Press Statements - Sri Lanka

SAHR Mourns the Death of Mrs. Sithie Tiruchelvam


24 March 2014

SAHR Mourns the Death of Mrs. Sithie Tiruchelvam

South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) mourns the death of Mrs. Sithie Tiruchelvam, human rights activist, Attorney-at-Law and former Bureau Member of SAHR, who passed away on 22 March 2014. She is also a founder member of the Foundations for Peace (FfP) network – a worldwide network of community foundations working on peace and reconciliation within communities and has also contributed to the work of the Nadesan Centre for Human Rights. She was also the founder of Neelan Tiruchelvam Trust (NTT) which she formed upon the death of her husband Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam.

Sithie was appointed to the SAHR Bureau in the early stages of SAHR’s formation as a regional platform for human rights in South Asia and remained a bureau member till her term expired in November 2010. During this period she was responsible for the establishment and development of the SAHR Secretariat in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Sithie was a strong advocate for human rights, especially in Sri Lanka and South Asia and was a committed activist for social justice and peace. (more…)

SAHR Condemns the arrest of Mr. Ruki Fernando and other human rights defenders in an open letter to the President of Sri Lanka


ANANTA RAJ LUITEL

18 March 2014

His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa,

President of Sri Lanka,

Presidential Secretariat,

Colombo 1

SAHR Condemns the arrest of Mr. Ruki Fernando and

other human rights defenders in an open letter to the President of Sri Lanka

Your Excellency,

South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR), a network of human rights defenders based in seven countries in South Asia, strongly condemns the arrest and detention of Mr. Ruki Fernando and Rev. Praveen Mahesan, prominent Sri Lankan human rights defenders, on 16 March 2014 in Kilinochchi.

Mr. Ruki Fernando, Rev. Praveen Mahesen and Ms. Balendran Jeyakumari are respected human rights defenders in Sri Lanka who are well known to the South Asian human rights community. SAHR notes that Mr. Fernando and Rev. Mahesan were arrested after they sought to ensure the welfare of 13-year-old Balendran Vithushaini, following the arrest of her mother, Balendran Jeyakumari, another human rights defender, on 13 March. We fear that their arrest may be intended to restrain their activities for the promotion and protection of human rights and their efforts for the prevention of harm to a human rights defender. It is a matter of serious concern that these human rights defenders have been charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for “attempting to create instability among communities” and “allegedly promoting separatism”. This action of the Government of Sri Lanka strengthens the belief of the human rights community world-wide that counter terrorism legislation is being used by many states to repress human rights activity and intimidate human rights defenders.

SAHR believes that the arrest of a well reputed human rights defender such as Ruki Fernando increases the climate of fear amongst the human rights community in Sri Lanka and gives greater credence to the concerns expressed by the international community regarding the safety of human rights defenders in Sri Lanka, especially those engaged on issues of transitional justice and calling for the end of impunity for gross human rights violations during the period of conflict.

SAHR urges the national human rights institutions and the relevant parliamentary and judicial bodies in Sri Lanka to take immediate action for the release of the defenders and to ensure their safety while in custody. SAHR urges that the condition of their detention be made public immediately. Reminding the Government of all its responsibilities under national law and of its obligations under international law, SAHR calls upon the Government to give lawyers and human rights bodies full access to the defenders in order that their physical and psychological integrity is safeguarded. SAHR expects the civil society in general and the human rights community in Sri Lanka in particular to monitor the situation of the two defenders continuously and to make all appropriate interventions to secure their release and their safety while in custody.

On behalf of South Asians for Human Rights,

Hina Jilani                                                                                             Dr. Nimalka Fernando

Chairperson                                                                                         Co-Chairperson

cc: Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka

SAHR expresses great concern over the threat to the life of Dr. Nimalka Fernando


South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) expresses great concern over the threat made to Dr. Nimalka Fernando’s life. This threat was made on the radio programme titled “Rata Yana Atha” broadcasted on a Commercial Channel of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, a State owned media channel.

It is deplorable that a State owned media channel would encourage such threats on their programme. Nimalka has always been a fierce defender of human rights and a strong critic of those who violate them. Her continuous criticism of the Government of Sri Lanka has made her a foe to these actors. (more…)

SAHR Vehemently Condemns the Arbitrary Arrest of Human Rights Activist Adilur Rahman Khan


South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) vehemently condemns the arbitrary arrest of Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan, a Senior Lawyer of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh and a former Deputy Attorney General who currently holds office as Secretary of Odhikar, a Bangladeshi Human Rights Organization.

We are concerned that the Chief Metropolitan Court of Bangladesh initially allowed a five-day remand to interrogate Mr. A. R Khan, which was later stayed by the High Court. As there is evidence of torture linked to police remand in South Asia, we believe that the trial courts of Bangladesh should be very careful in allowing the remand of persons arrested without any specific case, as with regards to Mr. A. R. Khan.

It was reported that about 10 plain-clothes officers from the Detective Branch of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police took Mr. A. R Khan into custody on the 10th of August 2013 from outside his residence in Dhaka. The men carried no arrest warrant with them at the time of forcible removal and SAHR is of the opinion that the manner in which Mr. A. R Khan was arrested and detained is wholly unconstitutional and in violation of his fundamental rights.

(more…)

SAHR Statement on International Women’s Day 2013


8th March 2013

South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR), a regional network of human rights defenders, joins the messages of solidarity expressed throughout the world to mark International Women’s Day on 8th March 2013.

This year, the UN theme for International Women’s Day is “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women”, one that is unfortunately relevant to South Asia.

Global campaigns such as 16 days of activism and One Billion Rising are positive signs of an increasingly proactive approach from men and women, to stop violence against women. However, while SAHR acknowledges that there continues to be a shift in the attitude of many South Asian societies with regards to women’s equality and emancipation, still injustice, discrimination, and violence persist in the most terrible of forms.

Over the past year alone, acts of violence against women have captured the World’s attention; The attempted killing of a 15 year old women’s rights activist in Pakistan; The brutal gang rape and subsequent death of a student in Delhi; The recent ruling in the Maldives where a teenager was sentenced to 100 lashes, despite being the victim of rape; The execution of a Sri Lankan housemaid working in Saudi Arabia, after being held on death row for six years; The assassinations of two directors of the Department of Women’s Affairs in Laghman province, Afghanistan, for their work on women’s issues. These are just a few examples, and while the attention that these tragedies have received in the media and among the public are vital to redressing the wrongs that plague women in South Asia, firm action needs to be taken by South Asian societies and those that govern them. (more…)

SAHR condemns the execution of Rizana Nafeek


South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) condemns the execution of Rizana Nafeek, and expresses grave concern about the continuing vulnerability experienced by many migrant workers from South Asian countries.

Rizana was 17 years old when she traveled to Saudi Arabia, under forged documents, to be employed as a domestic worker. The child in her care died, and while she claimed it was accidental, she was convicted of murder and sentenced to death, over two years later.

Efforts to have her pardoned were championed by many, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, but contrary to some reports that she would soon be pardoned, she was executed on 9th January 2013. (more…)

SAHR release on the passing of Shri I K Gujral


South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) mourns the death of Shri I. K. Gujral, Former Prime Minister of India and the Founding Chair of SAHR. Shri Gujral made his mark as a global leader and a visionary for peace. An astute politician and a true statesman, he won respect and credibility not only in his own country but globally. He played a significant role in charting a course for better relations between India and Pakistan and his “Gujral Doctrine” has received acclaim and following amongst those sections of the population in both countries that value progress and development. (more…)

SAHR Statement on the International Day of the Disappeared, 2012


South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) joins human rights activists around the World in commemorating the International Day of the Disappeared.

The practice by State actors of forcibly disappearing and illegally detaining someone, without acknowledging their arrest or whereabouts, places the victim outside the protection of the law and is often linked to the crimes of torture and extra-judicial killings. (more…)

SAHR Statement on International Day in Support of Victims of Torture


26th June 2012

South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) joins human rights activists around the World, in commemorating the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. This year, the day marks the 25th anniversary of United Nations Convention Against Torture coming into effect.

Despite the fact that this Convention has been in force for a quarter century, only 147 States are party to it. Of the South Asian states, all but Bhutan have signed it, and India is yet to ratify the Convention. (more…)

Statement Issued by SAHR on International Women’s Day 2012


South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR), a regional network of human rights defenders, joins the messages of solidarity expressed throughout the world to mark International Women’s Day on March 8th, 2012.

This year, International Women’s Day is inspired by the theme of “Empower Rural Women – End Hunger and Poverty”. While this is a day for solidarity among women and a celebration of their accomplishments, it is also a day to remind the world that equal rights and opportunities for women are human rights imperatives and inalienable rights of women. (more…)

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