) www.caffe.lk, was established in 2010 in a bid to address the growing human rights concerns in the country and to educate the people about issues which have been neglected by the main stream media or civil society groups for various reasons. In addition to our continuous work with CSOs and human rights activism, in the past four years we have studied, spoken about and published greatly on Freedom of Information, Academic Freedom, and the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).
In early 2013 CHR commenced an initiative to bring isolated CSOs across the country under an umbrella organization, the District Civil Society Forum. We have managed to integrate 868 CSOs into the Civil Society Forum, the largest existing network of CBOs. Simultaneously CHR built a close working relationship with the Cooperative of Provincial Journalists. During the association with the CSOs and provincial journalists CHR realized that a method of disseminating rights issues at the grassroots needs to be established as the mainstream media institutions had increasingly limited the coverage given to rights based issues.
In addition CHR has published extensively on media rights, self-censorship and assault and intimidation of journalists and media workers. Its campaign to highlight the self-censorship among media institutions and its adverse effects has drawn great attention to an issue which is hardly discussed. We have also engaged in providing assistance and protection to journalists who were facing immediate physical threats and assisted media organizations whose critical infrastructure had been damaged by assaults like lankaenews.com.
CHR has a proven track record of effectively researching and disseminating rights based issues in recent times. Not only have we tackled almost all recent rights based issues in Sri Lanka but we also possess a designated media unit and a close relationship with over 800 CSOs and independent media institutions.
As mentioned CHR already has a strong relationship 868 CSOs in Sri Lanka and it has continued to address issues faced by local communities by strengthening CSOs and lobbying policy makers. CHR also works with 178 CSOs from the North and held a meeting with the participation of 303 representatives on August 30th, 2013 where we drew a tentative action plan for the future. We already have close links with independent media and our reputation has ensured that our press briefings with CSO representatives receive national attention.
CHR also has a close relationship with the main stream media and our statements are often sought by main stream media when they report on rights based issues. As mentioned above the pressure on media institutions and their self censorship demands journalists to quote a third party and often it’s the communiqués of CHR that are quotes by media to hint at the underlying rights concerns. The growing number of rights violations and the growing demand on CHR to address them has put great pressure on CHR's media and research units to investigate rights violations and create timely press statements. In recently held Provincial Council elections, CHR handled over 1000 election related complaints and issued 64 press releases, interim reports and final reports. These reports were given wide publicity by print, electronic and web based media – over 5000 news articles, a sample of such articles are attached as an annex.
In addition CHR's sister organization Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) is Sri Lanka's leading election monitor and has a network of close to 10,000 volunteers. These include representatives of political parties, trade unionists, CSOs and government agencies. CaFFE also works closely with the diplomatic community and policy makers. It has been the lobby group for policy change related to the elections and other human Rights issues.
CHR has also carried out highly successful mobile clinics to facilitate identification documents targeting Provincial Council elections held earlier this year in the Northern Province, CHR was able to facilitate 36,514 identification documents in 41 days. We also conducted a program in the Eastern Province planning to facilitate 30,000 persons in four months. The success of this initiative is unmatched and has been recognized by both local (DRP, Department of Elections) and international (Commonwealth Secretariat) stakeholders.
In 2015 and 2016 CHR is carrying out simultaneous campaigns to repeal the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), securing the release of PTA detainees and to facilitate reforms of the police department so that policemen are inculcated with values that befit a democratic society.
A just and peaceful Sri Lanka in which political and Civil Rights of all citizens of Sri Lanka are assured.
To protect the political and civil rights of individuals and building capacities to assure that there are equal opportunities for all through civic education and information; research and advise; monitoring and follow up of human rights violations; advocacy for reforms of policies, laws and practices to conform to international human rights standards and establishing and strengthening cooperation with a wide range of organizations and groups.