Sri Lanka arrests rights activists ahead of UN meeting

COLOMBO, March 17, 2014 (AFP) – Sri Lanka has arrested two leading rights activists including a Catholic priest under anti-terrorism laws, police and campaigners said Monday, ahead of an expected UN censure later this month. Father Praveen Mahesan, head of the Peace and Reconciliation Centre in the war-torn Jaffna region, and Ruki Fernando of the Colombo-based INFORM advocacy group were detained on Sunday as they met relatives who lost loved ones during the Tamil separatist conflict.

“The two suspects were arrested under provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act for trying to cause communal disharmony and disturbance,” said police spokesman Superintendent Ajith Rohana.

While the spokesman did not name the pair, the Asian Human Rights Council said that Fernando and Father Praveen were detained on a visit to Kilinochchi. The city was the last major stronghold of the Tamil Tiger rebels before they were routed at the end of the war in 2009.

Udaya Kalupathirana, director of INFORM, also confirmed Fernando’s arrest.

“We have come to know of Ruki Fernando’s arrest as the police had informed the family. Still we are not aware of the charges against him. We are looking for more information,” Kalupathirana told