Global Human Rights Defence

Ethnic identities under threat: Implementation of “One Country, One Law” concept in Sri Lanka
Source: Tamils and Muslims protest against the Rajapaksa regime during the presidential elections in January 2015. Daily Mirror, 2019 (https://www.dailymirror.lk/print/opinion/Will-Tamils--Muslims-vote-for-the-next-President/172-172557)

Author: Sarah Thanawala

INTRODUCTION

On October 26, 2021, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, under the mandate of an extraordinary gazette, issued a statement on the establishment of a task force to present proposals for a framework of the “One Country, One Law” concept (Ratnayake, 2021). Rajapaksa’s manifesto of “One Country, One Law” is a move to implement uniform laws or a legal blanket system for all communities throughout the country. Subsequently, the manifestation of such a legal system will result in repealing all personal laws and regional laws in force in Sri Lanka since antiquity (Economy Next, 2021). 

The 13-member task force is tasked by the president to study draft Acts and amendments and submit its proposals by February 28, 2022 (Ratnayake, 2021). Much to the dismay of human rights defenders and ethnic minorities, Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero, Secretary-General of Bodu Bala Sena (a Buddhist Power Force), a radical Buddhist monk and ex-convict is appointed to lead the task-force (The Hindu, 2021). Gnanasara Thero is known to have provoked anti-Muslim violence over the last decade (Economy Next, 2021). In 2018, he was convicted on charges of contempt of court with six years imprisonment, and released in 2019 on presidential pardon (The Hindu, 2021). Previously, the task force did not include representation from the Tamil community, and the non-nomination has been widely criticised (Waravita, 2021). On November 10, 2021, the mandate was amended to include three Tamil representatives in addition to the initially appointed four Muslim representatives (Waravita, 2021; The Hindu, 2021). 

CONTEXT: WHY A LEGAL BLANKET SYSTEM?

While the Sinhalese-Buddhists represent the majority population in Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka also houses several minority groups – the Tamil, the Muslim, and the Christian community (UK Home Office, 2021). The need for uniform laws that would apply to all communities in Sri Lanka stems from the diversity of ethnicities, the discriminatory nature of the personal laws, and the history of ethnic tensions present in the country. 

Background of personal laws

The Roman-Dutch law is applicable as general law throughout Sri Lanka – with the exception of personal laws such as the Muslim special laws applicable to all Muslims in matters related to family law, the Tesawalamai law applicable to property rights of Tamils from Northern Sri Lanka, and the Kandyan laws applicable to certain Sinhalese in the Central Hill districts (Tambimuttu, 2009; Ratnayake, 2021). Certain provisions of such personal laws are discriminatory against women and contravene the principles of international human rights law (Equality Now, 2021; Mahadiya, 2021). For instance, Section 17(2)(b) of the Marriage and Divorce (Muslim) Act 1951 provides that, except under certain circumstances, the bride’s wali or a male guardian, instead of the Muslim bride, is authorized to sign the marriage contract. It was only in July 2021 that the cabinet of ministers approved a proposal to permit the Muslim parties to marry under the general law of the Marriage Registration Act 1907 (Mahadiya, 2021). Furthermore, Section 6 of the Matrimonial Rights and Inheritance Ordinance 1911 (under the customary Tesawalamai law) restricts a married woman from dealing with her immovable property without the written consent of her husband (Equality Now, 2021). The discriminations under the personal laws necessitate the need to scrutinize and revise the discriminatory provisions of the personal laws.

“It must be ensured that the personal laws of minorities

(such as Kandyan, Tesawalamai or Muslim law) comply with international human rights standards.”

Rita Izsák-Ndiaye, United Special Rapporteur on minority issues, 2016.

Ethnic tensions in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has a long history of ethnic and religious tensions. The devastating Civil War that lasted for 25 years (1983-2009), between the Sinhalese-majority Sri Lankan government and the separatist group of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), ended with the Tamils displaced and the Government claiming victory (Anandakugan, 2020). Following the Easter Sunday Blasts in 2019, the Muslim community has been consistently and systematically harassed (UK Home Office, 2021). These underlying tensions have escalated discrimination against  minorities in Sri Lanka in recent times. 

RECENT EVENTS MARGINALISING MINORITIES 

“One Country, One Law” was a slogan for the election campaign of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in 2019 (The New Indian Express, 2021). On declaring the mandate for the constitution of a task force, the President quoted “no citizen should be discriminated against in the eyes of the law” as the motive behind implementing a general set of laws in Sri Lanka (Ratnayake, 2021). Although there’s an urgent need to revisit, amend and repeal certain discriminatory personal laws, the recent events targeting minorities raise serious concerns over the apparent intention of the head of the State to end discrimination. 

Even after the civil war, Tamils are persecuted, rigorously surveyed and denied other civil and political rights (Anandakugan, 2020). The militarisation of Tamil-majority areas and the land-grab of Tamil homelands by government officials are on the rise (Satkunanathan, 2021; Mittal, 2021). Furthermore, the Muslim community is blatantly discriminated against. On April 27, 2021, the Cabinet approved the proposal to ban burqas and to shut down more than a thousand madrassas (The Guardian, 2021). The Prevention of Terrorism Act of 1979 (PTA) serves as a state-sanctioned mechanism to arbitrarily detain, prosecute, punish and disproportionately target the minority communities (PTA, 1979; DeVotta, 2021). Violations of basic human rights of the minorities coupled with the state’s inaction in ensuring accountability represent the systematic oppression of the state. The unequal representation of the Sri Lankan ethnic communities and the shrinking voice of  minorities to the task force indicate the unconstitutionality of the task force’s composition. The reluctant addition of Tamils to the task force – headed by a “hard-line” Buddhist monk – is evidence for the lack of possibility of reconciliations and end of discrimination (The Hindu, 2021). Thus, the unique differences of minorities are threatened and it is feared that the uniform laws will serve the majority Buddhist community. 

DOMESTIC AND INTERNATIONAL OBLIGATIONS

Sri Lanka has certain domestic and international obligations to ensure that its citizens, irrespective of their religion or ethnicity, are equally represented in policymaking. The composition of the presidential task force and the unequal representation of minorities contravene such obligations.

Domestic obligations

The Constitution of Sri Lanka protects the rights of minorities. It specifically protects the right to practice religion under Article 9 (affirms duty to ensure all religions are granted rights), Article 10 (freedom of religion), and Article 12 (the right to equality) (The Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, 1978, Art. 9, 10, 12). However, Article 16 (1) supersedes the guarantees of equality and non-discrimination as it holds that all written and unwritten laws, although discriminatory, that was existent prior to the 1978 Constitution remain valid (The Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, 1978, Art. 16(1); Edrisinha and Welikala, 2016). 

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act was enacted in 2007 to incorporate the international human rights protections guaranteed under the ICCPR in Sri Lanka’s domestic laws. Corresponding to Article 25 of the ICCPR, Article 6 of the Act protects every citizen’s right to “take part in the conduct of public affairs, either directly or through any representative” (ICCPR Act, 2007, Art.6). It further protects the right of the citizens to have access to public services (ICCPR Act, 2007, Art.6). 

International obligations

Sri Lanka has signed and ratified the ICCPR 1966, and is under an obligation to ensure protections guaranteed therein (ICCPR, 1966; Foreign Ministry Sri Lanka, 2021). Article 25 of the ICCPR recognizes the right and the opportunity to participate in public affairs and the right  of access to public services (ICCPR, 1966, Art. 25). According to the General Comment No.25 of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Article 25 covers the implementation of policy at all levels (UN OHCHR, 1996). 

“Article 25 lies at the core of democratic government based on the consent of the people and conformity with the principles of the Covenant.”

General Comment No. 25, OHCHR. 

Other provisions of International Conventions protecting the rights of minorities include Article 27 of the ICCPR, Articles 18 and 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) 1948, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination 1965 (ICERD), and Article 2 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966 (ICESCR)  (ICCPR, 1966; UDHR, 1948; ICESCR, 1966). Sri Lanka has ratified the Conventions and is under an obligation to abide by its provisions (Foreign Ministry Sri Lanka, 2021). The UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (RES/47/135 of 18 December 1992) aims to secure non-discrimination and guides the State Parties to attain equality in the participation of minorities (Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, 1992).

CONCLUSION 

Sri Lanka is an ethnically diverse state with distinct communities, where an integrating legal system like “One Country, One Law” can deprive other cultures of their unique religious practices. The composition of the presidential task force is a clear indication of the intent to favour the majoritarian population and of side-lining the concerns of the minorities in Sri Lanka. Recommendations by the UN to amend the contravening personal laws are used as a front by the Rajapaksa government to advocate and initiate the “One Country, One Law” approach. The implementation of such a legal blanket system entails repealing all personal laws and thereby threatening the loss of ethnic and religious identities. Instead, necessary amendments should be brought to such problematic provisions of personal laws to bring them in alignment with international human rights law. Where both the parties to the marriage are Muslims, they should be given an option to marry under the General Marriage Ordinance. Also, it is pertinent that Article 16 of the Constitution be repealed to protect the right to equality and non-discrimination of all citizens. While Sri Lanka has ratified Conventions that protect the equality of minorities, it is vital that the international community pressurizes their compliance. 

References: 

International Legislations: 

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (1966, December 16). https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx, accessed 21 November 2021.

International Covenant on the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) (1966). https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/cescr.aspx,  accessed 21 November 2021.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) (1948, December 10). https://www.un.org/en/about-us/universal-declaration-of-human-rights. accessed 21 November 2021.

International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial  Discrimination (ICERD) (1965). https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/cerd.aspx, accessed 21 November 2021.

Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (1992, December 18). https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/minorities.aspx, accessed 21 November 2021.

Domestic Legislations:

Marriage and Divorce (Muslim) Act, no.13 of 151. http://www.commonlii.org/lk/legis/consol_act/mad134294.pdf, accessed 20 November 2021.

Marriage Registration Act, no.19 of 1907.  http://www.commonlii.org/lk/legis/consol_act/m131146.pdf, accessed 20 November 2021.

 Matrimonial Rights and Inheritance Ordinance (Jaffna), No.1 of 1911. http://hrlibrary.umn.edu/research/srilanka/statutes/Matrimonial_Rights_and_Inheritance_Ordinance_(Jaffna).pdf, accessed 20 November 2021.

Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) Act No. 48 of 1979. http://www.commonlii.org/lk/legis/num_act/potpa48o1979608/, accessed 20 November 2021.

The Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, 1978. (as amended on 29th October 2020, Revised Edn 2021) https://www.parliament.lk/files/pdf/constitution.pdf, accessed 20 November 2021.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act, No. 56 of 2007. https://citizenslanka.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/International-Covenant-on-Civil-Political-Rights-ICCPR-Act-No-56-of-2007E.pdf , accessed 20 November 2021.

Sri Lankan Government:

Foreign Ministry Sri Lanka (2021). Overview. https://mfa.gov.lk/overview/, accessed 30 November 2021.

UN Documents

United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (1996, July 12). General Comment No. 25: The right to participate in public affairs, voting rights and the right of equal access to public service (Art. 25) : . 12/07/96. CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.7, General Comment No. 25. (General Comments). UN OHCHR. https://www.equalrightstrust.org/ertdocumentbank/general%20comment%2025.pdf, accessed 30 November 2021 

 United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (2016, October 20). Statement of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Rita Izsák-Ndiaye, on the conclusion of her official visit to Sri Lanka, 10-20 October 2016. UN OHCHR. https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=20709&LangID=E, accessed 30 November 2021

Journal Articles:

Anandakugan, N. (2020, August 31). The Sri Lankan Civil War and Its History, Revisited in 2020. Harvard International Review. https://hir.harvard.edu/sri-lankan-civil-war/, accessed 30 November 2021.

DeVotta, N. (2021, June 14). [ADERN Issue Briefing] Sri Lanka’s Prevention of Terrorism Act: An Anti-Minority Cudgel. Asia Democracy Research Institute & East Asia Institute. http://www.adrnresearch.org/publications/list.php, accessed 17 October 2021.

Edrisinha, R and Welikala, A (2016, November). Civil and Political Rights in the Sri Lankan Constitution and Law: Making the New Constitution in Compliance with the ICCPR. Centre for Policy Alternatives. https://www.cpalanka.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/ICCPR-Chapter-Final.pdf,  accessed 20 November 2021 

Equality Now (2021, September 30). Sri Lanka – Matrimonial Rights And Inheritance Ordinance (Jaffna), Ordinance No. 1 of 1911. Equality Now. https://www.equalitynow.org/discriminatory_law/sri_lanka_matrimonial_rights_and_inheritance_ordinance_no_1_of_1911/ , accessed 30 November 2021

UK Home Office (2021, August). Country Police and Information Note: Sri Lanka – Religious Minorities. UK Home Office. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/sri-lanka-country-policy-and-information-notes, accessed 17 November 2021.  

Mittal, A (2021, March 8). Sri Lanka: Land grab designed to break up traditional Tamil land, says new report. JDS. http://www.jdslanka.org/index.php/news-features/human-rights/1002-sri-lanka-land-grab-designed-to-break-up-traditional-tamil-land-says-new-report, accessed 20 November 2021 

Ratnayake K. (2021, November 8). Sri Lankan president’s “One Country, One Law” taskforce will provoke racial tensions. World Socialist Web Site. https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2021/11/08/slpr-n08.html , accessed 20 November 2021

 Satkunanathan, A (2021, January 20). Securitisation and militarisation in Sri Lanka: A continuum. Daily FT. https://www.ft.lk/columns/Securitisation-and-militarisation-in-Sri-Lanka-A-continuum/4-711827, accessed 23 November 2021 

Tambimuttu, A. (2009, January). Sri Lanka: Legal Research and Legal System. Hauser Global Law School Program. https://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/Sri_Lanka.html, accessed 20 November 2021 

News Articles:

Economy Next (2021, October 28).  Sri Lanka nationalist monk’s appointment to law taskforce spreads shock and awe. Economy Next. https://economynext.com/sri-lanka-nationalist-monks-appointment-to-law-taskforce-spreads-shock-and-awe-87348/, accessed 28 October 2021.

Mahadiya, H (2021, July 20). Cabinet nod for permitting Sri Lanka’s Muslim marriages, divorces under common law. Economy Next. https://economynext.com/cabinet-nod-for-permitting-sri-lankas-muslim-marriages-divorces-under-common-law-84174/#modal-one, accessed 27 November 2021. 

Tamil Guardian (2021, November 9). Sri Lankan President rejects resignation of Justice Minister. Tamil Guardian.  https://www.tamilguardian.com/content/sri-lankan-president-rejects-resignation-justice-minister, accessed 27 November 2021. 

The New Indian Express (2021, November 10). Sri Lankan President adds 3 Tamil community members to ‘One Country, One Law’ task force. The New Indian Express. https://www.newindianexpress.com/world/2021/nov/10/sri-lankan-president-adds-3-tamil-community-members-to-one-country-one-law-task-force-2381933.html, accessed 10 November 2021. 

The Hindu (2021, October 27). Hardline monk head legal reforms panel in Sri Lanka. The Hindu. https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/sri-lankan-president-appoints-task-force-led-by-controversial-buddhist-monk-for-one-country-one-law/article37189262.ece, accessed 27 October 2021.

The Guardian (2021, March 13). Sri Lanka to ban burqa and close 1,000 Islamic schools. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/mar/13/sri-lanka-to-ban-burka-and-close-1000-islamic-schools, accessed 17 October 2021.

Waravita, P (2021, November 10). ‘One Law’ Task Force amended: Only to give proposals to form conceptual framework. The Morning. https://www.themorning.lk/one-law-task-force-mandate-amended-only-to-give-proposals-to-form-conceptual-framework/, accessed 19 November 2021.

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Kenza Mena
Team Coordinator -China

Kenza Mena has expertise in international criminal law since she is currently pursuing a last-year Master’s degree in International Criminal Justice at Paris II Panthéon-Assas and obtained with honors cum laude an LLM in International and Transnational Criminal Law from the University of Amsterdam. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in French and Anglo-American law. 

Since September 2021, she has been the coordinator of Team China at GHRD, a country where violations of human rights, even international crimes, are frequently perpetrated by representatives of the State. Within Team China, awareness is also raised on discrimination that Chinese women and minorities in the country and, more generally, Chinese people around the world are facing.

Kenza believes that the primary key step to tackle atrocities perpetrated around the world is advocacy and promotion of human rights.

Aimilina Sarafi
Pakistan Coordinator

Aimilina Sarafi holds a Bachelor’s degree cum laude in International Relations and Organisations from Leiden University and is currently pursuing a Double Legal Master’s degree (LLM) in Public International Law and International Criminal Law at the University of Amsterdam.
She is an active advocate for the human rights of all peoples in her community and is passionate about creating a better world for future generations. Aimilina is the coordinator for the GHRD team of Pakistan, in which human rights violations of minority communities in Pakistan are investigated and legally evaluated based on international human rights legal standards.
Her team is working on raising awareness on the plight of minority communities such as women, children, religious and ethnic minorities within Pakistan.

Lukas Mitidieri
Coordinator & Head Researcher- Bangladesh

Lucas Mitidieri is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in International Relations at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). As the GHRD Bangladesh Team Coordinator, he advocates for human rights and monitors violations across all minorities and marginalized groups in Bangladesh. Lucas believes that the fight for International Human Rights is the key to a world with better social justice and greater equality.

Nicole Hutchinson
Editorial Team Lead

Nicole has an MSc in International Development Studies with a focus on migration. She is passionate about promoting human rights and fighting poverty through advocacy and empowering human choice. Nicole believes that even the simplest social justice efforts, when properly nurtured, can bring about radical and positive change worldwide.

Gabriela Johannen
Coordinator & Head Researcher – India

Gabriela Johannen is a lawyer admitted to the German bar and holds extensive knowledge in the fields of human rights, refugee law, and international law. After working for various courts and law firms in her home country, she decided to obtain an LL.M. degree from Utrecht University where she studied Public International Law with a special focus on Human Rights. Additionally, while working as a pro-bono legal advisor for refugees, she expanded her knowledge in the fields of refugee law and migration.

Gabriela is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD India, a country, she has had a personal connection with since childhood. Her primary focus is to raise awareness for the severe human rights violations against minorities and marginalized groups that continue to occur on a daily basis in India. By emphasizing the happenings and educating the general public, she hopes to create a better world for future generations.

João Victor
Coordinator & Head Researcher – International Justice

João Victor is a young Brazilian lawyer who leads our team of International Justice and Human Rights. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Law from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and possesses over 5 years of experience in dealing with Human Rights and International Law issues both in Brazil and internationally, including the protection of refugees’ rights and the strengthening of accountability measures against torture crimes.

João has an extensive research engagement with subjects related to International Justice in general, and more specifically with the study of the jurisprudence of Human Rights Courts regarding the rise of populist and anti-terrorist measures taken by national governments. He is also interested in the different impacts that new technologies may provoke on the maintenance of Human Rights online, and how enforcing the due diligence rules among private technology companies might secure these rights against gross Human Rights violations.

Célinne Bodinger
Environment and Human Rights Coordinator

As the Environment and Human Rights Coordinator, Célinne is passionate about the health of our planet and every life on it.

Angela Roncetti
Team Coordinator and Head Researcher- South America

Angela holds a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) from Vitória Law School (FDV) in Brazil. Her research combines more than five years of experience conducting debates and studies on the rights of homeless people, the elderly, children, and refugees. Besides that, she also volunteers in a social project called Sou Diferente (I am Different in English), where she coordinates and takes part in actions aimed at the assistance and the emancipation of vulnerable groups in the cities of the metropolitan area of Espírito Santo state (Brazil).

Lina Borchardt
Team Head (Promotions)
(Europe)

She is currently heading the Promotions Team and University Chapter of Global Human Rights Defence. Her background is the one of European and International Law, which I am studying in The Hague. She has previously gained experience at Women´s Rights organizations in Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey over the past years.
She has been working for Global Human Rights Defence in the Netherlands since 2020. Her focus now is concentrated on the Human Rights and Minorities Film Festival and the cooperation of GHRD with students across the country.

Pedro Ivo Oliveira
Team Coordinator and Researcher
(Africa)

Pedro holds an extensive background in Human Rights, especially in Global Health, LGBTQ+ issues, and HIV and AIDS. He is currently finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and Affairs at the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Moreover, he successfully attended the Bilingual Summer School in Human Rights Education promoted by the Federal University of Minas Gerais and the Association of Universities of the Montevideo Group. Besides, Pedro Ivo has a diversified professional background, collecting experiences in many NGOs and projects.

With outstanding leadership abilities, in 2021, Pedro Ivo was the Secretary-General of the 22nd edition of the biggest UN Model in Latin America: the MINIONU. Fluent in Portuguese, English, and Spanish, Pedro Ivo is the Team Coordinator and Head Researcher of the Team Africa at Global Human Rights Defence. Hence, his focus is to empower his team from many parts of the world about the Human Rights Situation in the African continent, meanwhile having a humanized approach.

Alessandro Cosmo
GHRD Youth Ambassador
(European Union)

Alessandro Cosmo obtained his B.A. with Honors from Leiden University College where he studied International Law with a minor in Social and Business Entrepreneurship. He is currently pursuing an LL.M. in Public International Law at Utrecht University with a specialization in Conflict and Security. 
As GHRD’s E.U. Youth Ambassador, Alessandro’s two main focuses are to broaden the Defence’s reach within E.U. institutions and political parties, as well as mediate relations between human rights organizations abroad seeking European funding. 
Alessandro believes that human rights advocacy requires grass-roots initiatives where victims’ voices are amplified and not paraphrased or spoken for. He will therefore act on this agenda when representing Global Human Rights Defence domestically and abroad

Veronica Delgado
Team Coordinator and Researcher- Japan, Sri Lanka & Tibet

Veronica is a Colombian lawyer who leads our team of Japan, Sri Lanka and Tibet. She holds a master’s degree in Public International Law from Utrecht University. She has experience in Colombian law firms. Here she represented clients before constitutional courts. She also outlined legal concepts to state entities such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ombudsman’s Office on international law issues.

Veronica has an extensive research background with subjects related to public international law. She worked as an assistant researcher for more than two years for the Externado University of Colombia. Here she undertook in-depth research on constitutional, business, and human rights law issues. She was involved with consultancy services with the Colombian Army regarding transitional justice. 

Wiktoria Walczyk
Coordinator & Head Researcher (Nepal & Indonesia)

Wiktoria Walczyk has joined GHRD in June 2020 as a legal intern. She is currently coordinator and head researcher of Team Nepal and Indonesia. She has an extensive legal knowledge concerning international human rights and is passionate about children’s and minorities’ rights. Wiktoria has obtained her LL.B. in International & European Law and she specialised in Public International Law & Human Rights at The Hague University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. Moreover, she is pursuing her LL.M. in International & European Law and focusing on Modern Human Rights Law specialisation at the University of Wroclaw in Poland. In order to gain an essential legal experience, Wiktoria has also joined Credit Suisse’s 2021 General Counsel Graduate First Program where she is conducting her legal training and discovering the banking world. She would like to make a significant impact when it comes to the protection of fundamental human rights around the world, especially with regard to child labour. 

Fairuz Sewbaks
Coordinator and Head Researcher
(Africa)​

Fairuz Sewbaks holds extensive legal knowledge regarding international human rights, with a specific focus on human rights dealings taking place in continental Africa. She holds a bachelor’s degree from The Hague University in public international law and international human rights and successfully followed advanced human rights courses at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. She furthermore participated in the Istanbul Summer School where she was educated about the role of epidemics and pandemics in light of human rights.

 

Fairuz is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD Africa. Her primary focus is to establish and coordinate long-term research projects regarding the differentiating human rights dealings of vulnerable and marginalized groups in continental Africa, as well as conducting individual research projects.

Priya Lachmansingh
Coordinator and Head Researcher, Political Advisor
(Asia & America)

Priya Lachmansingh is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in International & European
Law at the Hague University of Applied Science.
As GHRD’s Asia & America human rights coordinator and GHRD Political Advisor, Priya’s
prominent focus is to highlight human rights violations targeted against minority and
marginalized groups in Asia and America and to broaden GHRD reach within Dutch political
parties and as well seek domestic funding.

Jasmann Chatwal
Team Coordinator & Head Coordinator: North America

Jasmann is a political science student at Leiden University who joined GHRD in May 2021 as an intern in team Pakistan. Now, she is the team coordinator for North America and is responsible for coordinating the documentation of human rights violations in USA, Canada, and America.