The London based human rights group Amnesty International (AI) has called for urgent action with regards to the university students arrested in Jaffna last week.
The four students were arrested on 1 December in Jaffna by the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) of the police. AI says they are being held in Vavuniya for interrogation and are at risk of torture.
P. Tharshananth, Sanmugam Solaman, Kanesamoorthy Sutharsan and K. Jenemajeyamenan were arrested without warrants in Jaffna.
The AI statement says it is not known if the students have been formally charged. Sri Lankan media reports that they are being questioned about their alleged involvement in a petrol bomb attack on the office of a local political organisation, as well as their involvement in organising demonstrations.
There are concerns for their well-being given evidence of the persistent use of torture in TID custody.
Their arrests come after several days of student protests following efforts by the security forces to suppress peaceful commemorations of Maaveerar Naal (Heroes Day), a day of remembrance established by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The AI statement added that on 27 November security forces broke up a lamp lighting ceremony at the women’s hostel at Jaffna University, reportedly breaking lamps, threatening students and pointing weapons at them.
“The following day students responded with a silent protest and short march and held placards denouncing the restrictions on freedom of expression. At least 20 undergraduates were injured and beaten by riot police and officers in civilian dress, including Sanmugam Solaman. Security forces allege that the students had thrown stones at them, prompting them to react; university staff told local media that the event was peaceful until the authorities attacked the marchers,” the AI statement said.