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Tamil prisoners demand relief after Prison Minister threatens them at gun point

Eight Tamil prisoners, detained under Sri Lanka's Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), in Sri Lanka's Anuradhapura prison have submitted a fundamental rights petition to Sri Lanka's Supreme Court requesting relief after they were threatened at gun point by State Minister, Lohan Ratwatte.

Ratwatte is accused of barging into the prison whilst intoxicated and demanding that the Tamil prisoners stand in a semi-circle before him and then ordered them to kneel before him. He reportedly abused them in Sinhala whilst claiming that the President had given him all the power under the PTA to either release them or shoot them dead.

Ratwatte's office has denied any wrongdoing but has resigned his post as Minister for Prison Management. Despite this incident he maintains different cabinet positions. Tamil parliamentarians have demand that Ratwatte be stripped of all his cabinet positions and be held fully accountable for his actions.

Sri Lanka's Human Rights Commission has stated that they will investigate the matter but concerns have been raised over the independence of the institution following the appointment of an all-Sinhala committee by the President in November. Initial inquiries have also raised concerns, with Sri Lanka's former human rights commissioner pointing out that instead of analysing the incident they had simply reported conflicting statements. 

Despite investigations still ongoing, Sri Lanka's Justice Minsiter has rejected that there was "racial motive" in the incident.
The incident comes as EU delegates have visited Sri Lanka to assess if they should continue their GSP+ agreement with the country. A core basis of this agreement is Sri Lanka meeting its human rights and worker protection commitments, which includes a repeal of the PTA. In June, European parliament passed a damning resolution calling upon the EU council to suspend this agreement given the deteriorating human rights condition in Sri Lanka.

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