Urgent Action: Former Police Investigator Jailed with Covid-19 (Sri Lanka: UA 168.20)

November 30, 2020

Shani Abeysekara, the former director of the Sri Lankan Criminal Investigations Department (CID) tested positive for COVID-19 on 24 November 2020. According to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, he was recently transferred to a remote prisoner treatment center, reportedly against his wishes and without his family being informed of his health situation or whereabouts. Detained since 31 July 2020, his family believes that he is being targeted for exposing human rights abuses implicating top politicians. There is grave concern for his life, safety, health and wellbeing as he suffers from existing heart conditions and diabetes.



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Mr. H.M.T.N Upuldeniya
Commissioner General of Prisons
Prison Headquarters,
No. 150 Baseline Road,
Colombo 09, Sri Lanka
Fax: +94 112 695206
Email: [email protected]
Ambassador Ravinatha P. Aryasinha
Embassy of Sri Lanka
3025 Whitehaven Street NW, Washington DC 20008
Phone: 202 483 4025 I Fax: 202 232 7181
Email: [email protected]
Salutation: Dear Ambassador


Dear Mr. Upuldeniya,

I’m writing to express my grave concern for the life of detained former Director of the Criminal Investigations Department, Gnendra Shani Abeysekara, who has recently tested positive for COVID-19 while in custody. It is distressing to learn that he was transferred to the Gallella military-run treatment facility against his will, without informing his family of his situation or whereabouts. I am worried that he is not receiving the care he requires, given his medical history.

Already suffering from several serious health issues, including severe diabetes and heart disease, Mr. Abeysekara’s vulnerability to the health risks of COVID-19 is heightened. Latest reports suggest that he was transferred to the Infectious Diseases Hospital on 27 November. He must be immediately given access to medical care at a hospital. I am further concerned for his safety, as his family believes he is being targeted for exposing human rights violations implicating top politicians. This issue is only compounded by the fact that his family and independent human rights observers have been denied access to him. I urge you to provide access to independent monitors, such as the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, so that they may assess Mr Abeysekara’s condition. Failing to provide adequate medical care to prisoners is a violation of Sri Lanka’s international human rights obligations. As a state party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Sri Lanka is legally obliged to respect, promote, protect and fulfill “the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.” Adequate healthcare and safety of prisoners must be guaranteed at all times.

I urge you to ensure that Shani Abeysekara is granted prompt, regular and quality access to medical care at a hospital, and that he is given unrestricted access to his family members and independent monitors regularly. If contact visits are restricted due to COVID-19 preventive measures, they must be replaced with other means of contact.

Yours sincerely,