Image courtesy Sri Lanka Brief
In 2009 the government announced that the LTTE has been wiped out from the country with the end of the armed conflict. However, in the past few weeks there have been a number of arrests, including of women under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) supposedly to investigate and counter a renaissance of the LTTE. Most of these arrests were in connection to the search for a man called Gopi who according to media reports quoting military and police spokespersons was killed along with his two associates on 11 April 2014 and that they been buried at state expenses on 12 April in Anuradhapura. Those arrested in connection to these men are still being kept at Boosa camp, in Colombo’s the 2nd and 4th floor of the Terrorism Investigation branch, and in the Vavuniya Terrorism Investigation Division (TID). In these TID and military joint operations men, women, the elderly and children have been arrested.
Women’s Action Network has been informed of 10 women (including a teen age girl) still in custody. They are:
- Sharmila Kajeepan, a 26 year old (who was pregnant when she was arrested) on March 11th from Palaiuttru Trincomalee, and who later miscarried on March 14th.
- Selvanayaki Rasamalar, a 62 old mother who was injured in a shell attack during war and in need of constant medical treatment from Panikaiyadi Iyakachchi.
- Buvaneswari Kulasingam, a 52 old who worked as Selvanayaki Rasamalar’s help.
- Jayakumari Balendran from Killinochchi, Dharmapuram was arrested on March 13th with her daughter Vibooshika (who is now under Killinichchi probation officer’s care in a children home). Jayakumari has been searching for her missing son Balendran Mahindan. She has already lost two of her sons in the war.
- Nitharsana from Thottiaddi (Vishvamadu), age 28.
- Kanapathipillai Yogarani, a 61 old mother has been taken into custody because her sons who live abroad sent her large amounts of money.
- Raveenthran Vadani, age 22, and mother of 2, lost her husband, sisters and relatives in the war was also been arrested in suspicion. Vadani is physically and mentally affected and in need of psychiatric treatment.
- Ms. Loganathan who was arrested with her husband, has been transferred to Boosa while her husband has been kept in the 4th floor under TID custody.
- Sasitharan Thavamalar (age 42) and her underage daughter were arrested on 09th April from her home in Aashikulum in Vavuniya by TID and still in detention under Vavuniya TID. Her husband works in Saudi Arabia.
- Sasitharan Yathurshini (age 16) was arrested with her mother Thavamalar and still detained by Vavuniya TID. She is a student of Komarasankulum Mahavidiyalam and will be sitting for her ordinary level exam this December. Even though military spokes person says Yathurshini is 18 the government officers in the area say she is 16.
Even after nearly five years after the end of the armed conflict children can’t live with their mothers, mothers are searching for their children, wives are looking for their missing husbands and women are interrogated and held on behalf of their family members. Women are going through so much of pain and continuous suffering.
The arrests of these women and children comes in this context where they are detained under the PTA due to the suspicion regarding the alleged illegal actions of their male family members, which has been openly stated by the government officials. Hence, the women have been arbitrarily detained in violation of Article 13 of the Constitution of Sri Lanka, which provides protection against arbitrary arrest and detention, although they themselves have not committed any offences. The war in Sri Lanka and the decisions regarding it were made by men. The war was concluded by men. However, women have borne the brunt of the effects of the war and continue to do so even five years after the end of the armed conflict.
According to the Presidential Directives on Arrest and Detention certain procedures have to be followed by the police and the army during the arrest and detention of women and children. Even though the directive was issued by the President the specific procedures were not followed during the arrest and detention of these women and child. In addition to violating their right to due process like issuing of an arrest receipt to the family which clearly states the place of detention and allowing family members and lawyers to visit those who are being detained, the actions of the police also pay little regard to directive issued by the head of state, the President. It is imperative that the basic human rights of detainees are respected and due process is followed during arrests of women as stated in the Presidential Directives. Moreover, in the case of women, their gender specific needs should be met during detention, including medical care.
Women’s Action Network appeals to the government to follow due process with regard to these arrests and let the public know if there are any charges against these women and men. If not, they should be released immediately. It is also important the authorities immediately handover Sasitharan Yathurshini, who is 16 years old to the probation officer Vavuniya.
Update, 14 April 2014: Out of 60, 18 got released as of today. 4 are women and two of these women are in need of medical treatment and old (over 60 years of age). This release includes Kajeeban’s mother Rasamalar (who is 62 years old) however Kajeeban wife Sharmila (who carried a miscarriage) is not released. The 16 year old (Yathurshini) in Vavuniya TID custody is yet to be handed over to the probation officer.