Stepping up their campaign against the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), two rights organisations have called upon the Sri Lanka government to ensure restorative justice to detainees of the Act and announce a moratorium on the application of the law.
The call has been made on the eve of the commencement of the 32nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, where references to the situation in Sri Lanka are expected to be made.
An account of mostly Tamils
In a 20-page-long report, the Centre for Human Rights and Research (CHR), Sri Lanka, has given an account of 19 persons, mostly Tamils, who are awaiting trial or are in some stage of their cases being heard before a court of law.
“Whatever their faults may be morally or under the law of the land, they should not be deprived of their basic rights in the due process. This report purports to present these individuals and their cases not as unblemished saints but as Sri Lankans to whom the government owes a duty of restorative justice.”
Recalling statements made by senior members of the government, including Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, on the replacement of the PTA with legislation which is in tune with “best international practices,” the CHR pointed out that “the PTA to-date remains very much in force with mere drafts being put forward by the Law Commission of Sri Lanka on its amendments/reform and repeal. Sri Lanka is yet to see and debate on a solid anti-terrorism bill.”
HRW call to government
In a statement released from New York, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged the government to abide by guidelines of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka on arrest and detention while taking urgent steps to repeal the “draconian” PTA.
The HRW mentioned that the exact figure of those still held under the PTA was unknown, with estimates ranging from 120 to 162 detainees. (According to the CHR, the figure was 118). “Since April 2016, the government has arrested at least 11 people under the PTA for alleged terrorist activities instead of using appropriate provisions under the criminal code,” the HRW said, calling for a moratorium on the use of the PTA till the repeal of the law and relying instead on the criminal code, which does not allow indefinite detention without charge or trial. (The Hindu)