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International rights organisation strongly condemns arbitrary arrest and detention of three Sri Lankan human rights defenders

18 March 2014

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) strongly condemns the recent arbitrary arrest and detention of three prominent human rights defenders, and calls on the Sri Lankan Government to provide the detainees access to their families, lawyers and medical aid, given serious concerns for their physical safety.

The arrests are of deep concern, says MRG, as they come at a time when a resolution is under draft on Sri Lanka at the current UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva.

On 13 March Jeyakumari Balendran was arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Her 13 year- old daughter was also arrested, but was later released and handed over to the child protection authorities. Ms Balendran continues to be held in Boosa detention centre, which is located hundreds of miles away from her family. Ms Balendran is Tamil and a well-known campaigner against enforced disappearances.

Ruki Fernando and Father Praveen were also arrested under the PTA on 16 March in Kilinochchi, a heavily militarised area in the north of Sri Lanka, after visiting the town to investigate Ms Balendran's arrest. They have since been taken to Colombo for further questioning by the Terrorist Investigation Department.

Lawyers and family members still haven't been allowed to see Mr Fernando and Fr Praveen, they have not been formally charged, and there is no information available on their exact location. A person can be held without charge for up to 18 months under the PTA.

Father Praveen is the former Director of the Centre For Peace And Reconciliation, a Jaffna-based organisation working for peace and understanding between communities. Ruki Fernando is a human rights adviser to the organisation INFORM, based in Colombo. Both men are Christians.

The arrests follow a pattern of threats and intimidation of Sri Lankan human rights defenders through the use of anti-terrorism legislation. There appears to be a general crackdown on rights activists across the country, with local news reporting on other arrests. The media has also reported a significantly increased military presence around the town of Kilinochchi.

Notes to editors

Minority Rights Group International is the leading international human rights organization working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples. We work with more than 150 partners in over 50 countries.

For more information contact:

Emma Eastwood
T: +44 207 4224205
M: +44 7989699984
E: [email protected]
Twitter: @MinorityRights