| A Statement Issued by the Law & Society Trust, Colombo

( March 17, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Law and Society Trust is deeply disturbed by the arrest of former staff member of the Law and Society Trust, Mr. Ruki Fernando and Fr. Praveen, OMI from Kilinochchi on Sunday 16th March 2014.

Mr. Fernando worked with the Law and Society Trust for five years until April 2012 as head of the Human Rights in Conflict Programme. He was a deeply committed campaigner for human rights and is widely known and highly respected both in Sri Lanka and outside the country. We remain seriously concerned as to his safety and that of Fr. Praveen and urge that strict due process standards are followed by the law enforcement authorities in this regard including giving clear and distinct reasons for the arrest.

According to international law standards accepted by Sri Lanka, States have a responsibility and duty to take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of everyone against any violence, threats, retaliation, adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights.

The arrest of Mr. Fernando and Fr. Praveen under the PTA and their detention is not only a violation of their rights but also is highly damaging to national interests at this crucial time as it sends a strong negative signal to the international community regarding the state of human rights and threats to activists in Sri Lanka at the present time. The consequences of this act is likely to reverberate negatively throughout the human rights community at the very moment when the government is working hard to convince member states at the UNHRC of its ability and interest in adhering to international law with regard to human rights in the country.

We appeal to the authorities responsible for the arrest and detention of Ruki Fernando and Fr. Praveen to ensure their safety and take steps to release them immediately as on our understanding, they had only been trying to help family members of ‘disappeared’ persons in the North.