SLCAT Joint Statement
The Sri Lankan Collective Against Torture (SLCAT) strongly condemns the terror attack on Easter Sunday, 21st April 2019 that claimed over 259 lives and injured hundreds more. We express our horror and sorrow at the senseless violence unleashed on innocents and the untold suffering inflicted on surviving family members and communities.
We stand in solidarity with victims and survivors of the terror attack. We also stand with our Muslim fellow citizens who have been the target of a racist campaign of violence, misinformation and false propaganda, in the aftermath of the attack. This community has been subjected to targeted racist attacks on social and other media. They suffered the terror unleashed by violent mobs who roamed the streets attacking people, homes and business, even after the imposition of curfew. The security forces have been unwilling or unable to prevent violence, despite the wide powers bestowed under Emergency law.
As a network, we welcome legitimate security measures to eradicate the threat of terrorism from our country. Equally, we call for strict accountability for all perpetrators of extremist violence whether in the media or on the streets. The State has the responsibility to ensure accountability, protection and non-recurrence of any attacks against minority communities. The State is accountable for the failure to prevent the terror attack, despite the presence of credible intelligence. As we mark a month following the Easter attack, we call upon the Government to hold all those responsible to account, including political leaders and administrators at the highest level, who by their action or failure to act responsibly have enabled such an attack to take place.
We reject all attempts to shield powerful politicians and state officers and to diffuse accountability away from the State by labelling innocent members of the Muslim community, controlling Muslim women’s choice of dress over and above the prohibition of face cover, and targeting peaceful human rights activists who have consistently voiced against State oppression and violence. We are mindful of the impact security measures have had on the lives of ordinary citizens, particularly Muslim women, who have faced harassment and discrimination when engaging with the State sector and obtaining state services.
We are deeply concerned about the possible prolongation of the state of Emergency and the Emergency Regulations which provide sweeping powers to law enforcement, including of arrest and detention with minimum judicial oversight. We call on the State to ensure that the State of Emergency is a temporary measure and is not extended beyond what is absolutely necessary. We call on law enforcement to exercise the powers granted under the current Emergency Regulations, with responsibility and due diligence, and ensure the fundamental rights of all persons, especially the protection against torture, inhuman and degrading treatment guaranteed under Article 11 of the Constitution of Sri Lanka.
We strongly condemn any attempts to falsely arrest, detain or implicate innocent civilians without any basis or evidence under the guise of a crackdown on terror. Attempts to threaten or oppress human rights organizations and activists in the aftermath of the attack is a dangerous reminder of a grim past where human rights activists were targeted and labelled as terrorists by the previous regime. We stand in solidarity with our partner organization the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO) whose office has been raided by security forces on three occasions following the Easter attack.
Sri Lanka is yet to fully emerge and reconcile with the horrors of a thirty year protracted war. Ethnic tensions and fault-lines continue to plague our country, due to our failure to honestly address the grievances of affected persons and communities. The horror of the Easter Sunday attack and its aftermath especially for minority communities, must compel us to work together rather than apart towards healing and recovery. We denounce all attempts to use the grief and fear of hundreds of innocents, for political advantage or to further polarize communities. We stand for a community where all persons, especially those made vulnerable following the Easter attacks are able to live with dignity and without fear of violence, reprisals and torture.
1. Right to Life Human Rights Centre
2. Rights Now Collective for Democracy
3. INFORM Human Rights Documentation Center
4. International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism
5. Rule of Law Forum
6. Dabindu Collective
7. National Fisheries Solidarity
8. Center for Society and Religion
9. Law and Society Trust
10. National Peace Council
11. Uva Shakthi Foundation
12. Suya Shakthi Foundation
13. Human Rights First Aid Centre, Hambantota
14. Human Rights Protection Shelter
15. Family Rehabilitation Centre
16. Committee for Investigation of Disappearances
17. Deanne Uyangoda AAL
18. Ermiza Tegal AAL
19. Udaya Kalupathirana
20. Shantha Pathirana
21. Rev. Fr. Ashok Stephan OMI
22. Shenali De Silva
23. Anthony Vinoth
24. Dulan Dasanayaka AAL