UPDATE (SRI LANKA): Michael Anthony Fernando (Tony) 


Urgent Appeal Case: UP-19-2003
ISSUES: Arbitrary arrest & detention, Inhuman & degrading treatment,

Dear Friends

We are pleased to update you with the following on Michael ‘Tony’ Fernando:


UN Rappoteur Tells the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Date Param Cumaraswamy, in a press release issued from Kuala Lumpur on 28 May 2003, stated that Michael Anthony Emmanuel Fernando (Tony), unjustly imprisoned since 6 February 2003, should be swiftly released by setting aside what Mr Cumaraswamy referred to as the “patently flawed” judgement of the Supreme Court. He called the imprisonment a grave injustice brought about by a flawed judicial process.

The full text of his statement is given below;



Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers

Press Release 28 May 2003

Michael Anthony Emmanuel Fernando

I am pleased to learn that the petition for review of the decision of the Supreme Court in the Michael Fernando case would be heard by the same Court on June 2-3 2003. However, the delay in filing the petition for review and the subsequent delay on the part of the Supreme Court fixing a date for hearing are matters of concern. Where the liberty of the subject is involved, particularly in this case where Mr Fernando was subjected to grave injustice brought about by a flawed judicial process, one would expect the Supreme Court to move swiftly to remedy the same injustice. Four months, during which period Mr Fernando was incarcerated, must necessarily be viewed as an inordinate delay.

Nevertheless, I urge the Supreme Court not to delay this matter any further, hear the petition, set aside the patently flawed decision delivered on February 6, 2003 whereby Mr. Fernando was convicted and sentenced to one year imprisonment for contempt for court.


Dato’ Param Cumaraswamy


In a separate move, the Asian Human Rights Commission, in a Press Release issued on the same date, 28 May 2003, stated that it was considering declaring Michael Anthony Emmanuel Fernando as a prisoner of conscience.

The full text of the AHRC Statement is as follows:

Michael Anthony Emmanuel Fernando (Tony):

A Victim of Injustice and Torture Being Considered as a Prisoner of Conscience and for a Human Rights Award

(Hong Kong, 28 May 2003) — The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is in the process of considering Michael Anthony Emmanuel Fernando (Tony) as a prisoner of conscience. The circumstances of his imprisonment and subsequent torture are well publicised, both in Sri Lanka and abroad. In considering Mr Fernando as a prisoner of conscience, AHRC has taken into consideration the following facts:

  • The chain of events leading to his imprisonment is based on his insistence that he, Mr Michael Anthony Emmanuel Fernando, should be treated as an equal before the law in terms of Article 12(1) of the Sri Lankan Constitution, which incorporates international law on the matter as expressed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Sri Lanka has ratified. Thus, he was imprisoned for expressing an opinion that he was legally entitled to express.
  • Mr Fernando has at no stage of his life advocated violence.
  • Dato Param Cumaraswamy, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, has considered his case and has stated that Mr Fernando is a victim of injustice. In the words of Mr Cumaraswamy, “The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka has done an act of injustice.” He also called upon the Sri Lankan Bar to rally support for Mr Fernando.
  • Other international organisations, such as Article 19 and the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), have also strongly condemned his imprisonment.
  • Mr Fernando’s imprisonment has caused an outrage in society. However, appeals to the Sri Lankan government have not resulted in any change to his situation.
  • Before AHRC makes a public statement about declaring Mr Fernando a prisoner of conscience, it seek the opinion of you or your organisation on the matter, particularly as to whether there is any reason to object to such a declaration. You are invited to make any representation you so wish. Your requests for confidentiality will be respected.
  • AHRC is also considering Mr Fernando for a human rights award.


AHRC has received following response from Bijo Francis, an Advocate practicing in Kerala, India:


Greetings from India.

I have been curiously observing the case of Mr Tony since it was reported to me by AHRC UA programme. The circumstances which lead to his detention and continuous torture is highly unfortunate and these are acts which should never happen and those which should be condemned at all cause. One cannot justify, for whatever means or reasons the denial of natural and fundaments rights to a fellow human being. Being a lawyer and coming to know more about the criminal justice dispensation system in Sri Lanka, I earnestly doubt whether such inhuman acts would ever stop in near future. This is the same condition in my country, India as well. But being a bit optimistic, I would say that campaigns like those conducted in the case of Mr Tony would some day yield result. Bombarding the same target again and again should invoke some response. The proposed award and recommendation is yet another method to try to cut loose the shackles and to give that punch which should yield some result in future. Maybe Tony might not receive the immediate benefit of these campaigns. But some day there should not be another Tony who should go through such a rollercoster ride and languish behind bars, tortured and worn out due to the oppressive, illegal, inhuman and ignorant human behavior in the name of law.

The framers of the Constitution and the criminal procedure code for Sri Lanka would have held their head low out of shame coming to know the story of Mr Tony. I am told that Mr Tony has suffered much and his mental state has deteriorated to such a stage that a speedy recovery from it is not likely.

The proposed nomination would serve a good purpose in the current campaign against torture, whether it be in Sri Lanka or elsewhere. I, Bijo Francis, Advocate, India, do hereby support the nomination of Mr Michael Anthony Emmanuel Fernando for being considered as a ‘Prisoner of Conscience’ and for the ‘Human Rights Award’.

Regards from all of us here at Jananeethi.

Bijo Francis


Over 3,403 persons have signed the online petition to the President and Prime Minister of Sri Lanka urging immediate action to be taken to undo the blatant injustice suffered by Michael Anthony Fernando. The Asian Legal Resource Centre made an oral submission at the 59th Session of the UN Human Rights Commission on 9 April 2003, regarding the case of Michael Fernando. This statement is available at www.ahrchk.net. Michael Anthony Fernando is a petitioner in a fundamental rights application and was sentenced to one year’s sentence without trial and was later tortured in prison. The blatant injustice has caused outrage, and a lot of disappointment with the justice system in Sri Lanka. A further fundamental rights application has been filed against the torture of Tony and a revised application on the contempt of court case is being prepared. However, Tony is still suffering, and is in a very serious physical and mental condition.

We urge you to join the online petition, and to encourage others to do so. Those who have no access to the internet can send their names by email to ua@ahrchk.net or rgrh@ahrchk.org. The names will be entered to the online list.

For further information on this case, kindly refer to former issues, and the original urgent appeal (UA-09-2003) on this case. View, and sign, the online petition at http://www.ahrchk.net/modules.php?name=AHRC_Petition_Srilanka.

Thank you.

AHRC Urgent Appeals Desk

Asian Human Rights Commission

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Document Type : Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID : UP-19-2003
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Arbitrary arrest & detention, Inhuman & degrading treatment,