[JURIST] Sri Lankan authorities on Sunday arrested human rights activists Ruki Fernando, advisor to the Human Rights Documentation Center, and Catholic priest Father Praveen of the Centre for Peace Building and Reconciliation [advocacy website] for alleged violations of anti-terror laws. Reports indicate authorities arrested the activists for assisting the families of allegedly “disappeared” persons living in Northern Sri Lanka. In particular, the men reportedly sought to uncover information with respect to the March arrests of activist Balendran Jeyakumari and her 13-year-old daughter. Several human rights groups, including the Law and Society Trust [advocacy website], have declared the arrests a violation of international law [press release]. Sri Lankan authorities reportedly intend to detain the men [AP report] pending further investigation.
Sri Lanka’s controversial human rights record has been criticized in the past. In September UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay criticized [JURIST report] Sri Lanka’s large military presence in certain regions and lack of civil administration and economic activity, despite four years having passed since the end of the country’s 26-year civil war [JURIST news archive]. In May Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported [JURIST report] that no progress has been made in Sri Lanka regarding respect for basic rights and liberties since the end of the civil war. According to HRW, the government of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa failed to investigate and prosecute alleged war crimes, has cracked down on media and human rights activists, and has continued to abuse suspected Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) supporters, despite Rajapaska’s promise to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.