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Sri Lanka’s Counter Terrorism Act - A license for oppression, intimidation and torture

Civil society groups slammed the Sri Lankan cabinet’s approval of the new Counter Terrorism Act (CTA) last week, stating that it has failed to meet full compliance with international standards and “leaves the door open for future abuse”.

The newly passed act builds on the “draconian” Prevention of Terrorism Act of 1978, which "has been used by successive Sri Lankan governments to quash dissent and penalize resistance", said the Adayaalam Centre for Policy Research, the International Truth and Justice Project , People for Equality and Relief in Lanka, Sri Lanka Campaign and the Tamil Civil Society Forum in a statement last week.

“Rather than reining in the PTA’s overly broad definition of terror, the CTA expands upon it,” the statement added.

The definition of ‘terror’ under the new act has “the potential for local activists collecting and transmitting information about human rights abuses being accused of engaging in and being tried for terrorist activities” said the organisations, noting that “a harsh and restrictive terrorism law offers a ready-made tool of repression and intimidation for successive regimes”.

“We call on both the Human Rights Council and the EU not to disregard the clear signal the draft legislation sends about Sri Lanka’s willingness to meet its obligations under HRC 30/1, and the conditions outlined for the reinstatement of GSP+, respectively,” it concluded. “The government of Sri Lanka, for its part, must immediately withdraw this legislation and - at an absolute minimum - revise its contents in line with international standards.”

Read the full statement here.