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Dec-10-2012 01:22printcomments

Statement Condemns Arrest and Unlawful Detention of Four Students from the University of Jaffna

Supporters of the students are calling for their immediate release.

Police have attacked many students at Jaffna University.
Police have attacked many students at Jaffna University.

(JAFFNA, Sri Lanka) - We the undersigned, strongly condemn the arrest of four students of the University of Jaffna (UoJ) by the Terrorism Investigation Department (TID) on Thursday, November 29, 2012. While welcoming the release of Kanesamoorthy Sutharsan, a student of the Jaffna Medical Faculty on the morning of Tuesday, December 4, we condemn the continued detention of the remaining three Jaffna University Student Union members: Sanmugam Solaman (24), Kanagasundram Jenamajenth, and Student Union Secretary Paramalingam Tharshaanan (24).

The four are part of a group of seven Jaffna University students who were summoned by the Kopai Police (in the Jaffna District) on Thursday, November 29, 2012, in connection with an alleged arson (petrol bomb) attack on the office of the Sri Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO) in Thirunelvely, Jaffna. Sri-TELO had opened its office at Thirunelvely near the Jaffna University, only a week prior to the alleged arson attack. The students were later charged with putting up posters around the Jaffna University relating to Maaveerar Naal (LTTE heroes/martyrs day) which fell on Tuesday, November 27, 2012.

Following the summons, Sanmugam Solaman and Kanagasundram Jenamajenth surrendered to the Kopai Police at 1pm on Thursday, November 29, accompanied by two Jaffna University lecturers and a lawyer. At the time of arrest, the lecturers were shown a document in Sinhala, which appeared to be the letter issued by the Officer in Charge of the Kopai Police, dated Friday, November 30 (Ref No. OIC/KP/ODB/6067/2012), to the head of security at the Jaffna University. It stated that the seven students listed in the document must appear at the Kopai Police station to make a statement on November 30, in relation to a complaint made to the Kopai Police by one Somasuriyasingham Senthuran of Kondavil West (Jaffna District), on November 29. The two students Sanmugam Solaman and Kanagasundram Jenamajenth, were subsequently handed over to the TID office in Vavuniya on November 30. Two more students – Paramalingam Tharshaanan and Kanesamoorthy Sutharsan – were arrested by the Kopai Police at 1am on November 30 from their temporary residences in Kaladdi and Urumpirai (Jaffna District) and handed over to the TID office in Vavuniya on Saturday, December 1.

The remaining three students are currently being held at the Vavuniya TID office. The families of the students have so far not been provided with any official document relating to their detention or charges. The students have also not been produced before either the Vavuniya or Jaffna Magistrate. We are therefore deeply concerned with regard to the legality of their continued detention.

The parents of one student met all four students at the Vavuniya TID office on Monday, December 3.Vavuniya Police have assured the students and the parents that they would be released subject to being produced before the Vavuniya Magistrate. The parents and the four students waited at the Vavuniya Police Station from 8am – 3pm on December 3 for the Vavuniya Magistrate to return from Colombo. However the students have not been produced before the Magistrate so far. We are concerned by evidence that the university authorities have been informed by the Deputy Inspector General for the Northern Province that detention orders have been issued for the four students as on December 2. The parents of the students have not been provided a copy of the detention order to date.

Of the three remaining students summoned in the document dated November 30, two students have already graduated from the University of Jaffna and are employed under the Government Graduate Scheme in Nedunkerny, (Vavuniya District). Six of the seven students named in the letter dated 30th November have been active and outspoken members of the Jaffna University Student Union, post war. The students have organized and participated in several protests and campaigns against human rights violations allegedly committed by the Sri Lanka Army in the North. On November 28, they were involved in organising a silent protest against the intimidation and attacks by the Sri Lanka Army on university students on the previous day. So far no charges or evidence has been produced linking the students with the alleged arson attack.

    On November 30, the police raided and ransacked the houses of two other students from the Jaffna University. The names of these students were not included in the letter dated November 30. According to the students, the raid was carried out by Police officers and persons in civilian clothes who did not disclose their identity.  One student was also subjected to intimidation and questioning by the officers. The other student’s house was ransacked twice on the morning of November 30, and early morning on December 1. Since the student was not at his house on both occasions, the officers instructed his parents that he must surrender to the Point Pedro Police immediately.

    In light of the facts above, we are deeply concerned that the students’ arrests are baseless and politically motivated, and constitute an act of reprisal against their activism and campaign against human rights violations by the Sri Lanka Army.  Jaffna University students are presently carrying out a protest campaign against these arrests and several acts of intimidation and attacks carried out by the Sri Lanka Army against Jaffna University students.  Students have boycotted their classes in protest and many students have left the University hostel premises in fear of further attacks or arrests.

    We are also deeply concerned about the impact of these actions by security forces on the Jaffna University, which has been brought to a virtual standstill, and the adverse repercussions on the students’ academic work and their safety and security within the university.

    We reiterate the call by the University Teachers Association of Jaffna (UTAJ) in its Open Letter to the Vice Chancellor of the University of Jaffna to take all measures to ensure  the immediate release of the detained students and obtain assurance  in order to create a more secure and conducive environment for teaching and learning within the University, that no further student arrests will be made by security forces; to ensure the immediate removal of the presence of military, police and security checkpoints in the university environs since November 27; and ensure that no outside person, particularly military and police personnel be permitted to enter the Jaffna University and hostel premises without the prior permission of University authorities.

    We therefore call on the Sri Lankan Government to:
  • Release with immediate effect the three detained students in the absence of clear evidence linking them to the alleged crime
  • Permit the students access to legal assistance and regular visits by their family members
  • Ensure the safety, and physical and mental welfare of the students currently held in detention
  • Put an immediate halt to any further arrests, acts of intimidation, harassment and reprisals carried out by the TID and Sri Lanka Army on students from the University of Jaffna
  • Stop all interference by security forces and law enforcement authorities in the internal administration of the University of Jaffna and its student body
  • Investigate into all past attacks of violence against students of the University of Jaffna, including incidents where the perpetrator/s is unknown 
Situation Update as at 12.30pm, 7 December, 2012

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