08/01/2019

Urgent Action: Writer Faces Up To 10 Years in Jail For Story (Sri Lanka: UA 105.19)


Shakthika Sathkumara, an award-winning Sri Lankan writer, was arrested on 1 April 2019, for writing a short story and sharing it on his Facebook profile. The fictional story he shared was about life in a Buddhist temple, that allegedly hinted at child sexual abuse. He faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty as he is charged under Section 3(1) of ICCPR Act and Art. 291(B) of the Penal Code of Sri Lanka, which deals with propagating hatred and incitement of racial or religious violence. Detained for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression, Shakthika Sathkumara is a prisoner of conscience and must be immediately and unconditionally released and all charges against him dropped.

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  1. Write a letter in your own words or using the sample below as a guide to one or both government officials listed. You can also email, fax, call or Tweet them.
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Attorney General Mr. Dappula de Livera
Attorney General’s Department
Hulftsdorp Street,
Colombo 12
Sri Lanka
Fax: +94 112 436421
Email: [email protected]
Ambassador Rodney Perera
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 de Livera,

I am deeply concerned about the arbitrary arrest of award-winning Sri Lankan writer Shakthika Sathkumara, on 1 April 2019 for simply writing, and sharing, a short story. Without committing any crime, he remains detained in Kegalle prison for almost 4 months now. Shakthika Sathkumara’s literary contributions have been recognized for awards by various institutions including the Department of Cultural Affairs and Cultural Affairs Division of the Chief Ministry of North Western Province. Mr. Sathkumara’s family, including his wife Yanusha Lakmali and their two children aged 4 and 1 ½, are deeply disturbed by the turn of events, having Shakthika remanded for nearly four months. Yanusha has lodged a complaint with the Human Rights Commission and a Fundamental Rights petition has been filed with the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka on behalf of Shakthika as well.

The use of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act to detain and prosecute writers for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression is a clear violation of international law in general, and specifically the ICCPR, as well as infringement of the right to freedom of thought and expression guaranteed by the constitution of Sri Lanka. The very law that is meant to protect people’s fundamental rights in Sri Lanka, including freedom of expression, is now being misused to violate them.

I urge you to drop all charges against Shakthika Sathkumara and call for his immediate and unconditional release. Also, I appeal the Sri Lankan authorities to stop using ICCPR Act to threaten, harass and prosecute writers and activists for peacefully expressing their opinions.

Yours sincerely,

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES