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Startseite Urgent Actions 2019 07 Writer faces up to 10 years jail for story
UA 105/19
Sri Lanka
Abgeschlossen am 5. September 2019
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07.08.2019: Latest news

We are happy to share the news that Shakthika Sathkumara was granted bail by the Kurunegala High Court on Monday, 5 August 2019. While bail is of course welcome, the award-winning Sri Lankan writer should never have spent a single day behind bars solely for exercising his right to peaceful freedom of expression.

Arrested on 1 April 2019, Shakthika faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Your action can make a difference in this case, so please continue sending appeals to Attorney General Mr. Dappula de Livera, call for him to drop charges against Shakthika and urge for his immediate and unconditional release.

Shaktikha’s next hearing at the Magistrate Court is on 8 August 2019. We will be sure to update you with any further information as soon as it becomes available.

Thanks for your continued support.

 

29.07.2019 Information

Please note that Shakthika’s next hearing is on Monday, 5 August. It is believe that sending appeals
head of this date will help put pressure on the authorities to drop the charges and release him from
jail or, at the very least, grant him bail.

Writer faces up to 10 years jail for story

AI-Index: ASA 37/0800/2019

Shakthika Sathkumara, an award-winning Sri Lankan writer, was arrested on 1 April 2019, for writing a short story and sharing it on his Facebook profile. The fictional story he shared was about life in Buddhist temple, that allegedly hinted at child sexual abuse. He faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty as he is charged under Section 3(1) of ICCPR Act and Art. 291(B) of the Penal Code of Sri Lanka, which deals with propagating hatred and incitement of racial or religious violence. Detained for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression, Shakthika Sathkumara is a prisoner of conscience and must be immediately and unconditionally released and all charges against him dropped.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Shakthika Sathkumara was arrested on 1 April 2019 when he went to the police station to give a statement in response to complaints made by Buddhist monks regarding a short story he wrote. This provincial and national award-winning author was charged under Section 3(1) of the ICCPR Act and Section 292 of Penal Code of Sri Lanka. Any offence under this section of ICCPR is non bailable in the Magistrate Court due to which Shakthika has been in jail for nearly four months. The next court hearing is scheduled at the High Court, which has the authority to grant bail to Shakthika.

Both Section 3(1) of the ICCPR Act 2007 of Sri Lanka and Section 292 of the Penal Code of Sri Lanka criminalise propagating racial and religious hatred that incites discrimination, hostility and violence.

The arrest of Mr. Sathkumara comes within a worrying trend of the use of ICCPR Act to violate the rights to freedom of expression and of thought, conscience and religion – ironically provided for in the ICCPR itself - of several peaceful activists and writers in Sri Lanka. In May 2019, a woman named M. R. Mazahima was arrested under the ICCPR Act for wearing a blouse with the prints of a ship’s wheel, which the complainants to the police had wrongly claimed was a Buddhist symbol. She was kept in custody for more than three weeks before being granted bail. In June 2019, columnist Kusal Perera was threatened with arrest under the ICCPR Act for writing about growing Sinhala Buddhist extremism in Sri Lanka.

This arbitrary use of the ICCPR Act – which amounts to misuse of an Act designated to protect, not violate human rights – has created a chilling effect in the country where the politicians, authorities and police, who are extremely sensitive to perceived insults to Buddhism, are directly influenced by certain groups of Buddhist monks who demand the arrest and prosecution of anyone who they deem have insulted the religion.

Under the ICCPR, which Sri Lanka is legally bound to implement, the rights to freedom of expression and of thought, conscience and religion may only be restricted in narrow, clearly defined circumstances. Restrictions are only permissible if they are provided by law; placed for the purpose of protecting certain public interests (national security or public safety, public order, protection of public health or morals) or the rights and freedoms of others; and demonstrably necessary for that purpose. Merely implicit or even explicit criticism of a religion or other belief system cannot be criminalised as incitement.

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