[Statement] AFAD Condemns Arrest of Family Members of Disappeared and FOD Members at the Conclusion of its Council Meeting
3 December 2012, Colombo, Sri Lanka – The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) concluded its week-long Council Meeting in Sri Lanka with a solidarity night together with local civil society organizations and family members of the disappeared. The night of sharing, video presentation, music and dancing ended with the arrest of six persons, including two elderly women family members of the disappeared, Ane Teresa Fernando and Ariyawathi de Silva; the Secretary of the Families of the Disappeared (FOD), Wasantha Ranile Kumara; Executive Director of the Right to Life, Mr. Philip Dissanayake; a vehicle driver and a friend. Their laptops, mobile phones and the key to the vehicle of Mr. Dissanayake, with plate number 59-9700 were taken into police custody. The victims were put into a police jeep by uniformed policemen, including the Headquarters Chief Inspector in Negombo, and another policeman who introduced himself as Assistant Superintendent of Police, but was plain clothed. Witnesses took the following official police numbers: 89218; 79573; 89568; 10701; 51717.
In a heated confrontation between the policemen and FOD leaders headed by FOD President, Mr. Brito Fernando, the FOD learned that the motive of the arrest was the presentation of a video on the recent commemoration of the anniversary of the Monument of the Disappeared in Seeduwa, Sri Lanka held on October 27, 2012. Mr. Fernando asked if he was being arrested and what the charges were, which one of the policemen, who introduced himself as Sub Inspector, said that the charge was the act of showing a video documentary against President Mahindra Rajapaksa. Mr. Fernando told the police that he took responsibility of the video and challenged the policemen to arrest him. The policemen responded that they only needed a copy of the film, which Mr. Fernando refused to give.
Mr. Fernando and other leaders confronted the police and asserted that the arrest of the six persons was illegal. For which reason, the policemen were forced to release the victims after holding them in their vehicle for more than an hour.
The AFAD Council condemns in strongest terms the act which reconfirms that Sri Lanka is indeed a human rights violator which deserves no support whatsoever from any UN Member. Furthermore, the AFAD Council expresses its profound disappointment at the sorry state of human rights in this country. The undersigned personally met Pres. Rajapaksa a few years back, when he was the Prime Minister of the country. He promised to facilitate the speedy signing and ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which never happened and on the contrary, thousands of people have been violated of their rights, including the right not to be subjected to enforced disappearance. The continuing massive commission of enforced disappearances and many other human rights violations in the country are a cause for alarm that necessitates a strong response from the international community.
Art. 24.7 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, “Each State Party shall guarantee the right to form and participate freely in organizations and associations concerned with attempting to establish the circumstances of enforced disappearance and the fate of disappeared persons, and to assist victims of enforced disappearance.” The recent incident is a blatant disregard of the provision of this anti-disappearance treaty.
The Council Meeting of AFAD held on 28 November – 3 December 2012 was attended by human rights organizations in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Timor Leste and a delegation of AFAD Secretariat members from the Philippines with an online participation from its member –organization in Kashmir, India. It was also attended by an observer from Thailand-based organization, ND Burma and a consultant of the Bread for the World/Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst (EED).
MARY AILEEN DIEZ-BACALSO
Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD)
Rms. 310-311 Philippine Social Science Center Bldg.,
Commonwealth Ave., Diliman, 1103 Quezon City
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