NfR Sri Lanka, a net work of Sri Lankan journalists and Human Rights Defenders expresses its deep concerns on the reported Threats and intimidations directed at Sri Lankan human rights lawyer Lakshan Dias.
Mr. Lakshan Dias is a well known human rights activist with a long standing experience in promoting and protecting all human rights for all.
A formal complaint was lodged on these threatening developments at the Moratuwa Police (Colombo district) under reference no. CIB-1- 232/442 on 25th Feb. 2013. Updates of further incidents were also communicated to the Police. The number of the motorcycle has also been communicated to the Police. Action taken by the Police is not known.
According to reliable information NfR has received, from 22nd Feb. till today, 26th Feb., there have been men in motor cycles and white van which was loitering around residence of Mr. Dias. White vans are widely used for abductions in Sri Lanka and are cause for fear. Some of these had gone away without speaking to anyone. But others had spoken to his wife and neighbours and asked about him without giving specific details.
One of the persons who had visited the neighbourhood and asked about Lakshan had identified himself as an Inspectors of Police to a neighbour, but later on, the Officer in Charge of the Police station to where Lakshan had lodged a complaint had denied knowing an Inspector by that name.
It is clear that this surveillance, threats and intimidation is due to his human rights work. Other lawyers who were involved in the campaign against impeachment had also faced attempted abduction, shootings and threatening letters.
Mr. Lakshan Dias has appeared for victims of human rights violations in Fundamental Rights applications before the Supreme Court and also represented torture victims, political prisoners before lower courts, visited detainees including political prisoners and those deported back after seeking asylum. He has also engaged in advocacy work nationally and internationally, often speaking out against torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, disappearances, elements in the Prevention of Terrorism Act that contradicts Sri Lanka’s international treaty obligations etc. He has also been involved in advocacy on migrant workers and refugees from other countries coming to Sri Lanka. He has often offered advice and assistance to victims and families of those detained, disappeared. He was an active and leading member of Lawyers for Democracy and the Lawyers Collective, which in late 2012 and early 2013, led the campaigner against the impeachment of the Chief Justice of Sri Lanka. Mr. Dias was an active and leading member of this campaign. He has also been actively engaged with the National Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, participating in meetings, sharing information and offering them assistance. He has also been involved in conducting trainings for human rights defenders around Sri Lanka.
In the context of human rights defenders in Sri Lanka have been killed, abducted, assaulted, questioned repeatedly, subjected to surveillance etc NfR urge local and international human rights community to make their concerns known and thereby stand by the civil democratic opposition in the country.
NfR Sri Lanka joins the Sri Lanka based Lawyers Collective in ‘ reminding the Government of its constitutional duty to protect and respect the citizen’s right to dissent and to engage in critical governance activities. The lawyer’s struggle was a discharge of their constitutional duty to protect independence of judiciary, which they will continue to do, despite threats; and urges the Government to investigate into these incidents and ensure that the Lawyers, who have stood up against the illegal impeachment of the highest judicial officer of the Country, will not be subjected to any further intimidation.’