Free Ramzy Razeek and others imprisoned for free expression in Sri Lanka

Free Ramzy Razeek and others imprisoned for free expression in Sri Lanka

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FreeRamzy Razeek started this petition to Inspector General of Police Sri Lanka and

සිංහල පරිවර්තනය බැලීමට මෙතැන ක්ලික් කරන්න.

தமிழ் மொழிபெயர்ப்பைக் காண இங்கே கிளிக் செய்க.

We, a group of concerned citizens on freedom of expression in Sri Lanka write to insist that Sri Lankan authorities immediately release Ramzy Razeek and others imprisoned for free expression in the covid-19 situation of Sri Lanka.

Ramzy Razeek has been a regular commentator on Facebook. He was arrested on 9th April 2020 for some Facebook posts. Amongst the offending post is believed be a post on 2nd April in which he had called for an ideological jihad or ideological struggle, with “pen and keyboard”, through “social and mainstream media”, “on behalf of the county and all its citizens” and “to help people understand the truth” in context of “hate propagated against Muslims”. Ramzy has regularly advocated against racism and extremism on Facebook, while advocating for inter-ethnic and inter-religious harmony, women’s rights and democracy. He has also been a regular critique of practices of some Muslims. Ramzy’s profile and posts are public and none advocate hatred leading to incitement to hostility, discrimination or violence. 

On 3rd April, Ramzy announced a self-censorship – that he will not make future posts related to politics or national problems in Sinhalese, as he doesn’t want to endanger his children’s life. He explained that some of the responses to his post on 2nd April had included death threats and calls for his arrest and that his eldest daughter had been traumatized and fearful after seeing these. That statement of self-censorship is the last visible post on his Facebook wall. Before being arrested, Ramzy himself had complained to the police about death threats he had , but it doesn’t seem that the police had taken any actions against those who made these death threats.

Ramzy was arrested on 9th April and has been remanded till 14th May 2020. The Magistrate is reported to have asked the police to report whether there is actual grounds to arrest and remand him. The police had cited the ICCPR Act, under which a Magistrates don’t have discretion in providing bail. Last year, a writer arrested under the ICCPR Act was imprisoned for more than four (4) months until a High Court judge gave him bail. 

Ramzy has serious medical concerns and had retired prematurely from his government job due to health complications. He needs daily medication, and the family worries that he had been without medication now for more than 3 weeks. Persons released from the detention center Ramzy has been detained has reported beating of detainees, overcrowding and lack of hygienic facilities. His lawyers had brought his health condition to the attention of the Magistrate, who had asked him to be given proper healthcare. 

Media reported on 17th March that Police was seeking to arrest 40 persons for spreading false information and that there had been other reports that at least 17 had been arrested by 17th April. Details are not available in the public domain, but the Human Rights Commission has stated that their observations on arrests made under section 3 of the ICCPR Act doesn’t make It possible to come to a reasonable conclusion that the provision has been invoked in a non-discriminatory manner. The Commission has also pointed out that the legal basis of using the Quarantine Ordinance and the Disaster Management Act for arrests is questionable. The Commission has called to differentiation between genuine mistakes, statements made in good faith or the public interest and those statements that are intentionally calculated to cause mischief, to review the legal bases for recent arrests and ensure that any future arrests are strictly within the law.

Demands 

(1) Unconditional release of Ramzy and all those arrested and detained for free expression 
(2) If the police intends to continue investigations, charge them under laws that would give the Magistrate discretion in granting bail 
(3) To exercise caution in using the ICCPR Act to arrest persons and use the criteria proposed by Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Commission to ensure it’s not abused against those legitimately exercising right to freedom of expression
(4) Ensure Ramzy and other detainees are provided needed healthcare
(5) Facilitate contact with families through visits or at least phone 

For more information and updates see https://freeramzy.wordpress.com/

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