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Oct-20-2011 02:02printcomments

Perpetrators of Brutal Attack on Jaffna University Student Leader Still Not Arrested

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION-URGENT APPEAL PROGRAMME - Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-211-2011

Subramaniam Thavapalasingham
Subramaniam Thavapalasingham

(JAFFNA, Sri Lanka) - The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that Mr. Subramaniam Thavapalasingham, President of the Jaffna University Students Union (JUSU) was severely assaulted by members of an unknown group in Jaffna on 16 October 2011.

Thavapalasingham was seriously injured, and was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of the Jaffna Teaching Hospital. Thavapalasingham is a widely known civil rights activist who has spoken out against the oppression faced by residents of the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka which are under heavy military control. None of Sri Lanka’s law enforcement agencies have begun a transparent investigation into the incident.

The fate of a civil rights activist is in danger.

Thavapalasingham’s relatives and the rest of Sri Lankan civil society are waiting for the perpetrator to be caught and justice to be appropriately dealt. This case is yet another illustration of the exceptional collapse of the rule of law in the country.

CASE NARRATIVE:

According to information that the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received, Mr. Subramaniam Thavapalasingham, President of the Jaffna University Students Union (JUSU) was severely assaulted by members of an unknown group in Jaffna on 16 October 2011.

Thavapalasingham (24) is a permanent resident of Puthoor of Mullaiththeevu,in Vanni District. He is also a student of the Art faculty at the University of Jaffna. In 2010, Thavapalansingham was elected to the position of President of the Student Union of the Art Faculty. Later, he was elected President of the Jaffna University Students Union (JUSU) by the student representatives of each faculty of the university.

However, he was not formally accepted by the university administration. It was said that certain political parties and armed groups did not want Thavapalasingham, a civil rights activist, to be President of the JUSU Thavapalasingham was popular among his fellow students and well-known for his political views. He spoke openly about the rights of citizens in Sri Lanka’s Northern and Eastern provinces, which are under military control, particularly about the citizens in the North who have to contend with a heavy military presence despite the fact that there is no armed conflict in the area. He openly discussed the disturbance to these residents and the constant atmosphere of fear they felt, particularly after the reported stories of ‘Grease Devils’ in Jaffna. The residents of the area believe military intelligence officers are responsible for these incidents.

On 16 October 2011, Subramaniam Thavapalasingham (24) went to a meeting held at the residence of a parliamentarian on Kandarmadama Street in Jaffna. After the meeting, he was followed by eight people on motorbikes who were in the possession of sharp iron rods and beat him severely on his head. As he was being assaulted, his assailants said: "do you dare to ask for a separate homeland?"

Thavapalasingham was severely injured and was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of Jaffna Teaching Hospital for treatment.

Considering the severity of his injuries and the weapons used for the attack it is clear that the intention of the attackers was to kill the student leader. As such, the Asian Human Rights Commission considers this to be an attempt to extrajudicially kill a civil rights activist and student leader.

Thavapalasingham believes that the attack was well organized and planned for political reasons because of his civil rights work. He believes that military intelligence officers are responsible for the attacks.

None of Sri Lanka’s law enforcement agencies have begun an efficient and transparent investigation into the incident. Thavapalasingham is being denied justice. The AHRC has observed this attack as one of a series of attacks that have happened over the past few months.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

A Press Release from Networking for Rights has expressed shock over the attack on Subramaniam Thevapalasingham,

"Harassment and intimidation of civilians has become a way of life in Sri Lanka, and in the past several years the numbers of incidents have escalated in all parts of the country. It is the right of all civilians to mobilize and participate in peaceful protests; that is the hallmark of a truly democratic country.

However, the opposite is true in Sri Lanka, where any attempt by civilians to voice their concerns, or the media to raise any issue is met with some form of brutality. It is an indication of an administration which resorts to undemocratic methods to suppress freedom of expression and dissent and enables other unruly elements to take the law into their own hands.

Merely conducting elections does not ensure democracy; rather it is the respect for the rule of law and rights of citizens to voice their concerns that make a true democracy.

Networking for Rights reiterates its call that while civilians are protected and their right to dissent is upheld, that a genuine and speedy inquiry is held into Thavapalasighams assault and the culprits brought to book".

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please send a letter to the authorities listed below expressing your concern about this case and requesting an immediate investigation into the allegations of assault against the student leader by the unidentified gang, and the prosecution of those proven to be responsible under the criminal law of the country.

Please note that the AHRC has also written a separate letter to the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment on this regard.



To support this appeal please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ________,

SRI LANKA: Still no arrest on the brutal attack against the student leader in Jaffna University

Name of the victim: Mr. Subramaniam Thavapalasingham (24) a permanent resident of Puthoor of Mullaiththeevu, in Vanni District
Alleged perpetrator: Unidentified gang
Date of incident: 16 October 2011
Place of incident: In Jaffna

I am writing to express my serious concern over the case of Mr. Subramaniam Thavapalasingham, President of the Jaffna University Students Union (JUSU) who was severely assaulted by members of an unknown group in Jaffna on 16 October 2011.

Thavapalasingham (24) is a permanent resident of Puthoor of Mullaiththeevu,in Vanni District. He is also a student of the Art faculty at the University of Jaffna. In 2010, Thavapalansingham was elected to the position of President of the Student Union of the Art Faculty. Later, he was elected President of the Jaffna University Students Union (JUSU) by the student representatives of each faculty of the university.

However, he was not formally accepted by the university administration. It was said that certain political parties and armed groups did not want Thavapalasingham, a civil rights activist, to be President of the JUSU Thavapalasingham was popular among his fellow students and well-known for his political views. He spoke openly about the rights of citizens in Sri Lanka’s Northern and Eastern provinces, which are under military control, particularly about the citizens in the North who have to contend with a heavy military presence despite the fact that there is no armed conflict in the area. He openly discussed the disturbance to these residents and the constant atmosphere of fear they felt, particularly after the reported stories of ‘Grease Devils’ in Jaffna. The residents of the area believe military intelligence officers are responsible for these incidents.

On 16 October 2011, Subramaniam Thavapalasingham (24) went to a meeting held at the residence of a parliamentarian on Kandarmadama Street in Jaffna. After the meeting, he was followed by eight people on motorbikes who were in the possession of sharp iron rods and beat him severely on his head. As he was being assaulted, his assailants said: "do you dare to ask for a separate homeland?"

Thavapalasingham was severely injured and was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of Jaffna Teaching Hospital for treatment.

Considering the severity of his injuries and the weapons used for the attack it is clear that the intention of the attackers was to kill the student leader. As such, the Asian Human Rights Commission considers this to be an attempt to extrajudicially kill a civil rights activist and student leade.

Thavapalasingham believes that the attack was well organized and planned for political reasons because of his civil rights work. He believes that military intelligence officers are responsible for the attacks.

None of Sri Lanka’s law enforcement agencies have begun an efficient and transparent investigation into the incident. Thavapalasingham is being denied justice. The AHRC has observed this attack as one of a series of attacks that have happened over the past few months.

I request your urgent intervention to ensure that the authorities listed below instigate an immediate investigation into the allegations of assault against the student leader by the unidentified perpetrators, and the prosecution of those proven to be responsible under the criminal law of the country.

Yours sincerely,

---------------------
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. N K Illangakoon
Inspector General of Police
New Secretariat
Colombo 1
SRI LANKA
Fax: +94 11 2 440440 / 327877
E-mail: igp@police.lk

2. Mr. Eva Wanasundara
Attorney General
Attorney General's Department
Colombo 12
SRI LANKA
Fax: +94 11 2 436421
E-mail: ag@attorneygeneral.gov.lk

3. Secretary
National Police Commission
3rd Floor, Rotunda Towers
109 Galle Road
Colombo 03
SRI LANKA
Tel: +94 11 2 395310
Fax: +94 11 2 395867
E-mail: npcgen@sltnet.lk or polcom@sltnet.lk

4. Secretary
Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission
No. 108
Barnes Place
Colombo 07
SRI LANKA
Tel: +9411 2694925, +9411 2685980, +9411 2685981
Fax: +9411 2694924 (General) +94112696470 (Chairman)
E-mail: sechrc@sltnet.lk

Thank you.




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