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SRI LANKA: Immediately Release Human Rights Defenders Mr. Ruki Fernando and Rev. Praveen MahesanWilliam Gomes, Human Rights Ambassador for Salem-News.com
Human Rights Ambassador for Salem-News.com has received information from reliable sources about the arbitrary arrest and interrogation of two activists based in Jaffna.
(WASHINGTON DC) - In the following letter to the President of Sri Lanka, Salem-News.com Human Rights Ambassador William Nicholas Gomes seeks relief for activists arbitrarily arrested by police.
President Mahinda Rajapakse,
Dear President Mahinda Rajapakse,
I am William Nicholas Gomes, Human Rights Ambassador for Salem-News.com.
I am writing to express my serious concern over the arbitrary arrest and interrogation by the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) of Mr. Ruki Fernando, a human rights adviser to the human rights organisation INFORM, based in Colombo, and Rev. Praveen Mahesan, former Director of the Centre for Peace and Reconciliation (CPR) based in Jaffna.
According to the information received, on March 16, 2014, at around 10.30 pm, Mr. Ruki Fernando and Rev. Praveen Omi were arrested by a specially appointed unit of the TID as they were visiting the heavily militarised area of Kilinochchi, North of Sri Lanka, in order to investigate into the arrest on March 13, 2014 of human rights defender Ms. Balendran Jeyakumari and her 13-year old daughter Vithuskaini, who have been campaigning against enforced disappearances. They were also arrested and interrogated by the TID. While Vithuskaini was subsequently released, Ms. Jeyakumari continues to be held in Boosa detention centre under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), under which a person can be held without charge for up to 18 months.
Mr. Ruki Fernando and Rev. Praveen Mahesan were brought to the Kilinochchi police station, which initially denied that the two defenders were detained there, before confirming the arrest. The officer in charge (OIC) of the Kilinochchi police, Mr. Kumara, in particular confirmed the arrest and further stated that “Ruki Fernando and Rev. Praveen behaved in a suspicious manner as they visited some families of those who have lost their family members”. Mr. Ruki Fernando and Rev. Praveen Omi were reportedly questioned separately for three hours by around 15 TID officers at the Kilinochchi police station.
At around 1.30 am, Mr. Ruki Fernando and Rev. Praveen Mahesan left Kilinochchi police station handcuffed and blindfolded, accompanied with TID officers, before being questioned in Vavunia police station until 7.00 am on March 17, 2014.
On March 17, 2014, at 11 am, TID officers visited Mr. Ruki Fernando's parents to inform them about his arrest. Mr. Fernando’s parents were issued with a Notice of Arrest stating that he was arrested by the TID on alleged acts of terrorism on March 16, 2014, in Kilinochchi. The notice also stated that Mr. Fernando will be detained for further investigation on the 2nd floor of the police New General Secretariat in Colombo. No information could be obtained on whether a similar notice was issued to Fr. Praveen’s next of kin. At 1.30pm, TID Director informed one of the lawyers that they were both brought to Colombo and were being held at the TID headquarters.
Later in the day, police media spokesman SSP Ajith Rohana announced that Mr. Ruki Fernando and Rev. Praveen were first detained at the Kilinochchi police station under the PTA, before being transferred to Vavuniya and then to Colombo for further questioning. They would reportedly be charged with “attempting to create ethnic discord among communities and to promote separatism”.
I highly condemn the arrest and judicial harassment of Mr. Ruki Fernando, Rev. Praveen Mahesan and Ms. Balendran Jeyakumari, which seem to merely aim at sanctioning their peaceful human rights activities, and calls upon the authorities of Sri Lanka to release them immediately and unconditionally.
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Ruki Fernando, Rev. Praveen Mahesan and Ms. Balendran Jeyakumari as well as of all human rights defenders in Sri Lanka; ii. Release Mr. Ruki Fernando, Rev. Praveen Omi and Ms. Balendran Jeyakumari immediately and unconditionally since their detention is arbitrary and only aims at sanctioning their human rights activities; iii. Put an end to any kind of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Mr. Ruki Fernando, Rev. Praveen Mahesan and Ms. Balendran Jeyakumari and more generally against all human rights defenders in Sri Lanka and ensure that they are able to carry out their peaceful and legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals; iv. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially regarding the following Articles:
- Article 1: everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels;
- Article 5 (a): For the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels
(a) To meet or assemble peacefully;
- Article 12.2: the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of his or her rights [...]; v.Ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Sri Lanka.
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