Dear Mr Wickramaratne
I am deeply worried about the fate of Ramzy Razeek, who was arbitrarily detained on 9 April 2020 for simply exercising his right to peaceful freedom of expression on Facebook. Further to my concern is the fact that Ramzy’s family have not been allowed to communicate with him since the arrest. With several health complications, including arthritis, kidney failure, liver problems and vascutic leg ulcers, it is critical that he receives adequate access to healthcare.
I understand that Ramzy Razeek filed a complaint through email to you at 11:04 AM on 9 April 2020 for death threats he received in response to recent social media posts on his private Facebook account. However, instead of thoroughly and effectively investigating the threats, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) arrested Ramzy for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression. According to his lawyers, the Police cited the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act and Computer Crimes Act for his arrest.
The use of the ICCPR Act to detain and prosecute people for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression is a clear violation of international human rights law, and an infringement of the rights guaranteed by the constitution of Sri Lanka. It is appalling to see that the very law intended to protect human rights in Sri Lanka, is now being misused to violate them.
Ramzy Razeek is now at heightened risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As this devastating virus sweeps across the globe, prisons are at risk of becoming a dangerous hotspot for COVID-19 outbreaks. It is more important than ever that states take urgent measures to protect all those who are deprived of their liberty, especially by releasing all individuals who are held simply for peacefully expressing their human rights.
I therefore, urge you to:
- Drop all charges against Ramzy Razeek and immediately and unconditionally release him,
- Pending his release, provide him with adequate access to healthcare, and contact with family and lawyers. If contact visits are restricted due to COVID-19 preventive measures, they must be replaced with other means of contact, for example, by phone, emails or video calls.
- Stop using ICCPR Act to threaten, harass and prosecute dissidents and activists for peacefully expressing their opinions.