Take Action for Banned Books Week 2020
Drop All Charges Against Shakthika Sathkumara
Shakthika Sathkumara is an award‐winning Sri Lankan writer who was arrested on April 1, 2019 when he went to a police station to give a statement in response to complaints made by Buddhist monks regarding a short story he wrote and shared on his Facebook profile. The fictional story concerned life in a Buddhist temple and allegedly hinted at child sexual abuse.
He was charged under Article 291(B) of the Penal Code of Sri Lanka and Section 3(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Act (ICCPR Act), both of which deal with propagating racial and religious hatred that incites discrimination, hostility, and violence. After spending four months in prison, he was released on bail by the Kurunegala High Court on August 5, 2019.
The charges against him remain pending. If found guilty, he could face up to 10 years in prison. The next hearing on his case is scheduled for September 22, 2020. Amnesty had declared Shakthika a prisoner of conscience when he was in prison, detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and has called for all charges against him to be dropped.
The ICCPR Act was enacted by the Sri Lankan government to implement the rights to freedom of expression and of thought, conscience and religion. The prosecution of Shakthika Sathkumara is a misuse of an Act that is supposed to protect, not violate, human rights.
The misuse of the ICCPR Act has created a chilling effect in Sri Lanka where the authorities are extremely sensitive to perceived insults to Buddhism.
In May 2019, a woman was arrested under the ICCPR Act for wearing a blouse with an image which complainants claimed was a Buddhist symbol, but was actually a ship’s wheel. In June 2019, columnist Kusal Perera was threatened with arrest under the ICCPR Act for writing about growing Sinhala Buddhist extremism in Sri Lanka.
Amnesty International is calling on the Sri Lankan government to stop using the ICCPR Act to harass, threaten, and prosecute writers and activists for peacefully expressing their opinions.
Take action online now and sign this petition immediately. You can also write and send a physical letter using the information below:
Ambassador Rodney Perera
Embassy of Sri Lanka
3025 Whitehaven Street NW, Washington DC 20008
Updated on Aug 24, 2020.