Facebook icon
Twitter icon
e-mail icon

Rights groups call for immediate release of poet detained for a year without charge

13 rights groups have called on Sri Lanka to immediately release Ahnaf Jazeem, who has been in detention for a year without charge "or promptly charge him with internationally recognisable criminal offences and try him in accordance with international fair trial standards." 

In a joint statement, the rights group expressed their deep concern over the poet's detention and also called on Sri Lankan authorities to repeal the draconian and "deeply flawed" Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), which has "facilitated human rights violations especially of Sri Lankan minorities."

Sri Lanka’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) detained Ahnaf Jazeem on May 16, 2020, under the PTA over unsubstantiated claims that his book of Tamil language poems, titled Navarasam contained extremist messaging. The notorious PTA allows individuals to be detained for 18 months without charge or trial, though some detainees have been in custody for decades. 

The PTA has been linked to cases of enforced disappearances, sexual violence and torture. Several Sri Lankan regimes have been criticised for the failure to repeal the PTA, despite widespread criticism from human rights defenders and international NGOs.

The groups also highlighted that Ahnaf Jazeem has been "detained in squalid conditions which may amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, that have contributed to his deteriorated health."

"Further, the authorities have violated Jazeem’s due process safeguards during his time in detention. Jazeem’s legal counsel states that Jazeem has been coerced to make false confessions while under interrogation and has been made to sign documents written in a language he does not understand," they added. 

Despite being in detention for a year, the state has failed to bring forward any evidence to substantiate their allegations against Ahnaf Jazeem. 

The signatories of the statement are: PEN International, Amnesty International, The Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice, Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka, The International Working Group on Sri Lanka, International Truth and Justice Project - Sri Lanka, The Center for Justice and Accountability, Australian Centre for International Justice, Article 19, Human Rights Watch, IMADR, People for Equality and Relief in Lanka and Freemuse. 

Read the full statement here


We need your support

Sri Lanka is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist. Tamil journalists are particularly at threat, with at least 41 media workers known to have been killed by the Sri Lankan state or its paramilitaries during and after the armed conflict.

Despite the risks, our team on the ground remain committed to providing detailed and accurate reporting of developments in the Tamil homeland, across the island and around the world, as well as providing expert analysis and insight from the Tamil point of view

We need your support in keeping our journalism going. Support our work today.

For more ways to donate visit https://donate.tamilguardian.com.