Sri Lanka must remove PTA, international pressure working - Amnesty

[TamilNet, Saturday, 27 August 2011, 03:50 GMT]
The Sri Lankan government must follow up its repeal of the state of emergency by removing repressive legislation such as the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), Amnesty International said Friday. Whilst welcoming Sri Lanka’s pledge to lift draconian emergency regulations, Amnesty said “the Sri Lankan government still uses repressive measures such as the PTA, which allows authorities to hold detainees arbitrarily and for long periods without trial, including in places that are not officially acknowledged as detention facilities.” The human rights group pointed out that “Police and security forces in Sri Lanka routinely ignore international regulations and procedures intended to protect the rights of individuals who have been arrested.”

Earlier this week, Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa promised to remove the state of emergency that has been in place in the country for nearly three decades.

"Sri Lankan civil society and Amnesty International have long called for the lifting of emergency laws, so we welcome the government's commitment to repeal them," said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific director.

"There are hundreds of people who remain in detention under these regulations who should be released immediately, or charged with a recognizable crime in a proper court of law."

The lifting of the state of emergency, and the attendant sweeping powers, this gave Sri Lanka’s authorities and security forces, the PTA does the same.

Amnesty also pointed to the ingrained culture of impunity in Sri Lanka, and to the necessity of international pressure to ensure improvement in human rights.

"Due process and accountability have eroded after three decades of reliance on sweeping security legislation under the state of emergency," said Zarifi.

"The current administration has further degraded judicial independence by concentrating power in the president's hands."

"Lifting the state of emergency is an important step, but the proof is in the treatment of detainees and government critics."

"The lifting of emergency regulations indicates the Sri Lankan government is feeling international pressure," added Zarifi.

"With the [United Nations] Human Rights Council due to meet soon, it's time to demand the government undertake real reforms, including repeal of the PTA and providing accountability for the thousands of people who suffered during the country's civil war."

 

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