220 Tamil prisoners protest detention without trial

Place: Welikada prison | Courtesy: Collection
| Date: 19971127

"Over 220 Tamil prisoners suffering prolonged detention at Colombo’s Magazine prison launched a protest fast unto death on 27 November demanding “trial or immediate release”. Two days later they were transferred to Kalutara prison as parents and relatives wailed outside.

The prisoners told visiting MPs that prison officers attacked them with batons and metal rods and tore up all their books. They say they gave up the fast after guards forcibly thrust bread into their mouths.

Currently 540 are held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and over 1,000 under Emergency regulations. Tamils arrests continue every day. ... (on 13 November in Colombo) ... over 60 Tamils were rounded-up in Kotahena suburb and taken away in lorries despite producing all the necessary identity documents. Six days earlier over 150 Tamils were arrested at Modera in north Colombo and 57 were detained. Vavuniya refugee S Selvananthini who returned from Colombo after a visa interview at the Canadian High Commission was arrested and held at the Mt Lavinia police station from 25 September. Her mother has also been taken into custody.

Over 100 Tamil young men and women were rounded-up in Kochchikade on 20 November. Five days later ten Tamils from 4th Cross Street in Pettah were arrested. Fifteen Tamils were detained in Maligawatta on the same day. A large number of Tamils were also arrested in other southern areas such as Gampola, Matale, Panadura and Kandy....

Abuse of Tamils in custody continues. Colombo-based Forum for Human Dignity says that Tamil women suspects in Welikade prison are being sexually abused. Seevaratnam Sivarajah ...died in hospital on 31 October. He had been admitted to the hospital the previous day. Tamil MP Joseph Pararajasingham suspects that Sivarajah died as a result of torture and has demanded a full enquiry in a letter to President Chandrika."