Four students were arrested on 1 December in Jaffna, northern Sri Lanka, by the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) of the police. They are being held in Vavuniya for interrogation and are at risk of torture. P. Tharshananth, Sanmugam Solaman, Kanesamoorthy Sutharsan and K. Jenemajeyamenan were arrested without warrants in Jaffna. It is not known if they have been formally charged. Sri Lankan media reports that they are being questioned about their alleged involvement in a petrol bomb attack on the office of a local political organisation, as well as their involvement in organising demonstrations. There are concerns for their well-being given evidence of the persistent use of torture in TID custody.
Their arrests come after several days of student protests following efforts by the security forces to suppress peaceful commemorations of Maaveerar Naal (Heroes Day), a day of remembrance established by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). On 27 November security forces broke up a lamp lighting ceremony at the women’s hostel at Jaffna University, reportedly breaking lamps, threatening students and pointing weapons at them. The following day students responded with a silent protest and short march and held placards denouncing the restrictions on freedom of expression. At least 20 undergraduates were injured and beaten by riot police and officers in civilian dress, including Sanmugam Solaman. Security forces allege that the students had thrown stones at them, prompting them to react; university staff told local media that the event was peaceful until the authorities attacked the marchers.
Please write immediately in English or your own language: ν Expressing concern for the safety and wellbeing of the four students (naming them); ν Calling on the Sri Lankan authorities to release them from custody or charge them with a recognizeable criminal offense and to try them promptly in a regularly consituted court with all internationally recognized safeguards provided; ν Urging them to ensure that the detainees are treated in accordance with international standards while in police custody, specifically urging that they are not tortured and are given full access to their lawyers, families, food, blankets and medical care where necessary; ν Calling on the Sri Lankan authorities to end restrictions on freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly; ν Urging them to halt attacks on religious gatherings and other commemorative activities, and bring to justice those who carry out such attacks.