Sri Lanka: UN treaty invoked to imprison award winning writer

In an unprecedented move, police in Sri Lanka, made use of an international agreement to imprison a multiple award-winning Sinhala writer for publishing a work of fiction on social media.

Shakthika Sathkumara was remanded until 9 April by a magistrate on Monday (01) in the northwestern town of Polgahawela, 75 kilometers north-east of Colombo. 

The writer was charged under ICCPR Act for writing a short story, which revolves around a Buddhist monk who renounced the saffron robe. The Act was enacted in 2007 to give effect to certain provisions of the United Nations multilateral treaty, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Religious hatred

Police took Shakthika Sathkumara to court, following a complaint from the ultra nationalist Young Buddhist Defence Front, which accused the writer of inciting religious hatred by publishing a short story entitled ‘Ardha (partial)’ on facebook.

In February, Buddhist monk Ahungalle Jinananda of the Buddhist Information Centre urged the police chief to explicitly use the ICCPR Act to arrest the writer.

The ICCPR prohibits "advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence".

A magistrate in Sri Lanka is not authorised to grant bail to those charged under the ICCPR.

When 'Ardha' first appeared on facebook, a group of Buddhist monks stormed Shakthika Sathkumara's workplace demanding punitive action against him.

Bowing down to pressure, the Kurunegala District Secretariat had initiated a disciplinary inquiry against the writer who is a government employee.

Shakthika Sathkumara, adjudged the best Sinhala short story writer in Sri Lanka's National Youth Literary Festivals of 2010 and 2014, was twice the recipient of the north western provincial state literary award.☐



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.