More than 100 civil activists from all walks of life, including religious dignitaries, human rights activists, journalists, writers and academics, both from within and outside the island, have strongly condemned the Government of Sri Lanka for the continuous detention of 7 Tamil youth under the so-called Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) since their arrest during the last week of November following the Tamil Heroes Day observations in Jaffna and Mannaar. The aactivists said that they were concerned as the arrests were unfounded and only served to perpetuate the climate of fear and insecurity of the people of the North.
Four rights groups, Human Rights Office, Mothers and Daughters of Lanka, Networking for Rights in Sri Lanka (NfR) and Women’s Political Academy, have also signed the statement, which was issued on Thursday.
The activists have called on the Sri Lankan Government to:
Release with immediate effect all four youth arbitrarily arrested and detained from Jaffna
Investigate into the Jaffna incident and hold all the officers responsible for the brutal assault and arrest of the four youth
In the absence of clear evidence linking them to an alleged crime, release with immediate effect the remaining three detained youth from Mannar
Ensure their right to equality before the law, freedom from arbitrary arrest and right to due process, which includes the right to legal assistance and visits by their family members
Ensure the safety, and physical and mental welfare of the youth currently held in detention, including access to medical care
Put an immediate halt to any further arrests under the PTA, acts of intimidation, harassment and reprisals carried out by the TID and the military
Repeal the repressive PTA with immediate effect
Raveendran Kajeepan (21), Alfred Piratheepan (30), Murukaiya Ashokkumar (35) and Nageswarasri Yarsan (22) from Jaffna, and the arrest and continued detention of three other youth* from Mannar, by the Terrorism Investigation Department (TID) between the 25th and 27th of November, 2013.
Families of the three youth in Mannaar did not want to reveal the identities of their sons for fear of reprisal. Following their arrests, Sri Lankan intelligence officers had visited the homes of those arrested in Mannaar and warned their families to not pursue any course of legal action, as this would prolong their detention.
The statement condemning the detention of 7 Tamil youths also records the incidents in Jaffna and Mannaar as follows:
The Jaffna Incident
On the 25th of November, at approximately 7pm, the four youth mentioned above had been engaged in a conversation near the Sooduvandhaan junction, on Naamagal Road, Tellippalai (approximately 30m away from their homes,). A cut-out of President Mahinda Rajapakse had been erected near this junction several months ago. Since then, the cut-out had toppled over and torn due to the number of heavy vehicles travelling along the Naamagal Road. Subsequently, some locals from the area had propped the cut-out against a nearby fence.
On the 25th of November, a passing patrol of four military personnel on bicycle, had stopped and inquired as to what the four youth were doing at the junction. Before the youth could respond, the patrol had pointed to the cut-out of the President and accused the four youth of damaging it. They had then proceeded to severely assault the youth. At this point, a crowd of locals, neighbours and relatives had gathered at the junction, where the Grama Sevaka too had arrived.
The Grama Sevaka had attempted to explain to the military personnel that the cut-out had already been damaged, and that the four youth were not responsible for its condition. He had further stated that the youth would reinstall the cut-out, if the military would stop the assault. The military personnel had agreed to the Grama Sevaka’s request. Thereafter, the crowd had borrowed hoes from a neighbouring house, and the four youth had restored the fallen cut-out to its original place.
Once the cut-out had been restored, the military personnel were seen speaking on their mobile phones. Soon after, they had assaulted the four youth again and forced the youth to remove the cut-out, whilst photographing them in the process. The military had then thrown the cut-out on to the street, further damaging it. Having then taken photographs of the damaged cut-out as well, the military had summoned the police and handed over the four youth to them.
The police had made no further inquiries, and merely handed over the youth to the TID. The four youth were then taken to the TID office in Vavuniya, and are currently being detained at the Boosa Detention Centre. They have not been produced before the Magistrate Court as yet.
Given the above details, the arrest and detention of the four Jaffna youth is clearly arbitrary and illegal. Furthermore, the unprovoked assault of the four youth by officers of the State, for no legitimate reason, amounts to torture and inhuman and degrading treatment, which is in clear violation of the International Convention Against Torture (ICAT), which Sri Lanka has acceded to in 1994.
Raveendran is a refrigeration technician, Piratheepan is a sales van driver at a business establishment, Ashokkumar assists his father in his masonry and Yarsan assists his father in his carpentry.
On 26th November, the Mannar police arrested a Tamil youth for allegedly graffiting ‘Maaveerar Naal’ on a wall in Murunkan. On the 27th, the police arrested another two Tamil youth, claiming that they were acting on information provided by the youth arrested on the previous day. All three youth are also currently being detained at Boosa. These three youth were produced before the Mannar Additional Magistrate on Friday 13th December, and have been remanded for a further 14 days. They will be produced in court next on the 27th of December.
In a separate incident, also on the 26th of November, Thiruchelvam Kristhuraja, a father of two, from Vaalkaipetrankandal, Murunkan, Mannar, was summoned to the Murunkan Police and subsequently arrested on alleged charges of being a former LTTE cadre. He was then handed over to the TID in Vavuniya, and is currently being held at the Boosa Detention Center. His family claims he is weak and ailing.