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CaFFE and CHR concerned over arrest of two HR activists in Kilinochchi

2014 Mar 18

Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) & Centre for Human Rights and Research (CHR) expresses its grave concern over the arrest of human rights activists Ruki Fernando (Human Rights adviser, INFORM, Human Rights Documentation Centre based in Colombo) and  Rev. Praveen OMI  (Director of the Centre for Peace and Reconciliation (CPR) based  in Jaffna) in Kilinochchi yesterday (March 16) when they were visiting the area after the arrest of activist Balendran Jaykumari and her daughter. What is more disconcerting  is the fact that they were not arrested by the Kilinochchi police but by the Terrorism Investigation Division.   

Close associates of the two activists told CHR that the Kilinochchi police has claimed that they had no involvement in the arrest and that the TID was questioning them separately. However the two men have been allegedly behaving in a suspicious manner, the police have claimed. The Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission has also been informed of this arrest.

CHR believes that the arrests and the subsequent reasoning (or the lack of) is a violation of the Sri Lankan constitution.  Article 14. 1. h assures the freedom of movement within the country while article 13 assures the freedom of arbitrary arrests and detention. The fact that the Kilinochchi police is not aware of the reasons for the arrests how the secrecy that shrouds the detention and violates article 13. 1 and 13.2 of the constitution. The arrest also shows the dangers of the new regulations which allow law enforcement officials to detain a person for 48 hours without needing to present them before courts. This encourages a culture of arbitrary arrest, detention and the practice of forced confessions which is detrimental to the democracy of Sri Lanka. Moreover the arrest of two high profile human rights activists at a time when there is a resolution against Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) would only encourage pressure for an international investigation into the human rights situation in Sri Lanka.

Given the fact that this incident occurred on the same day that police arrested close to 50 persons in Hanwella for protesting against a factory that was allegedly polluting the water sources, CHR expresses its concern over the heavy handed actions of law enforcement authorities and the violation of due process. CHR believes that law enforcement officials must adhere to the due process and the constitution of the nation at a time when their actions will have far reaching effects for the country.

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