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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Sri Lanka HR alert: Life threatening continued detention of Shani Abeysekara.

1. Senior Superintendent of Police and former Criminal Investigations Department (CID) Director Shani Abeysekara was arrested on 31 July 2020, by the Colombo Crime Division for allegations regarding fabricating false evidence. His arrest has been described as “dubious, belated, [on] contradictory statements made by witnesses in a murder case that was resolved years ago.

2. Mr. Shani Abeysekara had successfully investigated Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickrematunge assassination, cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda abduction, the killings of peaceful agitators at Rathupaswela. Abduction and torture of journalist Keith Noyer and the kidnapping of the 11 young men by a group of navy personnel. Indictments have been served on a number of those cases in the High Court. Almost all alleged perpetrators are uniformed men.

3. All these incidents had taken place when President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was secretary to the Ministry of Defense (2005-2014) in Sri Lanka.

3. Within days of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa came to power on 21st November 2019 Mr. Abeysekara was transferred as the Personal Assistant of the Galle DIG. All the official approvals and decisions to finalize the transfer were sorted out within one day.

4. Mr. Abeysekara had received death threats due to his investigation and he had been provided with police security. His security was immediately withdrawn as soon as he was transferred.

5. On 20th August, Mr. Abeysekara sought bail from the Gampaha High Court. The case was taken up on 27th August, 17th September, 6th October and 12th November. On every one of these occasions, AG department either failed to appear in courts, failed to take up a position, or pleaded for more time to study the matter. As a result, Mr. Abeysekara was forced to remain in remand custody.

The next date hearing of bail application is 7th December 2020. He has not yet been charged.

6. Making an appeal to Chief Justice and Attorney General to protect his life in remand prison, a few weeks ago, Mr. Abeysekara’s wife made the fallowing points:

a. My husband is a respected police officer who has successfully investigated 35 murderers and members of the underworld and brought them to justice.

b. My husband was the supervising officer in the investigation into the 2012 murder of twelve remand prisoners, and as a result, the Hon. Attorney General took legal action against a prison officer and a police officer. Therefore, I consider keeping my husband under the control of prison officers and police officers who are currently under investigation as a threat to his life.

c. Therefore, his unprotected imprisonment in this way is a sabotage of the results of his investigations, which may create an opportunity for some powerful people to harm his life.

d. Considering the above, I believe that my husband is facing serious life threats. Therefore, I respectfully and humbly request you to take all possible and necessary duties to prevent the murder of my husband inside or outside the prison and to safeguard his life.

6. She has not received any response so far.

7. On 25th November 2020 it was reported that SSP Abeysekara has tested positive for Covid 19. Although he belongs to a high-risk group because of other health conditions instead of hospitalisation, he was transferred to a faraway military-run quarantine centre.

8. On the same day Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka wrote to the Commissioner-General of Prisons and requested that “ strong preventive measures be taken to protect Shani Abeysekara’s life, which is in your custody. If Mr. Abeysekera has contracted the virus, we recommend you ensure he receives treatment at the nearest hospital treating people infected by the virus immediately.” The letter further said that “there is also a high degree of concern that this may pose a threat to Mr. Abeysekera’s life.”

9. Until 26th evening, according to media reports, he had not been transferred to a hospital.

10. Day after the news of Mr. Abeysekara has tested positive a group of victims of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances requested the Attorney General to provide urgent medical care for Mr. Abeysekara and allow him to be released on Bail.

11. Their appeal said that “If every public servant had the backbone, integrity and conviction of Mr. Abeysekara, our loved ones would still be alive today. By doing his job and seeking justice for those we lost, Mr. Abeysekara’s own life is now in danger. We owe a debt of honour to speak on his behalf.”

12. The continued detention of Mr. Shani Abeysekara was political victimisation opposition lawmakers told media on 27.11.2020.

12. Urgent interventions based on human rights and humanitarian grounds are needed to ensure the safety of Mr. Abeysekara.

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