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SRI LANKA: A woman is arbitrarily detained for more than forty months without access to fair trial

December 14, 2011

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-247-2011

14 December 2011
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SRI LANKA: A woman is arbitrarily detained for more than forty months without access to fair trial

ISSUES: Illegal arrest; arbitrary detention; torture; fabrication of charges; denial of fair trial; violation of women's rights; impunity; rule of law
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding a woman named Ms. Anthony Chandra, who is mother of three minor aged girls of below 11 years of age, has been detained for more than forty months in twelve fabricated charges under the Prevention of Terrorism Act of Sri Lanka. The Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) of Kandy illegally arrested Chandra and detained arbitrarily in those fabricated charges for not telling the whereabouts of her husband whom the police suspect as a member of erstwhile ethnic group Liberation of Tamil Tigers Elam (LTTE). She has never been allowed to have her right to fair trial for the fabricated charges against her. Please intervene urgently to insist the Sri Lankan authorities to release Chandra immediately and drop the fabricated charges unless her right to fair trial is protected.

CASE NARRATIVE:

Ms. Anthony Chandra's husband Mr. Muttusamy Raj remained under surveillance of the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) of the police who suspected Muttusamy as a member of the Liberation of Tamil Tigers Elam (LTTE). At one stage Muttusamy fled from the country in abroad. Subsequently, the TID officers, who followed him, failed to relocate and capture him.

The TID officers of Kandy district arrested Muttusamy's wife Ms. Anthony Chandra on 10 August 2008. They detained her for eight months at the Kandy TID section at the Kandy police. She was produced before the Matale Magistrate Court on 13 May 2009 for bringing in remand at the Raja Veediya remand prison. Chandra has been in the remand prison until now.

The TID officers filed 12 cases against Chandra and right now she has got 7 cases being called in every 14 days. In Panwila Magistrate Court 3 cases, in Kandy Magistrate Court 3 cases and at the Matale Magistrate Court 1 case against her. According to Chandra, all of the 12 cases are fabricated charges but charges are of very serious in nature as registered under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

Therefore, Chandra is repeatedly being refused bail by the Courts and has been languishing only in the remand prison for the last two years while her actual period of detention has already passed forty months. Chandra has never been informed about the reason for her arrest and the charges made against her. She was never taken for a trial before a court and has been languishing in Prison for no reason.

Chandra has suffered severe forms of torture during her detention at the TID branch of the Kandy police station and at the remand prison. She was interrogated almost every night while at the TID branch. The interrogators threatened her of possible rape and murder if she refuses to tell her husband's whereabouts to the police.

Anthony Chandra is a mother of three girl children aged six, nine and eleven years respectively. All the children now live with their grandmother (Chandra's mother-in-law) in absence of their parents. The police officers, by keeping Chandra under prolonged detention, have been denying the children's right to receive adequate motherly cares without any reasonable grounds.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write to the Sri Lankan authorities urging them to immediately release Anthony Chandra from the prolonged arbitrary detention. She must have access to her right to fair trial for the alleged fabricated charges or the charges must be dropped without further delay. The alleged perpetrators must be held responsible for the illegal arrest, arbitrary detention and torture while the victim be afforded with adequate compensation.

Please note that the Asian Human Rights Commission has written separate letters to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Arrest and Detention and the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment calling for their urgent interventions into this matter.

To support this appeal, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ___________,

SRI LANKA: More than forty months' arbitrary detention of a woman without trial must end immediately

Name of victim: Ms. Anthony Chandra, aged 37, living in Ratwatte lower division, Ukuwela in Matale District
Alleged perpetrators:
1. Police Officers of the Terrorism Investigations Department (TID) of Kandy district
2. Police Officers of Matale district
3. Magistrates of Kandy, Panwila and Matale districts
Date of arrest: 10 August 2008
Place of arbitrary detention: Kandy Remand Prison

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding a prolonged arbitrary detention of a woman, who happens to be a mother of three minor aged girls, for forty months in the remand prison in Kandy without an access to fair trial. The victim has been identified as Ms. Anthony Chandra. She was illegally arrested by the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) while there was no specific charge against her although the police had filed 12 fabricated charges under the Prevention of Terrorism Act one after another. I demand that Ms. Anthony Chandra must be released immediately from the arbitrary detention and the fabricated charges against her must be dropped as far as she has not given access to fair trial.

According to the information I have received from the Asian Human Rights Commission that, Ms. Anthony Chandra's husband Mr. Muttusamy Raj remained under surveillance of the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) of the police who suspected Muttusamy as a member of the Liberation of Tamil Tigers Elam (LTTE). At one stage Muttusamy fled from the country in abroad. Subsequently, the TID officers, who followed him, failed to relocate and capture him.

I have learned that the TID officers of Kandy district arrested Muttusamy's wife Ms. Anthony Chandra on 10 August 2008. They detained her for eight months at the Kandy TID section at the Kandy police. She was produced before the Matale Magistrate Court on 13 May 2009 for bringing in remand at the Raja Veediya remand prison. Chandra has been in the remand prison until now.

I am aware that the TID officers filed 12 cases against Chandra and right now she has got 7 cases being called in every 14 days. In Panwila Magistrate Court 3 cases, in Kandy Magistrate Court 3 cases and at the Matale Magistrate Court 1 case against her. According to Chandra, all of the 12 cases are fabricated charges but charges are of very serious in nature as registered under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

I have learned that Chandra is repeatedly being refused bail by the Courts and has been languishing only in the remand prison for the last two years while her actual period of detention has already passed forty months. Chandra has never been informed about the reason for her arrest and the charges made against her. She was never taken for a trial before a court and has been languishing in Prison for no reason. I question why the authorities have denied Chandra from her fundamental right to have access to a fair trial?

I am informed that Chandra has suffered severe forms of torture during her detention at the TID branch of the Kandy police station and at the remand prison. She was interrogated almost every night while at the TID branch. The interrogators threatened her of possible rape and murder if she refuses to tell her husband's whereabouts to the police.

I know that Anthony Chandra is a mother of three girl children aged six, nine and eleven years respectively. All the children now live with their grandmother (Chandra's mother-in-law) in absence of their parents. The police officers, by keeping Chandra under prolonged detention, have been denying the children's right to receive adequate motherly cares without any reasonable grounds.

In light of the above information, I urge the Sri Lankan authorities to conduct a thorough investigation by a credible judicial body excluding the police, who are the alleged perpetrators in arresting and detaining Chandra arbitrarily. All the perpetrators must be brought to book for their lawless actions and prosecuted thereby under the laws of the land. The victim should be afforded with adequate compensation for the torture and arbitrary detention she has been sustaining for last forty months now.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. N K Illangakoon
Inspector General of Police
New Secretariat
Colombo 1
SRI LANKA
Fax: +94 11 2 440440 / 327877
E-mail: igp@police.lk

2. Ms. Eva Wanasundara
Attorney General
Attorney General's Department
Colombo 12
SRI LANKA
Fax: +94 11 2 436421
E-mail: ag@attorneygeneral.gov.lk

3. Secretary
National Police Commission
3rd Floor, Rotunda Towers
109 Galle Road
Colombo 03
SRI LANKA
Tel: +94 11 2 395310
Fax: +94 11 2 395867
E-mail: npcgen@sltnet.lk or polcom@sltnet.lk

4. Secretary
Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission
No. 108
Barnes Place
Colombo 07
SRI LANKA
Tel: +9411 2694925, +9411 2685980, +9411 2685981
Fax: +9411 2694924 (General) +94112696470 +94112696470 (Chairman)
E-mail: sechrc@sltnet.lk


Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

Document Type :
Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID :
AHRC-UAC-247-2011
Countries :
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Extended Introduction: Urgent Appeals, theory and practice

A need for dialogue

Many people across Asia are frustrated by the widespread lack of respect for human rights in their countries.  Some may be unhappy about the limitations on the freedom of expression or restrictions on privacy, while some are affected by police brutality and military killings.  Many others are frustrated with the absence of rights on labour issues, the environment, gender and the like. 

Yet the expression of this frustration tends to stay firmly in the private sphere.  People complain among friends and family and within their social circles, but often on a low profile basis. This kind of public discourse is not usually an effective measure of the situation in a country because it is so hard to monitor. 

Though the media may cover the issues in a broad manner they rarely broadcast the private fears and anxieties of the average person.  And along with censorship – a common blight in Asia – there is also often a conscious attempt in the media to reflect a positive or at least sober mood at home, where expressions of domestic malcontent are discouraged as unfashionably unpatriotic. Talking about issues like torture is rarely encouraged in the public realm.

There may also be unwritten, possibly unconscious social taboos that stop the public reflection of private grievances.  Where authoritarian control is tight, sophisticated strategies are put into play by equally sophisticated media practices to keep complaints out of the public space, sometimes very subtly.  In other places an inner consensus is influenced by the privileged section of a society, which can control social expression of those less fortunate.  Moral and ethical qualms can also be an obstacle.

In this way, causes for complaint go unaddressed, un-discussed and unresolved and oppression in its many forms, self perpetuates.  For any action to arise out of private frustration, people need ways to get these issues into the public sphere.

Changing society

In the past bridging this gap was a formidable task; it relied on channels of public expression that required money and were therefore controlled by investors.  Printing presses were expensive, which blocked the gate to expression to anyone without money.  Except in times of revolution the media in Asia has tended to serve the well-off and sideline or misrepresent the poor.

Still, thanks to the IT revolution it is now possible to communicate with large audiences at little cost.  In this situation there is a real avenue for taking issues from private to public, regardless of the class or caste of the individual.

Practical action

The AHRC Urgent Appeals system was created to give a voice to those affected by human rights violations, and by doing so, to create a network of support and open avenues for action.  If X’s freedom of expression is denied, if Y is tortured by someone in power or if Z finds his or her labour rights abused, the incident can be swiftly and effectively broadcast and dealt with. The resulting solidarity can lead to action, resolution and change. And as more people understand their rights and follow suit, as the human rights consciousness grows, change happens faster. The Internet has become one of the human rights community’s most powerful tools.   

At the core of the Urgent Appeals Program is the recording of human rights violations at a grass roots level with objectivity, sympathy and competence. Our information is firstly gathered on the ground, close to the victim of the violation, and is then broadcast by a team of advocates, who can apply decades of experience in the field and a working knowledge of the international human rights arena. The flow of information – due to domestic restrictions – often goes from the source and out to the international community via our program, which then builds a pressure for action that steadily makes its way back to the source through his or her own government.   However these cases in bulk create a narrative – and this is most important aspect of our program. As noted by Sri Lankan human rights lawyer and director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Basil Fernando:

"The urgent appeal introduces narrative as the driving force for social change. This idea was well expressed in the film Amistad, regarding the issue of slavery. The old man in the film, former president and lawyer, states that to resolve this historical problem it is very essential to know the narrative of the people. It was on this basis that a court case is conducted later. The AHRC establishes the narrative of human rights violations through the urgent appeals. If the narrative is right, the organisation will be doing all right."

Patterns start to emerge as violations are documented across the continent, allowing us to take a more authoritative, systemic response, and to pinpoint the systems within each country that are breaking down. This way we are able to discover and explain why and how violations take place, and how they can most effectively be addressed. On this path, larger audiences have opened up to us and become involved: international NGOs and think tanks, national human rights commissions and United Nations bodies.  The program and its coordinators have become a well-used tool for the international media and for human rights education programs. All this helps pave the way for radical reforms to improve, protect and to promote human rights in the region.