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Sri Lanka's "bait and switch"

Human Rights Watch have strongly criticised Sri Lanka’s detention laws and called upon the international community not to be misled by the apparent end of emergency rule.

Brad Adams, Asia director of the New York-based body said,

“The Sri Lankan government announced that the state of emergency is over, but it is holding on to the same draconian powers it had during the war.

Governments that have called for the repeal of the emergency powers should not be fooled by this cynical "bait and switch."

The government should repeal all its abusive detention laws and make all laws and regulations related to detention public, instead of engaging in token measures for PR purposes.”

6,000 people will continue to be detained under new legislation, which was passed to replace the lapsed emergency regulations according to the group.

They went on to quote Sri Lanka’s previous attorney general, Mohan Peiris who said,

“No suspects will be released and there is no change even though the emergency has been allowed to lapse.

The statement comes ahead of the UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva on Monday, where Sri Lanka is preparing to defend itself against growing accusations of war crimes committed against Tamil civilians.

Stating that, "Sri Lankan officials have touted the lifting of the emergency as important progress toward normalization," the group noted how many of the same powers can be found in the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which has been in place since 1981.

It was also noted that Peiris mentioned new legislation would include “omnibus empowering provision that enables the secretary of defense or the president to pass regulations as it is deemed necessary.”

This follows a presidential decree on August the 6th that granted search and arrest powers to the armed forces.

Human Rights Watch has previously reported on the Sri Lankan authorities illegal detentions and abduction of civilians in their February 2010 report, “Legal Limbo: The Uncertain Fate of Detained LTTE Suspects in Sri Lanka” and in their March 2008 report “Recurring Nightmare: State Responsibility for “Disappearances” and Abductions in Sri Lanka”

See our earlier post: “Sri Lanka replaces lifted powers for military” (Aug 2011)

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