Facebook icon
Twitter icon
e-mail icon

International condemnation of Sri Lanka’s PTA arrests of Tamils

Seized decorations which saw Tamils arrested under the PTA this week.

Statements have been released by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the US, the UK, the EU and Canada today, condemning the continued use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) as authorities detained several Tamils this week.

“We are concerned by recent arrests in Northern & Eastern Provinces under Prevention of Terrorism Act,” said the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

It went on to say that the continued detention under the act “runs counter to Govt's promised moratorium on use of the law that violates human rights obligations & should be repealed”.

“It is concerning to hear about continued use of the PTA, including to arrest peaceful protesters, and about treatment of detainees in prisons,” said US ambassador Julie Chung. “It’s vital to ensure freedom of expression and humane treatment of those in custody.”

“Concerned about reports of arrests under the Prevention of Terrorism Act,” tweeted Britain’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Andrew Patrick. “We urge authorities to stand by their commitments to stop the use of the #PTA and bring in legislation compliant with respect for human rights."

“Concerned about continued use of #PTA to make arrests,” tweeted the European Union delegation in Sri Lanka. “Authorities should bring the legislation in line with international standards and #humanrights conventions, and meanwhile stop using the PTA, as per their commitments.”

And Canada’s High Commission to the island said “the use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and treatment of detainees in Sri Lankan prisons is deeply concerning”.

“Canada urges Sri Lanka to protect human rights, including those of minorities, consistent with its obligations.”

The statements come just days after as many as 9 Tamils have been detained under the PTA in recent days over remembrance events for Maaveerar Naal. The arrests, which came mainly in the East, were carried out as Tamils carried red and yellow flags or speakers, to take to Maaveerar Naal commemorations, which remember those who died fighting for the liberation of Tamil Eelam. Others were arrested for hiring out vehicles or power generators, or at commemorations themselves which were stormed by Sri Lankan security officers.

Earlier this month, a Tamil youth was killed in Sri Lankan police custody. A post-mortem examination revealed he was tortured to death.

Individual politicians too have voiced their concerns. In the US, representative for Ohio's 6th congressional district Bill Johnson said he was “deeply concerned by the arrests of Tamils in the North-East of Sri Lanka under the Prevention of Terrorism Act during their peaceful commemorations over the past few days, as well as the numerous attempts by Sri Lankan police to obstruct and prevent Tamil memorialization.”

Congressman Wiley Nickel condemned the arrests, stating that he would “continue to stand with the Tamil people against this attack on freedom”.

Congressman Don Davis said he was “profoundly troubled by the recent arrests of Tamil People in Sri Lanka”.

“These arrests, conducted under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, targeted the Tamils who were engaged in peaceful commemorative activities,” he added. “The U.S. government and the international community must protect the rights of the Tamil People.”

“These arrests under the Prevention of Terrorism Act are the latest in a historical pattern of Sri Lankan police attempting to prevent Tamil memorialization,” added Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi.

In the UK, MP Siobhain McDonagh stressed the need to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and respect the right of Tamils to remember their loved ones. 

For years, successive Sri Lankan governments have pledged to repeal the PTA, which has been used for decades against Tamils to arbitrarily arrest and detain people, violate fair trial rights, and put detainees at risk of torture. The arrests under the act continue, despite Sri Lanka’s pledge to replace it.

Tamils and human rights organisations around the world have demanded it be repealed altogether.

We need your support

Sri Lanka is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist. Tamil journalists are particularly at threat, with at least 41 media workers known to have been killed by the Sri Lankan state or its paramilitaries during and after the armed conflict.

Despite the risks, our team on the ground remain committed to providing detailed and accurate reporting of developments in the Tamil homeland, across the island and around the world, as well as providing expert analysis and insight from the Tamil point of view

We need your support in keeping our journalism going. Support our work today.

For more ways to donate visit https://donate.tamilguardian.com.