Document date: 21.04.2009
Letter of concern regarding the arrest and detention of Mr Santha Fernando

His Excellency
Mahinda Rajapaksa
President of Sri Lanka

Geneva, 21 April 2009

Your Excellency,

On behalf of the World Council of Churches I would like to express our deep concern regarding the arrest and detention of Mr Santha Fernando, executive secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka (NCCSL). According to the information we received from our member council, the NCC Sri Lanka, Mr Santha Fernando was taken into custody by the Terrorism Investigation Department of the Sri Lankan police at the Colombo International Airport on 27 March 2009 on his way to India. No specific reason for the arrest or detention of Mr Fernando has been given so far.

I understand that the leaders of the Christian churches in Sri Lanka, in a letter dated 28 March 2009, conveyed their readiness to cooperate with Sri Lankan authorities in any processes of investigation and urged your intervention to release Mr Fernando. Nonetheless, he remains a victim of unlawful arrest and detention.

I personally know Mr Fernando, as he was one of the main coordinators of the programmes organized by the NCC Sri Lanka when I visited Sri Lanka in October 2008 along with the international team that accompanied me. As a senior executive staff of the NCC Sri Lanka, Mr Fernando has been an associate of the WCC's programme Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV), which aims to ensure peace and reconciliation in conflict and violence affected societies. Mr Fernando, who had earlier served with our sister international ecumenical organization, the Asian Alliance of YMCAs in Hong Kong, has been widely recognized as an Asian ecumenical leader with integrity and a strong commitment to justice and peace. Our member constituencies in Sri Lanka, member churches and the National Christian Council, have consistently stood for a peaceful resolution to Sri Lanka's ethnic conflict including a political solution based on equality, justice and the dignity for all Sri Lankans.

Your Excellency, we are concerned that the actions surrounding the arrest and detention of Mr Fernando did not follow the procedures prescribed by law. As the reasons for his arrest have not been provided, there is thereby a violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Sri Lankan Constitution. Moreover this constitutes a violation of international human rights law, and, in particular, of Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sri Lanka is a state party.

On behalf of the World Council of Churches and its member constituencies all over the world, I urge Your Excellency's intervention and without any further delay release Mr Santha Fernando from detention.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this urgent matter,

Yours truly,

Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia
WCC general secretary