May 2012


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Concern for the Safety of Sri Lankan Bishop

Asian Human Rights Commission

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is concerned about the safety of the Catholic bishop of Mannar, the Most Rev. Joseph Rayappu, who has a long-standing record of being a spokesperson for the democratic rights of the minority Tamil community in Sri Lanka. As a pastor of his people and a conscientious religious leader, he has consistently expressed his concerns about the problems that affect the Tamil people.

Bishop Joseph Rayappu

On May 13, 2012, the Sunday Leader revealed that Bishop Rayappu was questioned by the police about his statement to the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) regarding the disappearances of about 146,000 people during the last phase of the 26-year war that brutally ended in May 2009. The original article is available here.

A police spokesman, Superintendent of Police (SP) Ajith Rohana, confirmed that officers from the Criminal Investigations Dept. visited the bishop and questioned him.

Under the criminal law of Sri Lanka, the power of investigation is based on a suspicion of the commission of a criminal offense. However, it has now become a common practice to question individuals without having any criminal suspicion against them. Such questioning without revealing the nature of the inquiry violates the basic rights of citizens and creates a climate of fear and distrust.

Following this investigation, there are fears that the bishop may fall victim to some conspiracy. Abductions and disappearances are common occurrences in Sri Lanka, and there have been several priests and even Buddhist monks who have been victims of extrajudicial killings or forced disappearances.

Following the passing of the resolution by the U.N. Human Rights Council in late March of this year, many people have been exposed to various types of harassment and vilified as traitors as they called for credible inquiries into the alleged human rights abuses relating to the Tamil people. Bishop Rayappu has also written to the president of Sri Lanka and the U.N. Human Rights Council about such abuses and the need for justice and reconciliation. Once such letter was published by Transcurrents on March 4, 2012.

Those who exercise freedom of expression for airing their concerns about the rights of their fellow citizens are now being exposed to serious dangers in Sri Lanka. Under such circumstances, many people are anxious about the security of Bishop Rayappu.

AHRC urges the Sri Lankan government and the country’s opposition parties to take all steps necessary to ensure security for the bishop. We also call upon the international community, including all of the diplomatic community in Sri Lanka, to express their concerns to the Sri Lankan government about this matter.

* The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is a regional non-governmental organization monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984. More information is available on AHRC’s web site at <>.