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Human Rights Watch condemns arrest of Tamils under PTA during Maaveerar Naal

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Human Rights Watch (HRW) has issued a statement condemning Sri Lanka’s arrest of 9 Tamils in Batticaloa under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) during Maaveerar Naal commemorations.

The human rights organisation decried the attempts to crackdown on Tamil commemorations of their war dead as a violation of a fundamental right to “to freedom of religion, belief, expression and association”. HRW also detailed the international condemnation Sri Lanka has faced from its partners including the US, EU, UK and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The Sri Lankan authorities’ use of a counterterrorism law against Tamils commemorating those who died in the civil war is cruelly abusive and further marginalises a community that already faces persistent government discrimination,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

She added:

“President Ranil Wickremesinghe speaks of ‘reconciliation,’ but his government’s actions only serve to deepen ethnic divisions”.

HRW’s statement also details that on 2 December, Sri Lanka’s police in Mullaitivu, shut down an event at a Hindu temple to commemorate the Sri Lankan army’s 1984 massacre of Tamil villagers in Othiyamalai.

HRW called on Sri Lanka to immediately suspended the PTA and release those detained under it. They note that despite numerous administrations pledging to do so, the Sri Lankan government had failed to deliver on these commitments. Sri lanka’s current president, Ranil Wickremesinghe, ended a short-lived moratorium on the use of the PTA.

Despite these repeat failures, the island continues to enjoy trade privileges under the European Union’s Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP+). Additionally, the International Monetary Fund, is providing Sri Lanka a $3 billion loan despite acknowledgement of the continued use of the PTA. The PTA has been linked to arbitrary detentions, torture and extra judicial killings of activists.

“The Sri Lankan government’s latest misuse of the PTA should be a strong reminder to the EU that its GSP+ requirements are being ignored,” Ganguly said. “The European Union and EU governments need to make their displeasure with this turn of events known.”

Read HRW’s full statement here.

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