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Sri Lanka: Arbitrary arrest of human rights defender Mr Sanjeewa Samarasinghe
On 27 November 2012, human rights defender Mr Sanjeewa Samarasinghe was taken into custody by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and questioned for 13 hours without a reason given or a lawyer present, before being released. Sanjeewa Samarasinghe is a journalist and the chairman of the State Media Workers’ Association, which defends press freedom and the rights of media workers in Sri Lanka.
Sanjeewa was at home at around 5.15pm, when six plainclothes policemen arrived. The operation was reportedly led by Inspector of Police Mr SP Abayasekara of the CID. The defender was told to accompany the policemen to record a statement, but no reason was given, which is illegal under Sri Lankan law as court approval is necessary for any arrest carried out after 5pm.
The human rights defender was taken to the CID office in Colombo 1 with a friend present, although his friend was told to leave the interrogation after 15 minutes. The defender asked the police officers to wait for his lawyer to arrive before questioning him, but this request was ignored. The defender’s lawyer was not permitted to enter the CID premises for the entire duration of the interrogation.
It is reported that Sanjeewa Samarasinghe was subsequently questioned throughout the night until his release at around 9.30am the following morning. Although no reason was given for the arrest, he was reportedly asked during the questioning whether he had been supplying information on human rights violations in Sri Lanka to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.