On December 10th 2011, human rights day, a group of 42 Human Rights Defenders (HRD’s) and political activists from the South of Sri Lanka were detained by police in the Northern town of Jaffna.

Groundviews pick up the story here, and there is a summary below.

Despite events marking Human Rights Day being tolerated in Colombo, Kandy and Kurunegela; in Jaffna, a predominantly Tamil town, the protests were broken up and attendees arrested. According to the police, the protest in Jaffna consisting of more than five people, could not take place without prior police permission. Human Rights Groups protested that the demonstration would be peaceful and thereby cause no hindrance to the public. Yet the police “kettled” the group and threatened to arrest anyone who attempted to leave the kettle. As a result the group was held on the road for 2 1/2 hours and – upon protest at their unfair treatment – were accused of “re-igniting ethnic tensions”. The police also confiscated items worth around Rs 30000 from the group. According to the police, these items (particularly copies of the Tamil newspaper Puthiya Samathanamam and leaflets,photos and placards calling for investigations into disappearences) were to “anti-government propganda.”

Not only did the police try to prevent groups from joining the protest but they also tried to disperse those already assembled. At the protest, Mr. Ranath Kumarasinghe and Mr. Sivajilingam informed the Head Quarters Inspector (HQI) of the Jaffna Police that a group of HRDs were being detained and prevented from attending the protest. The HQI asked for their identity cards to which Mr. Kumarasinghe produced his media ID card, which the HQI then flung in his face. When Mr. Sivajilingam protested against his treatment of a senior journalist, the HQI told Mr. Sivajilingam not to get involved in matters did not concern him.This was not the worst of the matter however. According to eye witness Mr Mahendran, the police hit and pushed women to the ground in attempts to stifle their demonstration. They then formed a cordon around the women and prevented them from leaving the area.