Sri Lanka police warned about illegal arrests after Easter Sunday Massacre

By Kithsiri Wijesinghe

Sri Lanka’s official human rights authority has put the country’s head of police about arbitrary arrests following the Easter Sunday blasts that killed 258 people.

“Arrests should not be made merely on hearsay,” the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) has told Acting Inspector General of Police Chandana Wickramaratne.

“The Commission has recently received a number of complaints alleging illegal arrests,” Commission Chair Deepika Udagama writes in her letter highlighting that the complaints are about arrests made due to cultural misunderstandings or uncertainty and others due to suspicions expressed by members of the public.

“For example, one woman had been arrested due to a motif on her dress assumed to be inciteful; in some other instances persons have been arrested for possessing literature in Arabic even before ascertaining the contents; arrests have been made due to public pressure such as an arrest of a trader because some persons feared he had applied a toxic substance to certain garments he was selling.”

Dr Udagama also notes the Commission’s observation that police investigations are conducted after the arrest.

Monks & media

Recently, courts heard that investigations on a Muslim doctor accused of “sterilizing Sinhala mothers” were conducted only after his arrest.

Senior House Officer Dr Shiabdeen Shafi was later cleared of the allegations made by Sinhala media outlets and Buddhist monks.

The Human Rights Commissioner’s warning comes a day after police chief during Easter Pujith Jayasundera and a former defence chief Hemasiri Fernando were arrested and placed under protective custody over alleged failures to prevent the massacre.

Since the Easter Sunday Massacre claimed by ISIS, police have arrested hundreds of Muslims under terror laws.

According to Army Commander Mahesh Senanayake almost all detainees are Muslims.

In June, Police spokesperson Ruwan Gunasekara told journalists that 423 have on been remanded and another 211 are being interrogated in detention at various police stations.

He did not reveal the nationality of the detainees.☐



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  • JDS is the Sri Lankan partner organization of international media rights group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The launching of this website was made possible by the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), of which Reporters Without Borders is a beneficiary.