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2017-2023: 44 out of 219 ICCPR Act arrestees, indicted

(The Morning) A total of 44 out of 219 suspects arrested under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act from 2017 to this year (2023) have been indicted, the Police revealed in response to an information request made by the Centre for Society and Religion (CSR).

Journalist Tharindu Iranga Jayawardhana had, on behalf of the CSR, made a request under the Right to Information Act regarding the detainees under the ICCPR Act.

2017-2023: 44 out of 219 ICCPR Act arrestees, indicted
Journalist Tharindu Iranga Jayawardhana

According to the response made by the Police, 19 suspects have been arrested under the ICCPR Act in 2017 and all of them have later been released as per the Attorney General’s (AG) instructions. They were arrested on 16 November 2017, in connection with the communal clash in Gintota in 2017. The related complaint has been heard at the Galle Magistrate’s Court.

The largest number of arrests under the ICCPR Act has been made in 2018. Accordingly, 43 suspects have been arrested under the Act in connection with the communal clash that took place in Digana in Kandy. The related cases are currently being heard at the respective High Court.

In 2019, eight suspects have been arrested under the ICCPR Act and two of them have been released following the AG’s instructions. Charges are to be filed against one suspect who was arrested on 05 September 2019, in Puttalam, and the AG has not yet instructed on the rest of the arrestees. Among them are two persons who were suspected to have taken the Buddhist flags that were placed on the way to a Buddhist monastery. They were arrested by the Welikanda Police on 28 March 2019, and have been in the remand custody for more than two years until they were granted bail on 07 June 2021.

A total of 26 suspects have been arrested in 2020 under the ICCPR Act, and none of them have been charged. Seven of them have been arrested by the Kayts Police in connection with the alleged assault of two Navy personnel. One suspect has been arrested under this Act in 2021, and the Police has informed that that suspect is to be indicted under another law.

The Police informed that no one has been arrested under this Act last year (in 2022), and that three suspects have been arrested in the first four months of this year (2023). According to the Police, one of the three suspects arrested in 2023 has pleaded guilty and the other two suspects have been charged.

Speaking to The Daily Morning, Jayawardhana said that the information provided by the Police does not mention the names of certain suspects including authors Shakthika Sathkumara and Ramzi Razik, who were arrested more recently under the ICCPR Act.

The ICCPR is a multilateral treaty that commits nations to respect the civil and political rights of individuals, including the right to life, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, electoral rights and rights to due process including a fair trial. Certain arrests made by the Police under the said Act have attracted great criticism, and many such arrestees were freed in the respective court trials.

11 Dec 2023 | BY Buddhika Samaraweera /The Morning

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