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Civil society group DecentLanka calls afresh for release of Tamil prisoners

Featured image courtesy IPSNews

Civil society group DecentLanka has called afresh for the release of Tamil prisoners, specifically those held without charges under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

A short while ago, it was reported that the prisoners had suspended their fast upon consultation with Minister D M Swaminathan, Tamil National Alliance Parliamentarian M.A Sumanthiran, and the Commissioner General of Prisons until December 15.

The detained prisoners recommenced a death fast last week calling for their release as the November 7 deadline set by the Government passed without any definitive resolution. Negotiations to release them continued this week – with at least one prisoner reported dead and several hospitalised. Over 30 of the prisoners have been bailed out so far, it has been reported.

The statement by DecentLanka notes that many of the prisoners held have been released on bail, while the Government is considering sending many of the detainees to rehabilitation. This is unacceptable as there has been no charge raised against the detainees, DecentLanka maintains.

Below is the statement reproduced in full:

We Demand Again – ALL Tamil Prisoners held in Detention Without Charges should be released immediately with Compensation for “Denied life”

Over 200 Tamil detainees held under PTA for very long periods and without charges filed against them were promised they would be released by 07 November (2015) and before their religious festival “Diwali” on 10 November by President Sirisena, after a special mechanism set up by the Minister of Justice re-examines their individual cases.

The TNA and Opposition leader Sampanthan saying he trusts President Sirisena very much on the promise, requested Tamil detainees to end their fast which they did on 17 October. While the TNA leadership and DPF Minister in this “Yahapalanaya” government used President Sirisena’s promise for their own image building, issuing a statement on 19 October (2015) we as “DecentLanka2015” said, “we do have very strong reservations on this compromised solution proposed by the TNA leadership that has unrestricted faith in leaders of this government and with this (Justice) minister on record saying Sri Lanka has no ‘political prisoners’ who could be bias in how he intervenes in this issue.”

None were released as promised by President Sirisena by 07 November that resulted in a second fast demanding unconditional release by these Tamil detainees, beginning 09 November. This demand for immediate release was backed by mass democratic agitations in North and East that crippled daily life. Yet this government that is on a popular mandate to effectively speed up the reconciliation process, acts very much like the ousted insensitive Rajapaksa regime and at the moment this statement is issued, there is controversy of reports that say 01 detainee had succumbed to his fast unto death, but 05 others from the Welikada remand prison had been removed to the National Hospital, Colombo on Monday (16 Nov).

Meanwhile media reports said 02 batches of 31 and 08 detainees have been bailed out, although they have no charges against them. Addressing a media briefing in Jaffna, the “bailed out Tamil detainees without charges” claimed, conditions slapped on them are extremely harsh too. Minister Ganesan who was making public statements on the issue had told media the government is considering sending all detainees for “rehabilitation” and sounds happy Tamil detainees without any charges could be sent for “rehabilitation”.

Making all decisions for rehabilitation of “arrested and detained suspects” illegal, regulations made by the President under section 27 of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act, No. 48 of 1979 read with paragraph (2) of Article 44 of the Constitution as Gazetted on 29 August 2011 clearly says it is only a voluntary “Surrendee” who should be handed over to the Commissioner-General of Rehabilitation in the manner set out in paragraph (1) of this regulation for “rehabilitation”.

We as “DecentLanka2015” remain convinced that over 200 Tamil detainees who are only “suspects” and are “not LTTE cadres” cannot be further detained or sent for “rehabilitation” as authorities have not been able to file any charges against them on “terrorist” activities under the PTA they are presently held in detention.

As we noted in our earlier statement, “If the State agencies working with special powers vested in them under the PTA could not find any valid evidence to frame any charges all these long years, there is absolutely no necessity to have any more mechanisms to try and slap charges on these detainees once again” and there is thus no necessity to delay their release through unwanted “rehabilitation” programmes.

We therefore once again demand,

  1. all detainees with no charges against them, be immediately released unconditionally
  2. any who may have charges brought against them be produced in Courts and trial fixed
    within next 02 weeks
  3. compensation for all detainees released for their unjustly long “denied life” while held in detention
  4. they be provided with a re-socialising programme including individual counselling by qualified personnel and livelihood opportunities at State expense.

We also take this opportunity to call upon all organisations and individuals who were very vociferous during the Rajapaksa regime in agitating for human and democratic rights to break their present silence and demand the immediate release of all Tamil detainees without charges.

Signatories

Neville Ananda Attorney at law
Sujeewa Dahanayake Attorney at Law
Muditha Karunamuni Social activist
Kusal Perera Journalist
Anton Marcus Trade union leader
Srinath Perera Attorney at law
Srinath Perera President’s Counsel