Amnesty makes Urgent Action appeal for Shakthika

Amnesty International has made an Urgent Action appeal for writer Shakthika Sathkumara, urging sympathisers to appeal the Attorney General to drop all charges against him.

“While he was released on bail by the High Court on 5 August, after spending four months in prison, the charges against him are still pending and he could face up to 10 years in prison if found guilty,” Amnesty International Canada said in a widely circulated email.

Sathkumara was arrested on 1 April under provisions in the controversial International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act for allegedly inciting inter-faith violence through a short story titled ‘Ardha’ about sexual abuse in rural Buddhist temples. His arrest came under widespread criticism as an attack on freedom of expression, with the ICCPR Act itself becoming a matter of controversy.

“Detained for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression, Shakthika Sathkumara is a prisoner of conscience and all charges against him should be immediately and unconditionally dropped,” Amnesty said in its message.

In a template/model letter addressed to Attorney General Dappula De Livera, the human rights watchdog calls for Sathkumara’s immediate and unconditional release.

“The misuse of the ICCPR Act to detain and prosecute writers for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression is a clear violation of international law as well as infringement of the right to freedom of thought and expression guaranteed by the constitution of Sri Lanka. The very law that is meant to protect people’s human rights in Sri Lanka, including freedom of expression, is now being misused to violate them,” reads the draft letter.

The organisation also urges those adopting the document to appeal the Sri Lankan authorities to stop using ICCPR Act to “threaten, harass and prosecute writers and activists for peacefully expressing their opinions.”

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