Sri Lanka: Arbitrary arrest of human rights defender Mr Sanjeewa Samarasinghe


Your Excellency,

I am William Nicholas Gomes, Human Rights Ambassador for

I came to know about the situation from Front Line Defenders .

On 27 November 2012, human rights defender Mr?Sanjeewa Samarasinghe was taken into custody by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and questioned for 13 hours without a reason given or a lawyer present, before being released. Sanjeewa Samarasinghe is a journalist and the chairman of the State Media Workers? Association, which defends press freedom and the rights of media workers in Sri Lanka.

Sanjeewa Samarasinghe was at home on 27 November when around 5.15pm, six plainclothes policemen came to his house in Ragama. The operation was reportedly led by Inspector of Police Mr?SP Abayasekara of the CID. The defender was told to accompany the policemen to the CID office to record a statement, but no reason was given for the arrest or the questioning, which is illegal under Sri Lankan law as court approval is necessary for any arrest carried out after 5pm.

The human rights defender was taken to the CID office in Colombo 1 with a friend present, although his friend was told to leave the interrogation after 15 minutes. The defender asked the police officers to wait for his lawyer to arrive before questioning him, but this request was ignored and the police proceeded to question him in the absence of his lawyer. The defender?s lawyer was not permitted to enter the CID premises for the entire duration of the interrogation.

It is reported that Sanjeewa Samarasinghe was subsequently questioned throughout the night for a period of 13 hours until he was eventually released around 9.30am the following morning on 28 November. Although no reason was given for the arrest, he was reportedly asked during the questioning whether he had been supplying information on human rights violations in Sri Lanka to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Sanjeewa Samarasinghe works as a journalist and leads the State Media Workers? Association, which works on issues related to media freedom, the right to freedom of expression, and which holds conferences, campaigns, and demonstrations on the rights of media workers.

I urge the authorities in Sri Lanka to:

1. Immediately initiate an investigation into the arbitrary arrest and questioning of human rights defender Sanjeewa Samarasinghe, taking disciplinary action where necessary, as it is believed that the arrest was solely motivated by his legitimate and peaceful human rights activities;

2. Guarantee under all circumstances that human rights defenders in Sri Lanka are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

Yours Sincerely,

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