A total of 16 political prisoners began a fast unto death protest in the Anuradhapura prison and Colombo Remand Prison on the 13th of September 2018. A total of 12 Prisoners detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act in the Anuradhapura Prison and 04 at the Colombo Remand Prison are engaging in the fast which has reached its 20th day and requires urgent intervention by the State and relevant authorities.
The protest fast by the political prisoners (all males) in prolonged detention demand their release (general amnesty) or be subjected to short term ‘rehabilitation’–a form of detention that doesn’t entail a judicial trial and sentence is continuing without any government intervention.
Already 05 prisoners have been transferred to the Welikada prison hospital from the Anuradhapura prison and the health condition of the remaining prisoners is deteriorating from bad to worse. In addition, the prisoners admitted to the hospital are refusing treatment and medication or any form of help unless their demands are met.
Last Wednesday, 26th September, 2018 a team of activists and lawyers from the Centre for Human Rights and Development (CHRD) and National Movement for the Release of Political Prisoners visited the Anuradhapura prison and met with the detainees participating in the hunger strike and studied their condition. The prisoners had stated that they had been surviving the fast by consuming limited amounts of water till 25th September and since their demands are being ignored, they will refrain from taking water. Further, the group noticed that the prisoners are in a weak state and are unable to stand up nor speak clearly.
These political prisoners detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act have been in prolonged detention for almost 10 years as they were taken into detention in 2009 (apart from the 04 detainees who are in the Colombo Remand Prison). Their cases are yet to be concluded, with a major reason for delays being the non-attendance of officials from the Attorney General’s department who are prosecuting the cases. One of the cases has not had a hearing for about 5 years.
Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) had resulted in arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention without charges, long drawn out court cases and multiple cases against one suspect. Mental and physical well-being of detainees have been severely affected due to long term detention and as a result of rigorous interrogation, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and torture. Many detainees have spent most of their youth behind bars.
Since October 3, 2018 political prisoners island wide have joined the protest. In addition, protests calling on the government to meet the demands of the prisoners is taking place organized by the families of the detainees and activists island wide.
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