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
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
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 <http://www.ahrchk.net/index.php>.