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Human rights activist Ruki Fernando detained at the airport

2016 Oct 02

Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) and the Centre for Human Rights and Research – Sri Lanka (CHR-SL) expresses deep regret over the detainment and interrogation of famous human rights activist, Ruki Fernando  (2016 October 01st) at the Katunayake airport. This incident can be seen as yet another case of what human rights activists had previously faced in the form of suffering and interference during the period of the Rajapaksa Government, rearing its ugly head and coming to the fore.
Fernando was detained and questioned when he had gone to the airport to leave for England in order to participate in a session concerning human rights scheduled to be held at the University of York. The same questions that were asked from human rights defenders when they were leaving the country during the period of the previous regime have all been asked from Fernando today by the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID). Why is he going abroad? What are his activities? Questions through which they wanted to ascertain personal information and information about family members too were among the questions asked.
It is a public secret that the TID maintain a dossier about Fernando (as most of the HR activates) and that his activities as a human rights activist are all documented. In such a context, detaining him and interrogating him regarding the same can only have been to achieve the intent of intimidating him, harming him and inconveniencing him.
Fernando came forward on behalf of Jeyakumari Balendran who was looking for her child at the time, in a case involving the blatant violation of her human rights. Fernando was arrested and a case founded on trumped up charges and based on the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) was filed in court against the duo and it is still being tried and heard. For over 20 months now, the duo are deemed as being those suspected of engaging in terrorism. The now infamous case involving the ‘Jeyakumari incident’ is a case of post-war State oppression/suppression and a case involving the labeling of persons as terrorists. This farce is being continued on and being dragged on, the same as before, even under the yahapalanaya Government.
Furthermore, it must be noted that this incident involving a world-renowned activist took place minutes after Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is in New Zealand, made statements to the effect that the PTA would be repealed and new anti-terrorism legislation consonant with international best practices would be introduced. This cannot be a mere coincidence. While the Government continues to communicate to the international community, efforts on their part to expedite processes concerning the guaranteeing of human rights within the country, such however unfortunately does not seem to be implemented at the ground level.
CaFFE and CHR-SL vehemently condemns the repeated extension of the long arm of oppression/suppression to Fernando, who is employed at INFORM and Forum Asia. We demand that the practice of oppressing/suppressing human rights activists under the guise of stopping terrorism, be halted by the Government immediately.

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