ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankan fiction writer Shakthika Sathkumara, who was in pre-trial detention for months over a controversial short story, was discharged today the Attorney General’s spokesperson Nishara Jayaratne confirmed to EconomyNext.
The author’s release comes with days left for the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions.
In May last year, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said the Government of Sri Lanka was in contravention of its international human rights obligations for Sathkumara’s pre-trial detention. The UN body said he was detained for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.
Sathkumara faced up to 10 years in prison if he was found guilty as he was charged under Section 3(1) of the 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) called for Sathkumara’s release.
He was arrested by the Polgahawela Police in response to a complaint alleging that his short story ‘Ardha’ (Half) was derogatory and defamatory to Buddhism.
The ICCPR Act (of Sri Lanka), which was ratified in 2007, seeks to give effect to certain articles in the ICCPR (as adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1966 and acceded to by Sri Lanka in 1980). Sathkumara was arrested for violating the Subsection (1) of Section 3 of the Act which states: “No person shall propagate war or advocate national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.” (Colombo/Feb09/2021)