Dear friends,

I’d like to share a release we have just sent out concerning media reports from Sri Lanka.

Here’s how you can help

  1. Support Amnesty International’s Urgent Action to keep Jeyakumary safe
  2. Spread the word, by sharing the statement below far and wide

Here’s the statement:

The Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice is outraged by recent attempts by the Government of Sri Lanka to silence its critics.

As reported in the media, freed activists Ruki Fernando and Fr Praveen Mahesan were today hit with a ban on speaking to international media and ordered to hand over their sim cards and ipads. Police told the BBC that was because they were involved in an incident in Killinochi, which mustn’t be divulged until investigations were over.

Meanwhile Jeyakumary Balendran a human rights activist who was arrested in connection with the same alleged incident is at high risk of torture. Credible reports allege she was assaulted in front of her daughter at the time of detention in Killinochchi. Currently she is being detained at the Boossa facility under the Prevention of Terrorism Act that permits suspects to remain in police custody for 18 months without charge.

Amnesty International has documented extensive use of torture and other ill-treatment by TID officers in both Colombo and Boosa Detention Centre, and is concerned for the welfare of Balendran Jeyakumary. She has been held without access to her lawyers or any family being allowed to see her. Her only child is now willfully orphaned by the state and remains in a children’s welfare home because of her mother’s arrest.

Sri Lanka Campaign calls on all governments for her immediate release to ensure her safety.

Increased doubt has been cast on the alleged incident that the Government of Sri Lanka claims is the root of all three arrests.

The Government of Sri Lanka’s version of events alleges:
– that an LTTE cadre known as “Gobi” was believed to be sheltering in the house
– that he had acquired a number of weapons and was looking to revive the LTTE,
– and that Jeyakumary, Ruki and Fr Praveen had close association with various individuals and locations which were of interest to police in their search for Gobi.

But eyewitness statements, circulated online by credible sources, tell a very different story, that an armed stranger did enter the house of Jeyakumary, but that the army entered the house seconds later and detained the stranger; and that the stranger and members of the armed forces then left together without any obvious signs of hurry or any seeming injury on either part.

It should be noted that it has been a common tactic of the Sri Lankan Government in the past to use the idea of an cadre attempting to reform the LTTE, or the recovery of hidden caches of arms, as an excuse for crackdowns of this sort, and that such actions have never resulted in the alleged cadre ever being produced before a court or indeed ever being heard from again.

Nevertheless the phantom of a resurgent LTTE has once again been used as an excuse to clamp down on dissent. A statement by Sri Lankan Civil Society circulated earlier in the week pointed to two further arbitrary arrests under anti-terror legislation and new checkpoints and an increased military presence have been felt across the north and east.

Fred Carver, Campaign Director of the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice, said,

“The continued harassment of activists demonstrates that the Government’s actions have nothing to do with preventing a resurgence of the LTTE, and everything to do with intimidating its critics into silence.

“These unacceptable attempts to stifle free speech and intimidate activists must not be allowed to succeed. Only a strong resolution at the Human Rights Council, calling for an independent international investigation in Sri Lanka, and the threat of strong action by the international community if detainees are not released and restrictions lifted, will prevent Sri Lanka from sliding deeper into tyranny.”

And here’s a video of Human Rights Defender P Saravanamuttu talking at a press conference in Colombo yesterday: