15 June 2011 / By Lakna Paranamanna
‘We are Sri Lankans (WESL)’ an organization agitating for the release of Tamil political prisoners said yesterday Tamils held in prisons and detention camps countrywide were allegedly being abused and neglected by prison authorities.
WESL Executive Committee member and former Inter University Students Federation Convener Udul Premaratne told a media briefing they had received information that individuals who were arrested on suspicion of having links to the LTTE were being harassed by inmates and prison officers.
“These detainees are being mistreated simply because they are ‘Tamil political prisoners’. However, it is an act of injustice to allow them to languish in detention camps without filing charges against them. So far the government has even failed to release the names of those being detained in such centres,” he charged.
Referring to a statement made by Minister Dinesh Gunawardena that at present only about 700 are being detained as LTTE suspects, Mr. Premaratne said the number was quite different to that released by government sources earlier. “According to the government, some 1,700 identified as hardcore LTTE cadres at detention camps. If these figures are accurate, how can the number now suddenly decrease to a mere 700? What happened to the others?” Mr. Premaratne asked.
He said the relatives of some of these individuals were mistreated and even sexually harassed by prisons officials during their visits to the prisons. “A large number are continuing to be detained because of the language barrier and the lack of means for legal support,” he added.
Mr. Premaratne said if the government was genuinely interested in restoring peace in the country, it was vital for it to focus attention on the issue of political prisoners and establish a mechanism to ensure that individuals without any charges are released.