WMA urges Sri Lankan President to intervene on behalf of Government Doctors

(01.06.2009) The World Medical Association has urged the President of Sri Lanka to intervene on behalf of three government employed doctors, two of whom have been detained and the third taken to an unknown destination, after working in the conflict zone in Sri Lanka.

In a letter to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Dr. Yoram Blachar, President of the WMA, calls for the three doctors to be given immediate access to lawyers and either charged or released.

In his letter sent, Dr. Blachar writes:

‘We are very concerned for the safety of three government employed doctors who had been working in the conflict zone in North eastern Sri Lanka until 15 May.

‘Dr T. Sathiyamoorthy, Dr. T. Varatharajah and Dr. Shanmugarajah were treating the sick and wounded until they reportedly travelled out of the ‘No Fire Zone’ with approximately 5,000 other civilians.

‘According to reports received by Amnesty International, Dr. Shanmugarajah and Dr. Sathiyamoorthy, the regional director of health services in Kilinochchi, may be currently held at the Terrorist Investigation Division in the capital Colombo. However, a detention order has not yet been issued, so their relatives remain unsure of their whereabouts and they do not have access to a lawyer.

‘Dr. Varatharajah, the regional director of health services in Mullaitivu, was seriously injured and is reported to have been airlifted from the Omanthai crossing point to an unknown destination by the Sri Lankan Air Forces.

‘On behalf of the millions of physicians acting worldwide to serve humanity according to the highest standards of medical ethics and human rights, I urge the Sri Lankan authorities to give these three government employed doctors immediate and unrestricted access to lawyers of their choice and that they be promptly brought before an independent court, where they may challenge their detention. Unless they are to be charged with recognisably criminal offences and remanded by an independent court I am calling on the authorities to release them immediately.

‘Finally, access to any medical treatment needed and permission of family visits should be guaranteed as a matter of urgency’.