It has been an emotional day. At about 1:30 am Sri Lanka time Father Praveen and Ruki Fernando were released without charge.
This is fantastic news and a testament to the power of a joined up campaign involving virtually everyone who had ever met either of them, and many many hundreds who haven’t. But this is far from the end of the story.
Jeyakurami is still in detention, and we have heard troubling reports of other arrests, not to mention the many hundreds routinely held under the draconian and unfair Prevention of Terrorism Act.
Moreover this should in no way be seen as magnanimity by the regime. Their appalling and libelous statement, since taken down, clearly showed that they intended to keep them locked up for some time and were subsequently forced to backtrack. There is no way that the arbitrary detention of two blameless activists for three days, without access to legal counsel, or anyone at all until the very last day, can be spun as anything other than an outrage. It was an action clearly designed to send a message and terrify the human rights community into silence, and if we turn away now then it will work.
Therefore it is more important than ever that we push for a strong resolution from the Human Rights Council calling for an independent international investigation. The draft resolution currently circulating is much improved, and does do that, but it doesn’t call for the repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act which enabled this, and so many other, violations. Above all though, the Government’s actions over the last few days must cause a strengthening, not a weakening, of the text.
Above all we must not forget Jeyakurami and the many others like her. We will be in touch tomorrow about what direction that campaign will take.