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URGENT ACTION

 

SRI LANKA

 

 September 27th  ,  2008

 

Grenade attack last night on the residence of
J.C. Weliamuna,

prominent attorney-at-law, and Executive Director of Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL).

 

Source    :
OBSERVATORY LKA 003 / 0908 / OBS 157
and Reuters
.

 

 

 

 

Human rights lawyer J.C Weliamuna, Executive Director of Transparency International Sri Lanka, and his family survived a grenade attack on their home in the capital, Colombo, on 27 September. He has since gone into hiding, as he remains at risk of further attack.

 

According to the information received, on September 27, 2008, at 11.40 pm, an unidentified gang lobbed two hand grenades at the residence of Mr. J.C Weliamuna, which is close to a police station (Kohuwela), and an army camp (Kohuwela-Pepiliyana road). Although damage was caused to property, fortunately no bodily harm was caused to Mr. Weliamuna or members of his family.

 

The Observatory strongly condemns the grenade attack on Mr. Weliamuna’s residence, and believes it is aimed at preventing him from carrying out his human rights activities. As a matter of fact, Mr. Weliamuna has appeared in highly sensitive cases involving corruption and human rights violations, including pending cases involving Government officials and members of the police force. On the very day of the attack, Mr. Weliamuna had moved a motion at the Bar Council regarding a lawyer who had received death threats due to his appearance in an extra-judicial killing case. The victim of the killing had previously brought two complaint against police officers, for bribery and torture. The Bar Council unanimously decided to act on the complaint of the lawyer and condemned this interference with the work of lawyers and resolved to pursue the matter with the Inspector General of Police and other competent authorities.

 


“I’m still pretty shaken,” Weliamuna told Reuters. “There is a heavy burden on the state to show that the rule of law exists. If this happened, they must resolve it. If they don’t, then no professional will be able to handle a sensitive issue.”
Weliamuna said he could not be sure which of the hundreds of graft and police abuse cases he is handling prompted the attack.
The Supreme Court last week ordered an investigation into police torture in a case he is pursuing, and in which other lawyers have already been threatened.
The attack, combined with increasing threats against other lawyers, now puts Sri Lankan rights attorneys squarely in the company of journalists and civil society figures who routinely face threats, harassment and murder for speaking out.
The United States and European Union yesterday called on the Sri Lankan government to provide protection to Weliamuna and prosecute those responsible.
“We look to the authorities to launch an immediate investigation into this act of violence and bring the perpetrators of this crime swiftly to justice,” the US embassy in Colombo said in a statement.
The EU said it noted “with concern the trend in attacks and threats on journalists, civil society organisations and now a lawyer.”
Sri Lanka’s government accepts that it has problems with rights violations, and that it prosecutes those against whom it can establish evidence.
Journalists have long been threatened, harassed or killed in Sri Lanka for writing critical stories against powerful figures in government or the Tamil Tiger rebel group that has waged a separatist war since 1983.
But while most threats to media stem from a war where both sides are accused of rights abuses, lawyers are running afoul of the politically connected or police acting with impunity outside of the fighting, Asian Human Rights Commission Director Basil Fernando said.
“If it is like this in Colombo and other peaceful areas of the country, than can you imagine what it is like in the north and east where the war is?” Fernando, a lawyer from Sri Lanka, told Reuters by telephone from Hong Kong.
He said other lawyers told him they were unwilling to take cases involving politicians or police, because of a system that encourages corrupt politicians to keep policemen who are willing to do their bidding in exchange for political protection.
“Only a few people like Weliamuna were willing, and now we can see the result,” Fernando said.
Weliamuna said he had no reason to suspect the government would not pursue his case and those of his clients, but said it would take “high-level commitment” to produce results.
“I am keeping my fingers crossed that investigations are going ahead,” he said. – Reuters

 

ACTIONS REQUESTED:

 

Please write to the authorities of Sri Lanka asking them to:

 

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. J.C. Weliamuna as well as of all Sri Lankan human rights defenders;

 

ii. Order a thorough and impartial investigation into the grenade attack on Mr. Weliamuna’s residence, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an ordinary competent and impartial tribunal and apply to them the penal sanctions provided by the law;

 

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment against human rights defenders and humanitarian workers in Sri Lanka;

 

iv. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, and Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;

 

v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.

 

ADDRESSES:

 

- Mr. W. Dayaratne, President, Bar Association of Sri Lanka, 129 Hulftsdorp Street, Colombo 12, Sri Lanka. Fax: +94 11 2 44 80 90, E-mail: wdaya@slt.lk

 

- President Mahinda Rajapakse, Presidential Secretariat, Colombo 1, Sri Lanka, Fax: + 94 11 2446657 / +94 11 2472100.

 

- Mr. Amarasiri Dodangoda, Minister of Justice and Law Reforms, Ministry of Justice and Law Reforms, Superior Courts Complex, Colombo 12, Sri Lanka. Fax: +94 11 2445447.

 

- Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Secretary, Ministry of Defence, 15/5 Baladaksha Mawatha, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka, Fax: +94 11 2446 300 / +94 11 2541 529

 

- Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, No. 36, Kynsey Road, Colombo 8, Sri Lanka. Tel: +94 11 2 694 925 / 673 806. Fax: +94 11 2 694 924 / 696 470. E-mail: sechrc@sltnet.lk

 

- Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in Sri Lanka, 56 rue De Moillebeau, 5th Floor, 12119 Geneva 19, Switzerland, Fax: + 41-22 734 90 84, E-mail: mission.srilanka@ties.itu.int

 

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