SRI LANKA: Concern over the safety of the Bishop of Mannar, Rev Rayappu Joseph 

The Asian Human Rights Commission is concerned over the safety of the Bishop of Mannar, Reverend Rayappu Joseph who has a long-standing record of being a spokesperson on the democratic rights of the minority Tamil community in Sri Lanka. As a pastor of his people and a conscientious religious leader he has consistently expressed his concerns about the problems that affect the Tamil people.

On May 13, 2012 the Sunday Leader revealed that, “…… Rev Rayappu Joseph, Bishop of Mannar, was questioned by the police on his statement to the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission(LLRC) regarding the disappearances of about 146,000 during the last phase of the 30-yr war that was brutally ended in May 2009”. The original article is here.

The police spokesman SP Ajith Rohana confirmed that officers from the Criminal Investigations Department visited the Bishop and questioned him.

Under the criminal law of Sri Lanka the power of investigations is based on a suspicion of the commission of a criminal offense. However, it has now become a common practice to question individuals without having any such criminal suspicion against them. Such questioning without revealing the nature of the inquiry violates the basic rights of citizens and creates a climate of fear and distrust.

Following this investigation there are fears that the Bishop may fall victim to some conspiracy. Abductions and disappearances are common occurrences in Sri Lanka and there have been several priests and even Buddhist monks who have been victims of extrajudicial killings or forced disappearances.

Following the passing of the resolution by the Human Rights Council in late March of this year, many persons have been exposed to various types of harassment and vilified as traitors as they called for credible inquiries into the alleged human rights abuses relating to the Tamil people. Rev. Rayappu Joseph has also written to the President of Sri Lanka and the Human Rights Council on such abuses and the need for justice and reconciliation. Once such letter was published by Transcurrents on March 4, 2012.

Those who exercise freedom of expression for airing their concerns about the rights of their fellow citizens are now being exposed to serious dangers in Sri Lanka.

Under such circumstances many persons are anxious about the security of the Bishop of Mannar, Rev. Rayappu Joseph.

The Asian Human Rights Commission urges the Sri Lankan government and all opposition parties to take all steps to ensure the security for him. We also call upon the international community, including all the diplomatic community in Sri Lanka, to express their concerns to the Sri Lankan government on this matter.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-103-2012
Countries : Sri Lanka,