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Amnesty: Incommunicado Detention/Fear of Torture

Amnesty International has a number of concerns about the use of the Emergency Regulations as they are incompatible with basic international human rights law, and were used to intimidate and harass political opponents, thus fostering a culture of impunity.

29 March 2007

Further Information on UA 47/07 (27 February 2007)
Incommunicado detention/Fear of torture or ill- treatment/Detention without charge

SRI LANKA        Dushyantha Basnayake (m), aged 40, newspaper director
               Munusamy Parameshawary (f), journalist
               16 other journalists

Journalist Munusamy Parameshawary was released on 22 March following a Supreme Court ruling that there was insufficient evidence against her and she should therefore be released. A number of other journalists are still in custody, as is Dushyantha Basnayake, director of the Sinhalese-language weekly newspaper Mawbima. He has not had access to his lawyer since he was arrested on 26 February. He is in danger of torture or ill-treatment. The government froze Mawbima's bank accounts on 13 March.

Munusamy Parameshawary had been held without charge for four months by the police Terrorist Investigation Division (TID). On 26 January she filed a Fundamental Rights application in the Supreme Court against her arrest and detention under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) stating that her arrest
was illegal and a violation of her fundamental rights. In response, the Supreme Court ruled on 21 March that she should be released.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Emergency (Prevention of Terrorism and Specified Terrorist Activities) Regulations introduced in December 2006 appear to reactivate sections of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act of 1979, which was suspended under the ceasefire agreement between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in February 2002.

Amnesty International has a number of concerns about the use of the Emergency Regulations as they are incompatible with basic international human rights law, and were used to intimidate and harass political opponents, thus fostering a culture of impunity.

Since early 2006 there has been a clampdown on press freedom in Sri Lanka. The newspaper Mawbima had reported on human rights violations. The arrest of its staff, and the freezing of its bank accounts, is one example of this.

A number of people have recently been reported as ''disappearing'' or being abducted by the security forces or armed groups. Such people are often called or taken in ''for questioning'' and held incommunicado. No receipts or records of their detention are made available, and the official mechanisms for reporting such events, such as through the National Human Rights Commission, are often unable to locate the missing people.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible:

- welcoming the release of Munusamy Parameshawary on 22 March;

- expressing concern for Dushyantha Basnayake, who is held incommunicado by the TID in Colombo;

- calling on the authorities to ensure that Dushyantha Basnayake and other journalists being held by the TID are not tortured or ill-treated, and that they are allowed immediate and unrestricted access to their families, lawyers of their choice and any medical treatment they may require;

- calling on the authorities to release Dushyantha Basnayake and other journalists held by the TID immediately and unconditionally, unless they are to be charged with recognizably criminal offences;

- calling on the authorities to immediately stop the misuse of the emergency security laws introduced in December 2006, and to ensure that official procedures for recording and reporting detentions are adhered to.

APPEALS TO:
President Mahinda Rajapakse
Presidential Secretariat, Colombo 1, Sri Lanka
Fax:         011 94 11 2446657 / 011 94 11 2472100
Salutation:         Dear President Rajapakse

Gotabaya Rajapaksa
Secretary, Ministry of Defense,
15/5 Baladaksha Mawatha, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka
Fax: 011 94 11 2446 300 / 011 94 11 2541 529
Salutation:         Dear Secretary of Defense

COPIES TO:
Mahinda Samarasinghe
Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights
383, Department of Meteorology, Bauddhaloka Mawatha
Colombo 7, Sri Lanka
Fax: 011 94 11 2681978 / 011 94 11 2881982

Ambassador Bernard A.B. Goonetilleke
Embassy of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
2148 Wyoming Ave. NW
Washington DC 20008
Fax: 1 202 232 7181
Email: slembassy@slembassyusa.org