Time to End Arbitrary Detention in Sri Lanka

July 24, 2012

Sri Lankan policemen stand guard over prison
Sri Lankan policemen stand guard outside the main prison in Colombo (Ishara S.KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images)

Right now, hundreds of people are languishing in detention in Sri Lanka.  They haven’t been convicted of any crime; indeed, they haven’t even been charged with any crime.  Their detentions violate international law.  Many of them are tortured while in custody.  Some detainees have been killed.

More than three years after the end of Sri Lanka’s brutal civil war, security laws enacted to combat armed opposition groups continue to be used against outspoken, peaceful critics, including journalists, and others.

No one has been held accountable for these crimes. Impunity for human rights violations is the norm in Sri Lanka.

But this fall, Sri Lanka’s human rights record will be under scrutiny by the UN as part of the UN Human Rights Council’s “Universal Periodic Review” (UPR) procedure.  We have a chance to expose Sri Lanka’s shameful record of detention without trial and to pressure them to end it.

We need your help.

Please write to your Senators and Representatives.  Ask them to urge the Obama administration to highlight Sri Lanka’s practices of unlawful detention during the Human Rights Council’s UPR session on Sri Lanka.  The U.S. should make the following recommendations to the Sri Lankan government during this session:

  • Repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act and abolish the system of administrative detention.
  • Release all individuals arrested under emergency or anti-terrorism laws, unless they are charged with recognizably criminal offenses and remanded by an independent, regularly constituted court. Any trials must be held promptly and in regularly constituted courts with all internationally recognized safeguards provided.
  • Ensure that any arrest and/or detention is in strict compliance with Sri Lanka’s obligations under international human rights law, in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (to which Sri Lanka is a party), and adheres to the 2006 decree of Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa by registering detainees and informing their families and the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission of the place of arrest.

Also, please send an online letter to the Sri Lankan government asking that they end their practice of unlawful detention without delay.