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UPDATE (Sri Lanka): Michael Anthony Fernando receives death threats

UPDATE ON URGENT APPEAL UPDATE ON URGENT APPEAL UPDATE ON URGENT APPEAL

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAM

Update on Urgent Appeal 1 December 2003

[RE: UP-45-2003: Michael Anthony Fernando freed and given an Asian human rights award, UP-26-2003: Update on Mr Michael Anthony Emmanuel Fernando ('Tony'), UP-19-2003, UP-14-2003, UA-09-2003: Human rights defender tortured and denied the fundamental right to a fair hearing]

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UP-49-2003: SRI LANKA: Michael Anthony Fernando receives death threats

SRI LANKA: Update on Michael Anthony Fernando (Tony)'s case
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Dear friends

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is gravely concerned that Michael Anthony Fernando has received death threats to withdraw the complaints he has filed against those who have violated his rights. It is a bewildering situation for a person pursuing justice to be threatened due to this reason. Your urgent action is required to urge the local authorities to assure Michael Anthony Fernado's safety.

To see the previous urgent appeals regarding Michael Anthony Fernando's case, please visit;
[ UA-09-2003: http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2003/408/
UP-14-2003: http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2003/422/
UP-19-2003: http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2003/452/
UP-26-2003: http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2003/486/
UP-45-2003: http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/General/565]

Urgent Appeals Desk
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
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DETAILED INFORMATION:

On Thursday, 27 November 2003, Michael Anthony Fernando (Tony) received death threats from a unknown person by phone, demanding that he immediately withdraw the three complaints he has filed against those who have violated his rights. All of the cases are currently pending in court. In addition, the next day (28 November), some unidentified persons visited his house and threatened his family to harm if Tony does not withdraw the cases. Tony has lodged a complaint regarding this incident to the local police.

The three cases that relate to the present threats to Tony Fernando are:

An application to the UN Human Rights Committee regarding his imprisonment on alleged contempt of court and torture at the hands of prison authorities,
A case against torture at the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka relating to torture suffered at the hands of the prison authorities,
A criminal case filed by the prosecution against two prison officers regarding the torture of Tony

A Sri Lankan newspaper, Ravaya, that has supported Tony throughout his ordeal and has championed the cause of the independence of the judiciary, has also received threatening phone calls. These threats were reported in the latest edition of the newspaper last weekend.

Tony Fernando's case is well-known. He was imprisoned by the Chief Justice of Sri Lanka and two other judges while pursuing a fundamental rights violation case before the Supreme Court and representing himself. He was imprisoned for one year without any hearing. Regarding Tony's case, UN Special Rapporteur for the Independence of the Judiciary and Lawyers condemned his imprisonment as an act of injustice done by the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, and the judgment provoked a massive protest. Though the court asked Tony to apologize as a condition of reducing his present sentence, he refused on the basis that he had not acted in any manner contemptuous of court. He was released from jail after he had completed ten month full term of the sentence. He was awarded an HRC Human Rights Defender Award by the AHRC.

Over a hundred parliament members signed a recently filed impeachment case against the Chief Justice in the Parliament of Sri Lanka. One of the reasons for impeachment was the sentencing of Tony without just cause. Even while Tony was in jail he was threatened to withdraw the complaints he had filed. Now, upon his release he is receiving death threats and visits at him home by unknown persons.

We also draw your attention to the observations made by the UN Human rights Committee on 6 November 2003. Regarding the threats to victims and witnesses of human rights violations, the committee strongly recommended to the Sri Lankan government that;

"The authorities should diligently enquire into all cases of suspected intimidation of witnesses and establish a witness protection program in order to put an end to the climate of fear that plagues the investigation and prosecution of such cases." (CCPR/CO/79/LKA (future) HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE Seventy-ninth session)

Therefore, AHRC strongly urges the Sri Lankan government to assure the safety of Tony Fernando.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please send a letter, fax or email to the local authorities and urge them to take an appropriate action to assure the safety of Michael Anthony Fernando.

1. Hon. Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe
Prime Minister
Cambridge Place, Colombo 7
SRI LANKA
Fax: +94 11 2 682905 / 575454
E-mail: secpm@sltnet.lk or bradmanw@slt.lk

2. Hon. Mr. K. C. Kamalasabesan
Attorney General
Attorney General's Department
Colombo 12
SRI LANKA
Fax: +94 11 2 436 421
Email: attorney@sri.lanka.net or counsel@sri.lanka.net

3. Mr. Ranjith Abeysuriya PC
Chairman National Police Commission
69-1 Ward Place, Colombo 7
Sri Lanka
Fax: +94 11 2 669 128 (need to ask to change to fax mode) / 691 926
Fax HOME: +94 11 2 674148

4. Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy
Director
National Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka
No. 36, Kynsey Road, Colombo 8
SRI LANKA
Tel: +94 11 2 694 925 / 673 806
Fax: +94 11 2 694 924 / 696 470
E-mail: sechrc@sltnet.lk

5. Mr. Theo C. van Boven
Special Rapporteur on the Question of Torture
OHCHR-UNOG
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND
Fax: +41 22 917-9016

6. Mr. Leandro Despouy
Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais Wilson, Rue des Paquis 52, Geneva
SWITZERLAND
Tel: +41 22 9179130
Fax: +41 22 9179006

Suggested letter:

Dear

Re: Michael Anthony Fernando receives death threats


I am shocked to learn about the death threats to Mr. Michael Anthony Fernando (Tony), who was released from prison only recently after being sentenced unjustly.

According to the information I have received, Tony Fernando received death threats from an unknown person, demanding him to withdraw the three complaints immediately which has filed against those who have violated his rights. All of the cases are currently pending in court. In addition, the next day (28 November), some unidentified persons visited his house and threatened his family to harm if Tony does not withdraw the cases.

The three cases which relate to the present threats to Tony Fernando are:

An application to the UN Human Rights Committee regarding his imprisonment on alleged contempt of court and torture at the hands of prison authorities,
A case against torture at the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka relating to torture suffered at the hands of the prison authorities,
A criminal case filed by the prosecution against two prison officers regarding the torture of Tony

It is a bewildering situation for a person pursuing justice to be threatened for this very reason. I draw your attention to the observations made by the UN Human rights Committee on 6 November 2003 which strongly recommended to the Sri Lankan government that "The authorities should diligently enquire into all cases of suspected intimidation of witnesses and establish a witness protection program in order to put an end to the climate of fear that plagues the investigation and prosecution of such cases." (CCPR/CO/79/LKA (future) HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE Seventy-ninth session).

I urge you to take action on this issue immediately and assure the safety of Tony Fernando. I also urge you to ensure his right to pursue his complaints at legitimate forums.

Sincerely yours,


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Thank you.

Kim Soo A
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

Posted on 2003-12-01
 
Asian Human Rights Commission
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