Ahnaf Jazeem complains to HRCSL against illegal custody

Poet and teacher Ahnaf Jazeem yesterday (5) filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) for breach of his fundamental rights to personal liberty, dignity, and freedom by Colombo Remand Prison (CRP) officers, for arbitrarily and wrongfully keeping him in illegal custody, for more than 24 hours, after he was granted bail by the Puttalam High Court (HC) on 15 December 2021. Jazeem was personally present at the Puttalam office of the HRCSL with his father to submit the complaint.

Jazeem was was taken into custody under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act, No. 48 of 1979 (PTA) on 16 May 2020, due to allegations that a Tamil language poetry anthology he had authored promoted “extremist” ideologies. Despite being granted bail by the Puttalam HC, he was not immediately released, as CRP officials had requested a confirmation from the Puttalam HC Registrar as to whether the Puttalam HC’s proceedings on Jazeem were related to the Colombo Magistrate Court’s (MC) proceedings about the poet.

At the time, Jazeem’s legal counsel Sanjaya Wilson Jayasekera had told The Morning: “Jazeem was not released today by officials of the CRP because they wanted a confirmation from the Puttalam HC Registrar that the Puttalam HC case is connected to the Colombo MC case against Jazeem, which had been concluded on 26 October. However, the Puttalam HC Registrar refused to do that because the Colombo MC original brief was not available in the Puttalam HC indictment docket. Thus, Jazeem was not released from prison yesterday on technical issues raised by the prison officials.”

After his lawyers subsequently managed to obtain an order from the Colombo Magistrate Court directing CRP to act according to the High Court Bail Order, Jazeem was finally released from CRP at around 4.30 p.m. on 16 December 2021, thus leading him to charge that he had been kept in “unlawful detention and/or custody for about 27 hours”.

Ahnaf has named, among others, CRP Superintendent Rajiv Shrimal and Commissioner General of Prisons Thushara Upuldeniya as respondents in his complaint.