Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances

Rms. 310-311 Philippine Social Science Center Building Commonwealth Avenue, Diliman, 1103 Quezon City Philippines Telefax: 00-632-4546759 Telephone Number 00-632-4907862 Mobile 00-63-9177924058 Email website

PRESS RELEASE 19 April 2012

AFAD condemns harassments of disappeared journalist wife Sandya Ekneligoda by Sri Lankan official The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) condemns the harassment and intimidation of human rights defender Mrs. Sandya Ekneligoda by Sri Lankan government supporter Mr. Douglas Wickramaratne during the side event organized during the 19th sessions on the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and the statements by Deputy Solicitor General Mr. Shavinra Fernando during the Homagama Magistrate Courts (Colombo district) hearing. “The treatment of Mr. Wickramaratne and Deputy Solicitor General Mr. Fernando to Ms. Sandya Eknaligoda’s participation in searching for the truth behind the disappearance of Prageeth Ekneligoda and search for justice in behalf of the other victims of enforced disappearance is an insult not only to the victim Prageeth but also to the cause that Sandya is campaigning for – justice for the victims of enforced disappearance and the complete elimination of the practice of enforced disappearance.” said Mary Aileen Bacalso, Secretary General of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD). On 19 March 2012, Mr. Wickramaratne reportedly mocked Mrs. Ekneligoda, stating that she came to Geneva with a smiling face and therefore is not a victim. Accusations were also thrown by another group identifying themselves as Sri Lankan Muslims, mocking that Mrs. Ekneligoda is manipulated by funds from different organizations. The incident involving Deputy Solicitor General Fernando occurred on 26 March 2012 wherein Mrs. Ekneligoda attended a hearing for an inquiry of a plea to summon former Attorney General and current Advisor to the Cabinet of Ministers Mr. Mohan Peiris, for a statement he issued to the UN Committee against Torture on 9 November 2011 claiming that Prageeth Ekneligoda did not disappear but was residing out of the country. The line of questioning addressed to Mrs. Ekneligoda ranged from inquiring of her participation in the UN HRC sessions, sources of her travel funds and the disclosure of organizations supporting her travel and accommodation in Geneva, to the nature of how Mrs. Ekneligoda reacted when her husband went missing.

“The struggle against enforced disappearance should enable the families of the disappeared to reach a state of empowerment wherein they can generate the strength to continue the fight for justice. Sandya is an epitome of a victim empowered, a woman able to lead the search for the disappeared and demand for truth and justice without fear.” Bacalso furthered. Mrs. Ekneligoda was among the panel of speakers in the side event with the theme, “Rule of Law and human rights violations in Sri Lanka: Perspectives from women, minorities and families of disappeared” during the 19th sessions of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Another woman human rights defender, Ms. Farah Mihlar, also spoke at the same event and was subsequently harassed by the delegates of the Government of Sri Lanka. AFAD reiterates the call for the Rajapaksa administration to sincerely launch investigations on reports of disappearances committed during the war between the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE), the disappearances of media workers, human rights defenders and other civilians. A transparent, fair, impartial and expeditious investigation should be pursued to determine the fate and whereabouts of the victims and bring to justice the perpetrators of the inhumane act. “The intimidation experienced by Sandya is a clear manifestation of how the Sri Lankan government responds to the issue of enforced disappearance. It belittles victims of disappearances and their struggle to find out what truly happened to their missing loved ones,” Bacalso noted. As of this writing, the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances is convening an Experts’ Conference on Gender and Enforced Disappearances in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The violation against the person of Sandya is in fact a manifestation of the relevance of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances’ General Comment on Gender Equality and Enforced Disappearances being discussed in this conference, providing among others, that “the State must employ measures to combat retaliation and social stigmatization of women for their activism in response to enforced disappearances,” Bacalso concluded.” -End -

Reference: Ms. Mary Aileen Bacalso: (63 917) 7924058

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