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Sri Lanka's interim human rights report calls for reforms to PTA

The Presidential Commission of Inquiry for Appraisal of the Findings of Previous Commissions and Committees on Human Rights and the Way Forward provided President Gotabaya Rajapaksa with its interim report on Wednesday calling for the Prevention of Terrorism Act to be reformed instead of repealed.

The Commission highlights 3 proposals in its interim report for the more democratic use of the PTA. Expediting the hearing of cases for those detained for a minimum of 3 months or longer; confining the detainees to their home or a residential area instead of prisons; and establishing an Advisory Board comprising all ethnic groups.

The Commission is chaired by Supreme Court Judge A.H.M.D. Nawaz, other members include retired Inspector General of Police Chandra Fernando, retired District Secretary Nimal Abeysiri and former Mayor of Jaffna Yogeswari Patkunarajah who have been appointed to investigate human rights violations. 

Demands for repeal

Despite the proposed reforms, Tamil parliamentarians and human rights activists have maintained the need for a full repeal of the draconian legislation. Commenting on the legislation, Tamil National Alliance MP, MA Sumanthiran commented:

“You cannot amend the PTA, you have to repeal the PTA. The whole basis, the foundation of the law is flawed” Sumanthiran. 

Similarly, legal advisor and lawyer for the Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF), Kanagaratnam Sukas has supported calls for a full repeal and called on international bodies such as the UN to apply pressure on Sri Lanka to ensure this.

Sri Lanka's former Human Rights Commissioner, Ambika Satkunanathan, has highlighted that Tamils were disproportionately targetted under the PTA

Read more here: Not All Detainees Are Equal: Class, Ethnicity and the Prevention of Terrorism Act


International Pressure

Earlier this year, increased scrutiny of the human rights record in Sri Lanka has been applied, outlined in the UN Human Rights Council report which noted “disturbing patterns of extrajudicial killings, abductions, enforced disappearances and torture by the security forces.”

The EU parliament passed a resolution expressing “serious concern at the rapid deterioration of human rights” on the island and has called on the council to investigate and prosecute war crimes; suspend funding to train Sri Lanka’s security forces and suspend favourable trading preferences granted by the GSP+ agreement. 

The EU has further called on Sri Lanka to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) which it described as “abusive and draconian.” Sri Lanka initially agreed to repeal the legislation but the Rajapaksa administration has since redacted its promise, instead of expanding the PTA under the veil of “deradicalization.”

Read more here

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