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PEARL condemns pardoning of Duminda Silva and urges EU to suspend GSP+

People for Equality and Relief in Sri Lanka (PEARL) condemned the pardoning of convicted murderer Duminda Silva and called on the European Union (EU) to withdraw it's GSP+ trade preferences "if human rights obligations continue to be abrogated."

The US based advocacy organisation joined the US and the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) who also condemned the pardoning of Silva, a close ally of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who was convicted in 2016 of the unlawful execution of fellow politician Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra and three of his supporters during local elections in Colombo in 2011.

"Following the relaxation of sustained international pressure on Sri Lanka and the premature reinstatement of the island’s GSP+ trade concession in 2017, not one Sri Lankan government has taken initiative to bring about the structural changes required for accountability, reconciliation, and justice on the island," PEARL said in a statement. 

"The breakdown in reform progress and Sri Lanka’s withdrawal from UNHRC resolution 30/1 is emblematic of the reluctance of successive governments to tackle Sinhala Buddhist nationalism that has repeatedly hampered initiatives towards structural reform," they added. 

Earlier this month, the EU parliament has passed a new resolution on Sri Lanka expressing “serious concern at the rapid deterioration of human rights” on the island and urging the Council to consider targeted sanctions against senior Sri Lanka officials accused of war crimes. The resolution also calls on the Council to investigate and prosecute war crime abuses; to suspend funding for the training of Sri Lanka’s security forces; and to suspend the favourable trading preferences granted by the GSP+ agreement.

PEARL welcomed the EU resolution, calling it "an important step towards re-establishing the international pressure" and that "it is essential that there are international consequences to Sri Lanka’s intransigence on justice and accountability."

In their statement, PEARL also called on Sri Lanka to release those who have been detained under the notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), which allows individuals to be detained for 18 months without charge or trial, though some detainees have been in custody for decades.

"Today’s government, led by Gotabaya Rajapaksa, has since escalated arbitrary arrests of members of the Tamil community under the draconian PTA, including elected officials, journalists and human rights defenders. There is also increasing militarisation and deepening surveillance and harassment of Tamil and Muslim communities," PEARL said. 

Read PEARL's full statement here

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