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List reveals dozens of Tamils held under Sri Lanka's PTA

Dozens of Tamils remain in custody with trials pending under Sri Lanka’s Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), according to a list of cases published by Ceylon Today this weekend.

A report obtained by Ceylon Today lists the names of 84 persons, mostly Tamils from the North-East, as being held for a variety of terrorism related offences, as of 12 July 2017.

A further 12 persons are being held “pending advice of legal action by the Attorney General” as of 20 July 2017.

Ceylon Today reports that the prisoners are being held in various locations across the island, including Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Mahara, Batticaloa and Jaffna.

The publishing of the report comes after the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism Ben Emmerson visited the island earlier this month and delivered a damning report on Sri Lanka’s counter terrorism laws.

“On requesting official figures for those currently charged with offences under the PTA, he was given statistics from which it is apparent that out of 81 prisoners currently in the judicial phase of their pre-trial detention, 70 had been in detention without trial for over five years and 12 had been in detention without trial for over 10 years,” said his preliminary findings.

“These staggering figures are a stain on Sri Lanka’s international reputation,” he said.

The list of 84 persons is thought to be a gross underestimate of the number of Tamils held by the Sri Lankan state. Tens of thousands of Tamils have disappeared across the North-East, including those who surrendered during the final phase of the armed conflict. Relatives of the disappeared claim the state has many of them in custody.