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Sri Lanka
17.03.14
Urgent Interventions

Arbitrary arrest of human rights defenders Mr. Ruki Fernando and Rev. Praveen Mahesan

LKA 001 / 0314 / OBS 019

Arbitrary arrest/

Judicialharassment

Sri Lanka

March17, 2014

TheObservatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme ofthe World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federationfor Human Rights (FIDH), requests your urgent intervention in the followingsituation in Sri Lanka.

Brief description of the situation:

TheObservatory has received with concern information from reliable sources aboutthe arbitrary arrest and interrogation by the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) of Mr. Ruki Fernando, a human rights adviser to thehuman rights organisation INFORM, based in Colombo, and Rev. PraveenMahesan, formerDirector of the Centre for Peace and Reconciliation (CPR) based in Jaffna.

Mr. Ruki Fernando and Rev. Praveen Mahesan

Credit: http://www.srilankabrief.org/

Accordingto the information received, on March 16, 2014, at around 10.30 pm, Mr. Ruki Fernando and Rev. PraveenOmi were arrested by a specially appointed unit of the TID as they werevisiting the heavily militarised area of Kilinochchi, North of Sri Lanka, inorder to investigate into the arrest on March 13, 2014 of human rights defenderMs. Balendran Jeyakumari and her 13-year old daughter Vithuskaini,who have been campaigning against enforced disappearances. They were alsoarrested and interrogated by the TID. While Vithuskaini was subsequentlyreleased, Ms. Jeyakumari continues to be held in Boosa detention centre underthe Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), under which a person can be held withoutcharge for up to 18 months.

Mr.Ruki Fernando and Rev.Praveen Mahesan were brought to the Kilinochchi police station, which initiallydenied that the two defenders were detained there, before confirming thearrest. The officer in charge (OIC) of the Kilinochchi police, Mr. Kumara, inparticular confirmed the arrest and further stated that “Ruki Fernando and Rev.Praveen behaved in a suspicious manner as they visited some families of thosewho have lost their family members”. Mr. Ruki Fernando and Rev. PraveenOmi were reportedly questioned separately for three hours by around 15 TIDofficers at the Kilinochchi police station.

At around 1.30 am, Mr.Ruki Fernando and Rev.Praveen Mahesan left Kilinochchipolice station handcuffed and blindfolded, accompanied with TID officers, before being questioned in Vavuniapolice station until 7.00 am on March 17, 2014.

On March 17, 2014, at 11 am, TID officersvisited 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 onalleged acts of terrorism on March 16, 2014, in Kilinochchi. The notice alsostated that Mr. Fernando will be detained for further investigation on the 2ndfloor of the police New General Secretariat in Colombo. No information could beobtained on whether a similar notice was issued to Fr. Praveen’s next of kin. At 1.30pm, TID Director informed one of thelawyers that they were both brought to Colombo and were being held at the TID headquarters.

Later in the day, police media spokesman SSPAjith Rohana announced that Mr. Ruki Fernando and Rev. Praveen were firstdetained at the Kilinochchi police station under the PTA, before beingtransferred to Vavuniya and then to Colombo for further questioning. They wouldreportedly be charged with “attempting to create ethnic discord amongcommunities and to promote separatism”.

Yet, as of issuing this Urgent Appeal, nocharges have been formally framed yet and there is still no clear information on their current location. In addition, no lawyer has beenallowed to visit them.

TheObservatory condemnsthe arrest and judicial harassment of Mr. Ruki Fernando, Rev. Praveen Mahesanand Ms. Balendran Jeyakumari, which seem to merely aim at sanctioningtheir peaceful human rights activities, and calls upon the authorities of SriLanka to release them immediately and unconditionally.

Action requested:

Please write to the authorities in SriLanka, urging them to:

i. Guaranteein 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 SriLanka;

ii. Release Mr. Ruki Fernando, Rev. Praveen Omi and Ms. Balendran Jeyakumari immediatelyand unconditionally since their detention is arbitrary and only aims atsanctioning their human rights activities;

iii. Putan 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 defendersin Sri Lanka and ensure that they are able to carry out their peaceful andlegitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

iv. Conformwith the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted bythe General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especiallyregarding the following Articles:

- Article1: everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, topromote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights andfundamental freedoms at the national and international levels;

- Article5 (a): For the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamentalfreedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others,at the national and international levels (a) To meet or assemble peacefully;

- Article12.2: the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection bythe competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association withothers, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adversediscrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of hisor her legitimate exercise of his or her rights [...];

v. Ensurein all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms inaccordance with international human rights standards and internationalinstruments ratified by Sri Lanka.

Addresses:

· President MahindaRajapakse, Presidential Secretariat, C/ Office of the President, Temple Trees150, Galle Road, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka, Fax: (+94) 11 472100 / (+94) 11 2446657/ (+94) 11 243 0590, Email: lalith@icta.lk

· D.M. Jayaratne, PrimeMinister of Sri Lanka, No. 58, Sir Ernest De Silva Mawatha, Colombo 07,Sri Lanka. Fax no: (+94) 112 575454. Email: slpm@pmoffice.gov.lk

· 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, HumanRights Commission of Sri Lanka. No: 165 Kynsey Road, Borella, Colombo 8, SriLanka. Fax: (+94) 11 2 694924. Email: sechrc@sltnet.lk

· H.E. Mr. Ravinatha P. Aryasinha, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in Geneva, 56 ruede Moillebeau, 1211 Geneva 19. Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 73 49 084. E-mail: mission@lankamission.org

Pleasealso write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Sri Lanka in yourrespective country.

***

Geneva-Paris, March 17, 2014

Kindlyinform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in yourreply.

TheObservatory, an OMCT and FIDH venture, is dedicated to the protection of HumanRights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.


Tocontact 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

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