NPC condemns mass arrests in Colombo

[TamilNet, Monday, 03 December 2007, 14:42 GMT]
"Hundreds of Tamils residing in Colombo have been arrested in a crackdown reminiscent of the attempt to evict temporary Tamil residents from Colombo in June this year," said National Peace Council, a Colombo based peace group, in a press release issued on Monday. "The people who have been arrested include women with children. Some of them are Tamil workers from the central hills who have been living in Colombo for many years. When they are arrested in this manner, they stand to lose their livelihoods for which they do not obtain compensation. Others are people who have left the north and east where they cannot live peacefully and safely due to the war conditions in that part of the country."

Full text of the press release issued by the NPC follows:

SECURITY PRECAUTIONS YES, MASS ARRESTS NO

Hundreds of Tamils residing in Colombo have been arrested in a crackdown reminiscent of the attempt to evict temporary Tamil residents from Colombo in June this year. The national and international outcry and Supreme Court decision to outlaw those evictions led to a public apology from the government. It is likely that the two recent bombings in Colombo, both suspected to be by the LTTE, in which over twenty civilians were killed and many more injured led to the latest phenomenon of mass arrests.

The National Peace Council has condemned and called upon the LTTE to immediately halt acts of violence, especially those directed against civilians. We have repeatedly stated our belief that attacks of this nature continue to distract attention, both within Sri Lanka and internationally, away from the crucial issues of Tamil rights and aspirations.

The National Peace Council accepts the need for strict security precautions in Colombo. But we cannot accept the large scale arrests of people without following due process and respecting their basic rights. Like in the case of the attempted eviction, the people who have been arrested include women with children. Some of them are Tamil workers from the central hills who have been living in Colombo for many years. When they are arrested in this manner, they stand to lose their livelihoods for which they do not obtain compensation. Others are people who have left the north and east where they cannot live peacefully and safely due to the war conditions in that part of the country.

The government position seems to be that Tamil citizens from the North and East can only reside in Colombo if they can satisfy the security forces about their reasons for being in Colombo. This is a gross violation of the human rights of citizens under the Sri Lankan constitution and in terms of international law to live or reside wherever they choose to. Several hundred of those arrested have been taken to the Boosa detention centre which is more than a hundred kilometers from Colombo. There are reports that they had to undergo extreme hardships such as not having water to drink or toilet facilities.

NPC calls on the government to take immediate steps to conduct inquiries speedily and according to procedures established by law, and to ensure that those who have been arrested are treated humanely. We urge the government to take immediate steps to inform the relatives of those arrested about the whereabouts of their loved ones. We also call on the government to make public the name lists of those who are in custody and permit access for relatives and legal aid.


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