FMM condemns death threats to Human Rights Lawyers

[TamilNet, Friday, 24 October 2008, 18:46 GMT]
Free Media Movement (FMM), a Colombo-based media watchdog, in a press release issued Thursday, condemned a recent letter written in Sinhala by a group calling itself "Mahason Balakaya," which warned that the human rights lawyers representing "terrorists" will be "summarily killed or receive life-threatening injuries." FMM urged the Government of Sri Lanka to "immediately denounce these terror tactics and take meaningful steps to restore public confidence in the rule of law, human rights and democratic governance."

Full text of the release follows: The Free Media Movement (FMM) is deeply disturbed by the contents of a letter posted to leading human rights defenders and lawyers, as well as given to all court registrars to be handed over to lawyers who appear for human rights cases.

The letter, written in Sinhala and from a group that calls itself the "Mahason Balakaya" (Mahason Regiment), clearly states that lawyers who defend human rights cases will be summarily killed or receive life-threatening injuries.

It is unclear who this group is. Mahasona is a well-known demon figure

in Sinhala folklore. The FMM also learned that the Sri Lanka Army's

LRRP (Long Range Recon Patrol or "Digu Dura Wihidum Balakaya" in

Sinhalese) was better known in the military "Mahasohon Brigade."

Speculation over the origins of the letter, however, is secondary to

FMM's grave concern that in the present context, this letter may

instigate more violence against human rights defenders and those who

appear in the defence of those such as journalist J.S. Tissainayagam,

who stands accused of terrorism. This disturbing letter comes just

weeks after a deadly grenade attack against renowned lawyer and human

rights activist J.S. Weliamuna, who is also the head of Transparency International in Sri Lanka.

Reflecting the growing trend of hatred and harm against human rights

activists even by senior members of the government, the letter calls

human rights defenders "traitors' who deserve to be killed. It ends by

noting that, "To those who support the terrorists, remember those who were killed and lost their limbs and eyes to the terrorists! Know that

in the name of the nation, to make you suffer in the same manner is a blessing."

The letter also notes that, "Henceforth, for every traitor who stands

up to defend a terrorist, know that we will not hesitate to hasten fate

which is the same as that faced by the innocent victims of terrorists

in our motherland today."

According to FMM, this hate speech, openly distributed with impunity,

is hugely disturbing in a context of wanton violence in Sri Lanka

against independent media and those who champion human rights and

question the government's conduct of war.

The FMM urgently calls upon the inspector-general of police to launch

an investigation into the origins of this reprehensible letter. The

government must immediately denounce these terror tactics and take

meaningful steps to restore public confidence in the rule of law, human

rights and democratic governance in Sri Lanka.

Terror, in whatever form, has no place whatsoever in the democratic process, FMM noted.


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