GOVERNMENT ESTABLISHES “HELP DESK”
TO ASSIST THE PUBLIC IN SEEKING INFORMATION ABOUT DETAINEES
Presidential directive in response to
Following the twin bomb blasts in Colombo on
November 28, 2007, the security forces and the police engaged
in a cordon-and-search operation which resulted in some members
of the Tamil community getting arrested. As with every terrorist
attack by the LTTE that results in cordon-and-search operations,
this time too, there has been an outcry about Tamils being harassed.
Amnesty International (AI) condemning the arrests, says in a press
release that it is, “deeply concerned that the arrests have
been made on arbitrary and discriminatory grounds using sweeping
powers granted by the emergency regulations.” It adds, “While
the government has the right to carry out security measures it
must never do this in violation of basic rights.”
Speaking in Parliament on December 3, Chief Government
Whip and Minister for Highways and Road Development Jeyaraj Fernandopulle,
explained that the government was compelled to take steps in the
interest of national security said that those who are detained
by police, would be released after questioning. Said the Minister,
“We are aware that 54% of the Tamil speaking people live
in the South. All these security checkups are in the interest
of all communities. The forces have taken in to custody over a
thousand on suspicion. They will be freed after their identifications
and bona fides are established.
Today, (Dec 4), Minister Fernandopulle informed
Parliament that so far, a total of 2554, both male and female,
had been taken in to custody for questioning. Said the Minister,
“Of this number, 2350 have already been released after questioning.
Of the 2554, 2189 are from the Western Province and the rest from
Puttalam.” Of those still in custody, 100 are in detention,
and 102 are to be produced before the magistrate, and are in remand.
Minister Fernandopulle pointed out, “They do not belong
to one particular community. There are some Sinhalese and Muslims
among them.” He added, “Of those to be produced before
courts, there are some suspects with LTTE connections. It is a
matter for the courts to decide. There are about 87 detainees
from Jaffna and about 30 from upcountry.” The Minster assured
parliament that the people who are being detained are being held
under the normal laws of the country. He added that these are
not uncommon happenings at a time of threat to national security.
According to media reports, the Special Investigation
Committee (SIC), investigating into disappearances and abductions,
has taken immediate steps to release suspects who are detained
at the Terrorism Investigating Unit, and whose identities have
been cleared. The Committee will release 43 suspects detained
at the Boosa Camp.
Meanwhile, on a Presidential directive, the Ministry
of Disaster Management and Human Rights (MoDM&HR) has established
a Help Desk to assist members of the public seeking information
about persons arrested and or detained by Police and Security
Forces. This Help Desk is using the Disaster Management Centre’s
Hotline, on which the public can call and ascertain if a person
is detained by the authorities. The contact numbers for this 24-hour/7-day
Help Desk are 2670002 (Voice) and 2779979 (Fax). Minister of MoDM&HR,
Mr. Mahinda Samarasinghe, has directed the police to share the
list of names of persons detained with the relevant authorities,
including the MoDM&HR and the Human Rights Commission (HRC).
This action follows the many representations
made by parliamentarians and the public to the President, during
the past few days, regarding persons detained by the authorities.
Minister Samarasinghe personally inspected some of the detention
centers and met with detainees to ensure they were being treated
humanely and with respect.
Minister Samarasinghe has also brought to the
attention of the Police, as well as of all relevant authorities,
and the public, the Presidential Direction on “Arrest, Detention
and matters incidental thereto,” of June 2006 which was
re-circulated in April 2007, by the Ministry of Defence, Public
Security and Law and Order, to ensure that all arrests made, comply
with the guidelines issued by President Rajapaksa to safeguard
human rights of persons arrested or detained. At a meeting which
focused on the arrest and detention of persons currently held
in detention, Minister Samarasinghe emphasized the Government’s
commitment to safeguarding the human rights of all persons arrested
and detained; the firm policy on zero-tolerance of torture and
inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of persons in custody.
He stressed that all arrests and detentions must be carried out
strictly in accordance with the law.
Embassy of Sri Lanka
04 December 2007