Jaffna journalist tortured in solitary confinement
| Date: 20010122
A senior Jaffna journalist held incommunicado by the Sri Lankan Police since 2 January was assaulted with pipes and tortured, Human Rights Commission officials who were permitted to see him this weekend said Monday. The journalist, Mr. Nadarajah Thiruchelvam, had been held handcuffed for 12 days in solitary confinement by the Terrorism Investigation Division of the Police, they said. The police have neither filed any charges against Mr. Thiruchelvam nor have produced him in a court.
The journalist was arrested by the Police in Wellawatte, a predominantly Tamil suburb of Colombo while on a visit to the capital with his family to attend a wedding.
His wife was allowed to see him only once since his arrest, Mr.Thiruchelvam told HRC official Mr.Sreetharan. Mr. Thiruchelvam’s colleagues said that the Police had told his wife to return to Jaffna with her children and that she had refused to comply, insisting that she would not leave Colombo without her husband.
Mr.Thiruchelvam is being held at TID Head Quarters in Colombo.
Mr.Thiruchelvam works for Valampuri, a Jaffna daily, and Thinakaran, the Tamil daily published from Colombo.
On 14 January, the Sri Lanka Tamil Journalist’s Association (SLTMA) said in statement questioning the real motives behind the arrest that Mr.Thiruchelvam had come to Colombo after obtaining due permission from the Sri Lanka army and had registered himself with the Police in Colombo for his stay in the capital but yet had been arrested by the TID purportedly on a petition
Two senior Tamil journalists, Mr. P.Manickawasagam and Mr. Sree Gajan, were arrested by the Terrorism Investigation Division and held for more than two months in 1998. They were released without charges.
Another Tamil Journalist, T. Mathusoothanan, was arrested in Colombo and held for two months by the Police in 1999. He too was released without charges. Later that year Mr. S Ganeshan, a senior staff reporter working for the state run Tamil daily, Thinakaran, was detained by the Police despite him proving his bona fides to the constables who had arrested him at his home. He was released without charges.
Several other Sri Lankan Tamil journalists have been threatened and intimidated by the Sri Lankan security forces and the militias operating with them in the northern and eastern parts of the island.
The wide-ranging powers granted to security forces under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Emergency Regulations promulgated from time to time by the President under the Public Security Ordinance have nullify the normal civil society protection mechanisms available to journalists in democracies.