Amnesty International issues update on Journalist Detained by Sri Lankan Authorities

Amnesty International (AI) in an appeal is, calling for detained Sri Lanka Journalist Tissainayagam’s immediate and unconditional release, unless he is charged with a recognizably criminal offense before an independent court.

AI is also calling on the authorities to ensure Tissainayagam is not tortured or ill-treated, and that he is allowed unrestricted access to his family, a lawyer of his choice, an independent court and any specialist medical treatment he may require.

The international human rights organisation pointed out that Tissainayagam has not yet been given the glasses which an eye specialist prescribed for him on 9 May, to prevent further deterioration of his sight. Nor has he seen a specialist since then to determine whether the condition of his eyes has changed.

“He is at risk of going blind if he does not receive this treatment. J.S Tissainayagam has only been allowed to see his lawyer twice since he was detained, over three months ago. Both times a TID officer was present,” Amnesty International adds in its appeal.

[June 23, 2008: Colombo Chief Magistrate reserved his order for June 30 on the application made by counsel for journalist J.S.Tissanayagam and two others]

Full Text of Appeal:

Arbitrary detention/Torture

Jayaprakash Sittampalam Tissainayagam (m), journalist

According to sources close to him, journalist Jayaprakash Sittampalam Tissainayagam was given a further three months’ detention on 7 June. Despite a request from the Magistrate, the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) did not bring him to court to be informed of this. He remains in TID custody in Colombo without charge, and is at risk of further torture.

On 19 March J.S Tissainayagam filed a Fundamental Rights case in the Supreme Court on the basis that he had been tortured, and because he was denied equal protection under the law, and suffered discrimination because of his ethnicity.

He has not yet been given the glasses which an eye specialist prescribed for him on 9 May, to prevent further deterioration of his sight, nor has he seen a specialist since then to determine whether the condition of his eyes has changed. He is at risk of going blind if he does not receive this treatment.

J.S Tissainayagam has only been allowed to see his lawyer twice since he was detained, over three months ago. Both times a TID officer was present.

His detention has been extended by the Ministry of Defense under the Emergency Regulations, under which he could be held for up to 12 months without charge. Detaining him in this way is arbitrary, in violation of Article 9(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sri Lanka is a state party. The Emergency Regulations, issued by the President, introduce broad-based and vaguely defined “terrorism” offenses, which have been used to silence critical journalists and generally suppress freedom of expression in Sri Lanka.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

A number of media workers have recently been attacked or suffered other abuses of their human rights, in a pattern outlined in Amnesty International’ s report Sri Lanka: Silencing Dissent (7 February 2008). Journalists and other media workers have been detained without charge for long periods. On 21 November 2006, Special Task Force (STF) personnel arrested Parameshwari Munusamy, a Tamil woman journalist with the Sinhalese newspaper Mawbima, and detained her at TID headquarters under the Emergency Regulations on suspicion of having links with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. They did not tell her why she was being arrested. She was held without charge for four months, and released on 22 March 2007. A number of media workers have been attacked or arbitrarily detained since 6 March 2008 including Gayan Lasantha Ranga, Udayen and Kithsiri Wijesinghe, all contributors to the website www.outreachsl. com. The three were held without charge by the TID for several days, and according to reports, released on 18 March. The deputy editor of The Nation newspaper, Keith Noyahr, was abducted and physically assaulted on 22 May. According to Sri Lanka’s Free Media Movement (FMM), it is widely believed that Noyahr was targeted as a result of his reporting and analysis of the ongoing conflict between government forces and the LTTE in the northern part of the country.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible:

– calling on the authorities to ensure that J.S. Tissainayagam is not tortured or ill-treated, and that he is allowed unrestricted access to his family, a lawyer of his choice, an independent court and any specialist medical treatment he may require;

– expressing concern that J.S Tissainayagam is being detained without charge by the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) in Colombo;

– urging the authorities to release J. S. Tissainayagam immediately and unconditionally, unless he is to be charged with a recognizably criminal offense before an independent court.

APPEALS TO:

His Excellency the President Mahinda Rajapaksa
Presidential Secretariat
Colombo 1

SRI LANKA
Fax: 011 94 11 2446657
Salutation: Your Excellency

Hon. Amarasiri Dodangoda
Minister of Justice and Law Reforms
Ministry of Justice and Law Reforms
Superior Courts Complex
Colombo 12
SRI LANKA

Fax: 011 94 11 2445447
Salutation: Dear Minister

COPIES TO:

Ambassador Bernard A.B. Goonetilleke
Embassy of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
2148 Wyoming Ave. NW
Washington DC 20008

Fax: 1 202 232 7181
Email: slembassy@slembassy usa.org

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