Sri Lanka: Arbitrary arrest of human rights defenders Mr. Ruki Fernando and Rev. Praveen Mahesan
LKA 001 / 0314 / OBS 019
Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of
the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation
for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your urgent intervention in the following
situation in Sri Lanka.
Brief description of the situation:
Observatory has received with concern information from reliable sources about
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
Director of the Centre for Peace and Reconciliation (CPR) based in Jaffna.
Mr. Ruki Fernando and Rev. Praveen Mahesan
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.
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”.
Yet, as of issuing this Urgent Appeal, no
charges have been formally framed yet and there is still no clear information on their current location. In addition, no lawyer has been
allowed to visit them.
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.
Please write to the authorities in Sri
Lanka, urging them to:
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
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;
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;
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:
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;
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;
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 [...];
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.
· President Mahinda
Rajapakse, Presidential Secretariat, C/ Office of the President, Temple Trees
150, Galle Road, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka, Fax: (+94) 11 472100 / (+94) 11 2446657
/ (+94) 11 243 0590, Email: email@example.com
· D.M. Jayaratne, Prime
Minister of Sri Lanka, No. 58, Sir Ernest De Silva Mawatha, Colombo 07,
Sri Lanka. Fax no: (+94) 112 575454. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Sarath Palitha Fernando, Attorney General,
Attorney General's Department. Colombo 12, Sri Lanka. Fax: (+94) 11 2 436421.
Justice Priyantha R.P. Perera, Chairman, Human
Rights Commission of Sri Lanka. No: 165 Kynsey Road, Borella, Colombo 8, Sri
Lanka. Fax: (+94) 11 2 694924. Email: email@example.com
· H.E. Mr. Ravinatha P. Aryasinha, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in Geneva, 56 rue
de Moillebeau, 1211 Geneva 19. Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 73 49 084. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Sri Lanka in your
Geneva-Paris, March 17, 2014
inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your
Observatory, an OMCT and FIDH venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human
Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.
contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
Tel and fax OMCT + 41
(0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
· Tel and fax FIDH + 33
(0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80