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Arrest of persons commemorating war dead:HRC advises police on how to prevent recurrence

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The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka has sought an explanation from IGP Deshabandu Tennakoon regarding the recent arrest of four persons over them commemorating the death of people and the LTTE’s defeat 15 years ago.

The HRC said that it had launched a suo motu investigation into the alleged arbitrary arrest and detention of four persons on 12 May 2024 in Trincomalee. Those persons were arrested for allegedly violating a temporary order of the Learned Magistrate by holding a commemoration event at the Bhuvaneswari Amman Temple in Chenaiyoor, Muttur, at which kanji was served to the public, and for allegedly assaulting a police officer, HRC said.

In a letter signed by Justice HRC Chairman L.T. B. Dehideniya the HRC has advised the police on how to prevent a recurrence by issuing strict guidelines to law enforcers. The HRC has recommened (1) Re-circulate, in all three languages, among all divisions of Sri Lanka Police, copies of the HRCSL’s guidelines on the scope of section 3 of the ICCPR Act. Include the said guidelines and Circular No. RTM 541 as part of a compulsory training and awareness programme for all police officers. (2) Issue clear guidance, in all three languages, to all divisions of Sri Lanka Police, that peaceful acts of commemoration (i.e., remembrance of deceased persons), are recognised in the law as a part of what aggrieved persons within the Tamil community are entitled to as collective reparations. Furthermore, emphasise that acts that do not amount to advocacy of national, racial, or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, (i.e., where there is no reasonable probability’ that the act would cause imminent harm) should be respected and protected. The said guidance should also direct OICs in relevant administrative divisions to refrain from seeking magisterial orders preventing any peaceful acts of commemoration.

Justice Dehideniya has assured that his Commission is prepared to assist and advise Sri Lanka Police in fulfilling the above recommendations and anticipates your fullest cooperation in this regard.

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