Amnesty International has declared Sri Lankan short story writer Shakthika Sathkumara a Prisoner of Conscience and urged the government to release him.
Amnesty is launching an international letter campaign today July 30 aimed at getting Sathkumara bail at his next hearing.
Amnesty’s note on the subject says “Sathkumara, an award-winning Sri Lankan writer, was arrested on 1 April 2019, for writing a short story and sharing it on his Facebook profile. The fictional story he shared was about life in a Buddhist temple that allegedly hinted at child sexual abuse.”
“Detained for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression, Shakthika Sathkumara is a prisoner of conscience and must be immediately and unconditionally released and all charges against him dropped,” Amnesty said.
Sathkumara faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty as he is charged under Section 3(1) of ICCPR Act and Art. 291(B) of the Penal Code of Sri Lanka, which deals with propagating hatred and incitement of racial or religious violence.
Many Sri Lankan and international organisations including CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance and the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), have called for Sathkumara’s release.
Sathkumara was arrested by the Polgahawela Police in response to a complaint alleging that Sathkumara’s short story ‘Ardha’ (Half) was derogatory and defamatory to Buddhism.
Human Rights lawyer Lakshan Dias points out that there is no evidence that the content contains anything that amounts to hate speech or defamation which comes under the purview of the ICCPR.
Speaking at an event discussing the issue last Tuesday, Dias said “the institutes implementing the law continue to be biased and backward. It is so bad that not even the judiciary can intervene. This system will continue if you don’t try to change it.”