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Sri Lanka’s government to scrap Counter Terrorism Bill in favour of previous legislation

Sri Lanka’s cabinet has decided to scrap the Counter Terrorism Bill which was introduced by the previous government, in favour of the replaced Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), the Daily Mirror reports.

Yesterday, the cabinet approved the Foreign Relations Minister, Dinesh Gunawardane’s proposal to withdraw the legislation.

The change in legislation was forced after Sri Lanka co-sponsored a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council in 2015, which called on the government to repeal the PTA and replace it with a law "in accordance with contemporary international best practises."

The UN and several rights groups have criticised the draconian PTA which has been used to commit human rights violations, including torture and arbitrary detention.   

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa vowed to reject the UN resolution during this election campaign. The resolution mandated an accountability mechanism with international judges to prosecute crimes committed during the final months of the armed conflict, in which tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were killed.

Speaking on the UN resolution, Gotabaya said:

“We have already rejected that, as a party we have rejected that agreement and in public we have rejected that. ... On this issue, our policies and the present government policies are far apart. We have to move forward, we have to forget about hanging on to old allegations and all that.”

Gunawardane has also previously stated that the new government will review Resolution 30/1.