Photo courtesy Janikissima on Flickr

Last night’s arrest of Ruki Fernando and Fr. Praveen in Kilinochchi on terrorism charges, soon after the arrest of Jeyakumari Balendran and her young daughter on suspicion of harbouring a criminal, is extremely disturbing and an urgent call to action. In stark contrast to what the Government says in Geneva is what it does in Sri Lanka. Human rights activists are being arrested under draconian laws which permit the authorities to interrogate them in isolation for extended periods of time. It is clear the government wants to go after those who flag human rights abuses. This is happening when deliberations at the Human Rights Council on Sri Lanka are taking place, demonstrating the regime’s scant regard for international opinion and scrutiny. It is an urgent call to hold the government accountable and use all means necessary, in Geneva and elsewhere, to secure the safety of Ruki, Fr. Praveen, Jeyakumari, her daughter and others similarly under arrest and detained. Failure to do suggests that words aside, the international community accepts the democratic deficit in Sri Lanka.

We received the following updates last night:

At around 10.05 pm tonight, several of us received a text message from Ruki Fernando, on his mobile number 0773874xxx stating that Ruki and Father Praveen have been detained at the killnochchi police station, apparently on suspicion of a shooting. Later, Ruki informed a colleague also via text, that he and father Praveen were being questioned separately.

A lawyer who called the Killinochchi police station, was informed that no such persons were arrested by the Killinochchi police or being held at the police station. However the police said that two persons had been arrested by a specially appointed unit of the TID and were being held at a separate location in Killinochchi.

Another lawyer who spoke to the OIC Killinochchi was informed that Ruki and Praveen were being questioned and a decision regarding their continued detention would be made in the morning. This directly contradicts the version in the para above.

We don’t know the details of arrest or the facts leading up to it. We are very concerned for their safety and urgently need a lawyer who can visit the police station tonight and find out where they are being held on for what reasons etc.

We published two more updates to the situation:

Update 1: A lawyer who called the Killinochchi police, was informed that ruki and fr. praveen were being questioned by around 15 TID officers at the Killinochchi Police station.

The HRC has also been informed that both persons are being held at the police station.

Still no clear reasons for this treatment and we have also not been able to find a lawyer in Jaffna/Vavuniya/Killi who can visit the police station.

Update 2: there is a possibility that ruki and father praveen ay be moved to colombo or vavuniya, but we have not been able to verify where they are at present.

As journalist Dinouk Colomboge notes on Twitter,

Ruki has been a prolific author on Groundviews, covering over the years issues and incidents mainstream media has often glossed over and the Government claims simply don’t exist, are fabricated or over-hyped. A number of videos featuring Ruki’s take on the human rights conditions in Sri Lanka can be viewed here.

Follow Twitter for the latest updates on Ruki’s arrest: