AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena, via The Star
19 years in remand without conclusion of case,
17 years and case still ongoing in High Court,
15 years to file charges,
400-500 court hearings without conclusion of a case,
15 cases against one person, and
21 persons (or more) reported as arrested under the PTA in 2015.
The Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and Emergency Regulations (ER) have resulted in arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention without charges, long drawn out court cases, multiple cases against one suspect, inhumane detention conditions, torture, forced confessions, long years to release those who are innocent, post-release harassment and restrictions, including re-arrests.
Many of the detainees have spent most of their youth behind bars, and their mental and physical wellbeing has been severely affected due to long term detention, and in the case of many, also as a result of rigorous interrogation and torture. There have been many cases too of forced/coerced confessions where the detainee had not even known he was signing a confession as he couldn’t understand the language it was written in (Sinhala in most cases.)
Below are some key findings after examination of an official list of 181 persons remanded under the PTA (excluding those already sentenced and presently serving those sentences), as well as interviews with detainees, those released, their families, human rights defenders, lawyers and media reports. All the interviews and research was done in Sri Lanka in 2015.
- 18-19 years in remand and cases yet to conclude: five persons have been remanded for the past 18-19 years (one since 1996 and four since 1997) without having their case(s) concluded, neither establishing their guilt nor innocence
- 17 years of a High Court case without conclusion: One person’s case is still ongoing, after having been charged in August 1998
- 15 years in remand before filing charges: One person spent 15 years in remand prison before having charges filed against him. Two persons each were remanded for 10, 8 & 6 years respectively before filing charges.
- 20 out of 22 remanded last year not charged: Out of 22 reported as remanded in 2014, 20 had not been charged when the list was prepared
- Remanded without charges since 2006: One person remanded in 2006 has not been charged till 2015
- 15 months in detention before being produced before a Magistrate and being remanded: One person was produced before a Magistrate only after more than 15 months in detention. Many others had been detained for many months before being produced before a Magistrate and remanded.
- 400-500 court hearings without conclusion of a case: Two of those remanded told us that their cases had come up at courts as many as 400-500 times during their detention
- 15 cases against one person in 6 courts in 4 districts: Many others had multiple cases against them, in different courts. 55 of the 181 detainees have more than one case lodged against them, with 36 of them having three or more cases against them. In the case of some detainees, not all the cases lodged against them are mentioned in the list – i.e. although one detainee is charged in 9 cases, only 6 are mentioned on the list.
- More than 5-6 years to be released as innocent: A mother of three was released as innocent in May 2015, after 6 years and 9 months in detention. She had 14 cases against her and was charged in 5 cases, before being discharged from all of them. Another man questioned in 2008, arrested in early 2009 was released in late 2014. This indicates that release of those detained under the PTA and later found to be innocent, could take many years
- Re-arrest after years of detention and interrogation: One person we interviewed was arrested and released after nearly 3 years, but was re-arrested about 6 months after his release. We have heard of others who had faced similar circumstances.
- 21 (or more) Arrests under PTA Jan-August 2015: Tamil families have reported to us about persons arrested under the PTA as late as July 2015 and earlier in 2015. (refer section below).
- Harassments and restrictions after discharge or conditional release: Those discharged or released conditionally (on bail and without bail) pending investigations and court cases, travel restrictions, speaking retractions, monthly signing at Police stations, surveillance and intimidation etc. and even re-arrest on related matters.
- Arrest of former child soldiers under PTA: Even a child who had joined the LTTE when he was 13 years old was detained under the PTA twice and tortured
- Inhumane conditions of detention and torture: Most of those detained that we spoke to have reported torture and inhumane conditions of detention
Actual numbers of PTA detainees, periods and places of detention
The actual number in detention under the PTA is still unknown. But in January, the list of 182 persons had been compiled. This comprises only those remanded in 11 official remand prisons under the Department of Prisons. This number is definitely more, as this doesn’t include those detained at Boossa and at detention in places such as the Terrorist Investigation Department (TID) in Colombo.
Most of those detained under the PTA and ER are transferred to remand prisons after being detained in other places such as those mentioned above, and thus, the actual period of detention can only be longer than indicated in the list we examined. But whenever we were not aware of the date of arrest, we have taken the date of remand as the date of detention.
Justice Minister’s statements
In June 2015, Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe was quoted in the media as saying that “Fifty four persons who had been convicted on terrorism charges were serving prison terms; indictments were being prepared against 85 persons; cases were pending against 134 persons; eight given bail and 45 convicts released through courts after rehabilitation.”
This indicates 219 persons (134 + 85) are being detained under the PTA who had not been charged or cases were ongoing. This probably includes the ones in the list mentioned above. And it is likely to be more, as further arrests have been reported under the PTA in July and August 2015. It is not clear whether those reported to have been given bail are those who have been charged, not charged or those who are appealing any convictions. There are also those who have been arrested and detained by the TID and released without bail, but still under investigation and subjected to various restrictions such as human rights defenders Ruki Fernando and Rev. Fr. Praveen Mahesan. The reference to “45 convicts released through courts after rehabilitation” is also inaccurate, as according to our research, those convicted of any crime are not sent for rehabilitation. Given the context of decades in remand prison before sentencing, the question of sentence taking consideration of long years in remand prison has also become a concern.
The Justice Minister also has state publicly that the new government is not considering repeal or even amending the PTA, and that there are other legal reforms that are more of a priority.
No evidence against top LTTE leader for 6 years, but others detained without charges
The column “allegation” in the list of those detained under the PTA indicates that some persons have been detained since 2006, 2008 and 2009 and afterwards without having charges filed against them, on grounds such as “Encouraging LTTE”, “Supporting LTTE” or even just “LTTE Terrorism”. However, the Attorney General’s Department is reported to have told Courts in August 2015 that “nothing had come to light with regard to Shanmugam Kumaran Tharmalingam alias Kumaran Pathmanathan (KP), in terrorist activities, even though its more than 6 years since KP had been arrested. This is despite KP giving interviews on behalf of the LTTE and admitting as being the leader of the LTTE and having being reported as been officially appointed as such. After his arrest, the official government news claimed that he was on the list of wanted persons by Sri Lanka, India and Interpol for a range of terrorism related and other criminal activities and that he has been accused of arms smuggling, conspiring the assassinations of VVIPs including former Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi in 1990, and in control of billions in US dollars of LTTE funds to the LTTE’s terrorist activities, some of which was extorted from Tamils living abroad. This appears to indicate that action against “LTTE and Terrorist suspects” appear to be politically driven than based on actual evidence, during the past government as well as the new government.
Allegations of Secret Detention Centres
There have been numerous allegations of secret detention centres, notorious for torture, run under the former Rajapaksa regime, where many families of the disappeared claim their loved ones were being held. Both, the Rajapaksa regime and the current government have vehemently denied the existence of such secret camps, with Prime Minister, Ranil Wickramasinghe going on to say, that those “categorized as missing were either dead due to the conflict or living overseas.”
However, a recent shocking media exposé revealed information given to Courts by an investigating CID officer and several Naval officers who had spoken to, and served food to detainees held at such secret camps. A camp run by the Navy named ‘Gun Side’ in Trincomalee was named in particular.
Arrests and Detention post January 8th (under Yahapalanaya)
At least 21 persons have been reported as arrested under the PTA in 2015.
In a report released by the International Truth and Justice Project – Sri Lanka (ITJP) end July, they cite eight cases of white van abduction, unlawful detention, torture and sexual abuse in 2015. We learnt of one case this year, where a man was abducted from off the roadside in the North, detained in a secret detention facility, interrogated and brutally tortured. A few days later, the detainee had been able to escape, was in hiding and managed to flee overseas.
In early May this year, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Parliamentarian, Pon Selvarasa claimed that at least 16 Tamil men from Batticaloa had been arrested post January 8th this year. Most of these men were allegedly former LTTE cadres, and had undergone rehabilitation, and been released by the former regime. Many of them were allegedly returning from working in the Middle East. Another arrest was reported on 31st May 2015. Former Batticaloa MP P. Ariyanendran, highlighted yet another case on the 27th of June, where a former LTTE cadre was arrested and detained from the airport upon his return from working in the Middle East. We are aware of two others arrested from the North in July and one more arrested from the Western Province.
A senior official of the TID had confirmed to a lawyer that 20 persons had been arrested under the PTA during January – August 2015.
Summary information from the list of 181 detainees compiled by the Government in
TABLE 01: Number of people detained by year
(Charges and not charged)
|Year remanded||Persons still remanded|
Table 02: Number of detainees without charges according to year remanded
|Year remanded||Persons against whom charges have not been filed|
TABLE 03: Number of years taken to file charges
|Number of years taken to file charges||Number of persons|
TABLE 04: Persons having more than one case
|No. of cases||No. of persons|
*Note: Names and certain identifying details have been changed to ensure the safety and privacy of the victim, while making every effort not to change the substance of the testimony
Case study 1 – *Mr. Ganesh:
Long years to be released, post release harassments till 2015 and torture while in detention
Ganesh from the North was 20 years old when he was arrested in early 2009. He was released in 2014 more than 5 years after his detention. He had been severely tortured and subjected to intensive interrogation about persons he may have known, who was alleged to have links with the LTTE. The day after he was released, CID officers again visited his house and questioned him. Ganesh then left home. Few weeks later, also in late 2014, CID officers had visited his house and inquired about him again. Even after the Presidential elections on 8th January 2015, CID officers had visited Ganesh’s brother’s house to inquire about Ganesh’s whereabouts. He has been in hiding due to fear even after his release and is unable to resume his employment. He is also still suffering mentally and physically from torture he underwent during detention.
Case study 2 – *Mr. Ramesh:
Inhumane detention conditions, torture while in detention, façade of rehabilitation and re-arrest after released from almost 3 years of detention
Ramesh was arrested from a village in the East in December, 2008, when he was just 18 years old. He was kept in Joseph camp in Vavuniya for 5 months and then in Poonthottam rehabilitation Camp till he was released in October 2011. During this period he was subjected to intensive interrogation. His family was only allowed to visit him once a month for a period of about 20 minutes. Post release, the police and the Army kept him under surveillance with regular visits to his house.
In April 2012, he was rearrested by the TID. He was held at the 6th floor of TID headquarters, Boosa detention facility, Colombo Remand Prison, Welikada Prison and Jaffna Remand Prison. During this time he was interrogated and tortured. In Boosa a doctor would visit the detainees and prescribe pain killers. He was produced before Courts only 9 months after his arrest. Charges were brought against him 17 months after his arrest. In February 2015, almost after three years in detention he was released unconditionally due to lack of evidence. Military personnel continued to visit him after being released.
In all detention places he was kept in congested cells some as small as 4X5 feet. In Wellikade, around 80 detainees shared one cell. In the TID Head Quarters they slept on bare ground and were not given mats or sheets. In Boosa, around 200 men shared 9 toilets. Detainees were not allowed to use toilets in the night. Hence if they needed to use the toilet in the night, they had to urinate into plastic bottles and defecate into plastic bags. In the Jaffna prison, the toilets were built inside the cell with only a short wall cordoning off on one side.
Case study 3: Mrs. Balendran Jeyakumary
362 days in detention without charges, post arrest restrictions and conditions and continuing investigation
Balendran Jeyakumary was arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), on the 13th of March 2014 and detained without charges for almost one year, before she was released on conditional bail on the 10th March 2015. She was subject to intense interrogation at the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) in Vavuniya and Colombo and then transferred to the Boosa detention centre where she was kept for most of her time in detention. In between she was brought to the TID office in Colombo for further questioning. After months of campaigning by concerned persons and groups, and following an emotional personal appeal to the President by her daughter, Jeyakumary was finally released on conditional bail, with 7 others (one of whom was discharged of all charges.). As of 18th August, no charges have been filed against Jeyakumary. She currently has to sign at the Kilinochchi Police station every month. Despite doing this, she was detained again on 2nd September, allegedly in relation the theft of two mine detectors. Police was reported to have given conflicting reasons whether she was arrested as a suspect or as a witness for failing to respond to summons. Police had alleged that she had not responded to summons issued to her, despite her presenting herself voluntarily on being asked to come to the Courts. She was given bail, however continues to remain in detention due to lack of sureties as at 3rd of September 2015.
Case study 4 – *Mr. Jeyaruban
Multiple cases and torture, charges filed only after 4 years and case still continuing
Jeyaruban was detained in October 2010 by a regional branch of the TID and tortured while held in their office. In July 2011, he was taken before a Magistrate, and on the same day taken to the Badulla Prison. Thereafter he was produced to Court once every 14 days. He was charged under ER for five different cases. In 2014, he was discharged from four cases and the other case continues in High Court.
Case study 5 – *Mr. Kannan
Detained since 2008 without conclusion of cases, family members arrested, torture and forced confession under duress in an unknown language
Kannan was arrested in February 2008, for a case connected with his brother who was suspected of harboring an LTTE suspect. His brother and his Aunt were arrested in 2008 and released in 2010. His wife had also been arrested 2008. Whilst in TID custody he was tortured, and he was forced to sign a confession, if he wanted to get his aunt and brother released. He had also been detained in Boosa detention facility. On one occasion, he was asked to hold a black bag, and pictures were taken, and he was later fingerprinted.
In May 2009 he was produced before a Magistrate and remanded at the Colombo Remand Prison, Welikada Magazine Prison and Badulla. He was charged in 2010. His case was called on average, once in 6 months. Three cases were brought against him, but he stated he was not sure exactly what the charges were. He has been suffering from medical conditions as a result of sharing a cell with inmates remanded for drug offences who smoked in prison.
Case study 6 – *Mr. Athithan
Detained since 1996 without conclusion of case, torture and forced confession
He was arrested on the suspicion of being connected to a bomb blast and remanded in September 1996. He did not know who arrested him. He was blind folded and taken to a camp and kept for three days. Thereafter he was taken to the Crime Detective Bureau (CDB) Office, which he stated is now the TID. He was kept there for three months. During this period, he was beaten and interrogated. He is amongst the several suspects for the same incident, and in 2012, the High Court Judge had refused to accept the confession. He said that the case would have been called before the court around 400 to 500 times to date. The TID has been claiming to have production against him, and he feels this is why his case is not being concluded. He is unwilling to plead guilty just to expedite his case as he had no connection with the LTTE and especially as other suspects had received a ten year sentence after doing so. His wife had passed away in 1997 while he was in remand and his daughter is living with her grandparents.
Case study 7 – *Mr. Jegan
Detention since 1996 and High Court case since 1998, torture and forced confession
Jegan has been in detention since September 1996. He was charged on the 18th of August 1998. On the day of the arrest, Army Officials in uniform had surrounded his house, kept him in house arrest for around 15 hours. He had been beaten and his parents who were in the house were threatened and told to remain inside. He was then taken to the Puttalam Army camp and beaten with rods and wooden poles and then brought a Police station in Colombo. He had been subjected to intense interrogation and a Superintendent of Police (SP) had taken a 15 minute statement from him. He was forced to sign a typed statement, though it was in Sinhalese, a language he didn’t understand. The SP had promised to release him in 3 months, but subsequently, the SP had passed away. One of the suspects was released due to the fact that the SP who took his confession had died by the time the case was brought to Courts. He had been informed that the Attorney General (AG) has agreed to give him a five year sentence, however, he felt that he was wrongly charged and unfair to sentence him when a suspect in the same case was released due to lack of evidence. His parents had passed away in 1997 and 1998.
Case study 8: Ms. Anthony Chandra
Detained for more than 6 years on fabricated charges in lieu of husband, before being released as innocent, torture, forced confessions
She was arrested in August 2008, and was subjected to torture and threats to disclose whereabouts of her husband, who was allegedly wanted in connection of being involved in terrorism. She didn’t know his whereabouts as he had gone overseas. She was compelled to sign unknown documents, some partially typed and some blank papers. She was produced before a Magistrate in May 2009 and there were 14 cases against her, in 4 different Magistrate Courts. But she was only charged for 5 cases. She was discharged unconditionally from in May 2015. She had 3 daughters when she was arrested.
Since her release, she has found it difficult to get registered back as a resident in the place she was residing. She is still unable to get back her job, possibly due to the stigma attached with having been detained as a terrorist suspect for nearly 7 years.
Case study 9: *Mr. Arumugam
Re-arrest after being released from rehabilitation and arrests
He was forcibly recruited by the LTTE and duly surrendered when he had the opportunity. He was sent for rehabilitation and released from rehabilitation in June 2011. He was arrested again in July 2011 and released in September 2011. Afterwards, he was summoned to the TID for questioning several times, which he complied with. He was pressured to make confessions about activities he had not been a party to, but he had refused. Due to this, he was arrested again in January 2012 and was in detention as of 20th August, 2015. His arrest was arbitrary in the sense that it did not follow due procedures, such as the issuance of an arrest receipt, and informing him of the charges for which he was arrested.
Case study 10: Mr. Nallaratnam Singharasa
Conviction on a forced confession and overruling of UN Human Rights Committee’s decision
He was arrested in 1993 and detained under the PTA. During this period he was tortured severely and his thumbprint was forcibly obtained to a statement written in Sinhalese, which was later produced as a confession by the Prosecution in the High Court. After over fourteen months in detention, Sinharasa was indicted in the High Court in three separate cases. During the trial, evidence of torture was brought to the notice of the High Court including the JMOs report. The High Court rejected the JMOs report, despite recognizing that injuries have been caused to Sinharasa during his time in detention. Singharasa was sentenced to 50 years (later reduced to 35 years) in September 1995, based solely on his confession to the police. He appealed against this decision both to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, but was unsuccessful. Hence he petitioned to the UN Human Rights Committee in 2001. The Committee decided in July 2004 that Singharasa’s rights were violated in terms of Sri Lanka’s international obligations and recommended to either, release him, set the case for retrial and pay compensation. When this decision was taken before the Supreme Court to be considered, the application was dismissed on the grounds that the UN Human Rights Committee’s findings do not bind the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka. Sinharasa has now been in detention for 22 years.
Case studies of those arrested in 2015
Case study 11: *Kumar
A father of several children and his wife were detained at the airport on their way out of the country. The father was then taken for questioning by the TID who had promised to along them to proceed on their journey following the inquiry. However, they were not permitted to proceed. Subsequently, when a lawyer contacted the TID, they had confirmed that *Kumar had initially been taken to the TID Headquarters in Colombo, and then transferred to Boosa, where he still remains without access to a lawyer.
Case study 12: *Prakash
*Prakash was on his way to the Middle East on work, when he was arrested and detained at the airport last month. He was then moved to the 6th Floor of the TID Headquarters in Colombo, where he was beaten and interrogated, and thereafter transferred to Boosa this month. The family is unaware if he had been tortured further whilst at Boosa, but, that the TID had continued to question him in relation to his connection to the LTTE in the 1980s when the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) was here, and whether he had rejoined the movement later on, even though he had maintained that he was not in the LTTE thereafter.
Case study 13: Ms. JeyaGanesh Pakeerathy
On the 2nd of March this year, a former female LTTE cadre resident in France and married to a French citizen (also Tamil), who had returned with her daughter (also a French citizen), was arrested and detained by the TID at the airport. On a visit to Sri Lanka to attend to her ailing father, she was detained for about two weeks and then released on conditional bail. She is not permitted to return to France as her case is still ongoing, and she’s currently residing with relations in the North. Her next hearing date will be on the 2nd of September, 2015.
Case study 14:*Mr. Nathan
We learnt of another case this year, where a Tamil man from the Western province, was arrested and detained from the airport. Shortly after, he had managed to pay a bribe to a TID official and secure his release.
 Calculation is based on year of remand (year of arrest could be earlier) indicated in the list and year indicated as the High Court case number in the list
 All based on testimonies of detainees to lawyers and human rights defenders
 Jeyakumary has been a vocal advocate and campaigned against disappearances in the North. As a direct result of this she has been subject to numerous threats and intimidation allegedly by State intelligence forces. Many believe she was framed by the State because she dared to challenge the authorities in her quest to find the whereabouts of her disappeared son. She last saw her youngest son, Balendran Mahinthan in 2008, when he was forcibly recruited by the LTTE, at the age of 15. He survived the war and was last seen surrendering to the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) at Mullivaikkal, in May 2009. Further, she recognized him in a photograph (taken by a foreign journalist) undergoing rehabilitation with other child soldiers at a State-run rehabilitation centre, published on lankapuvath.lk, a State-owned online news site, after the end of the war.
 Not in operation any longer
 Tangible evidence such as fire arms, drugs, illegal money or explosives etc.,
 WATCHDOG, TID arrests a Tamil woman and 8 year old French daughter – http://groundviews.org/2015/03/03/tid-arrests-a-tamil-woman-and-8-year-old-french-daughter/
 Emergency regulations were not extended by parliament in August 2011, but some of the key provisions were restored by expanding the PTA, contrary to basic national and international legal principles. See http://groundviews.org/2011/09/16/lifting-of-emergency-exposing-the-sham-exercise/
 The original list contained 182 names, but in case of one person, only his name and place remanded was visible, thus we could not consider other details. Some of those in the list may have been released since its compilation. We are aware of at least two such persons discharged since March 2015.
 The list is believed to have been compiled in January 2015, based ONLY on those remanded in official prisons run by the department of prisons.
 See table 1 and case studies 6&7.
 Case study 7 (information on list was substantiated by a lawyer who interviewed the person)
 We have assumed that the year indicated in the High Court case number is the year in which charges were filed, as per normal practice. In some cases, the year of the High Court case appears to be before the date of remand, raising possibilities of typos, and we have omitted such cases from our statistics
 Ibid and see table 3 and case study 6.
 See table 2. Some of them may have been released or charged since the list was prepared.
 Case study 5.
 Case study 6.
 See table 4.
 See case study 8.
 Case study 2.
 Information provided by families, interviews by lawyers and media reports
 Case studies 1,2 & 3.
 Case study 9.
 Case studies 1,2 & 4-8.
 Section 9 (1) of the PTA enables a person to be detained “in such place and subject to such conditions as may be determined by the Minister” http://www.commonlii.org/lk/legis/num_act/potpa48o1979608/s9.html
 See point point 6 and footnote 9
 To make the analysis easier, we have taken the year of remand that has been indicated
 Shamindra Ferdinando, Only 200 convicted Tigers, suspects in custody –govt In the wake of TNA, US call for release of remaining political prisoners, The Island – http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=126154
 See http://www.slguardian.org/sri-lanka-dark-side-of-pta/. Since then, the travel restrictions on both have been lifted, but airport authorities had tried stop Ruki Fernando from travelling overseas even in July 2015. Investigations against them continues, the restriction on freedom of expression also continues and the confiscated communication equipment are yet to be returned to both of them.
 http://www.channel4.com/news/exclusive-interview-new-leader-of-the-tamil-tigers, http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/1607 and http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/1631. See also http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/1033
 The Island, Govt. denies having secret detention camps – http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=125619
 Piyumi Fonseka, Have they been killed or hidden?, Daily Mirror – http://www.dailymirror.lk/82249/have-they-been-killed-or-hidden
 Kusal Perera, The many contradictions of the new Sri Lankan government, http://scroll.in/article/750712/the many-contradictions-of-the-new-sri-lankan-government
 As it’s possible that these eight cases might have been captured in the above number, to avoid potential duplication, we have not added these cases to our count of 21.
 International Truth and Justice Project – Sri Lanka (ITJP) – ‘A Still Unfinished War: Sri Lanka’s Survivors of Torture and Sexual Violence 2009 – 2015’ – http://thediplomat.com/2015/07/the-unfinished-war-against-sri-lankas-tamils/
 TamilNet, 16 Batticaloa Tamils arrested within last 100 days at Colombo airport – http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=37754
 TamilNet, SL military continues to arrest Tamils from East returning from Middle-East – https://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=37792
 Tamil Guardian, Tamil man arrested and sent to CID for ‘rehabilitation’ – http://www.tamilguardian.com/article.asp?articleid=15194
 Case studies 11, 12 and 13