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Concerns over Sri Lanka's use of anti-terror law

The US, EU and rights groups have urged the government not to detain people under the Prevention of Terrorism Act
A Sri Lankan university student clashes with police during a demonstration in Colombo on Aug. 18

A Sri Lankan university student clashes with police during a demonstration in Colombo on Aug. 18. (Photo: AFP)

Published: August 23, 2022 10:55 AM GMT
Updated: August 23, 2022 10:56 AM GMT

Western nations and global rights groups have urged Sri Lanka not to detain activists under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and called for its abolition.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe last week approved the detention of Venerable Galwewa Siridamma Thera, a Buddhist monk, Wasantha Mudalige, convener of the Inter-University Students Federation, and activist Hashantha Jeewantha Gunathilake, for a period of 90-days under the PTA.

US Ambassador Julie Chung took to Twitter. “Using laws that don't conform with international human rights standards - like the PTA - erodes democracy in Sri Lanka. We encourage the government to uphold the rights of the people to express their views,” she said.

The EU delegation in Sri Lanka too tweeted to remind the government of its commitment to the moratorium on the use of the PTA. “Concerned about reports on the use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act in recent arrests,” it said in a tweet.

Meanwhile, Jehan Appuhami, a Catholic stage actor, was released on bail after surrendering to a court on Aug. 22. He was accused of forcibly entering the President's house during the people’s protests.

Police said 3,553 suspects have been arrested so far and 1,255 have been remanded in custody in connection with the violent acts that took place in May.

Lawyer Chandana Galappatti of Lawyers for the Rule of Law said that the PTA should really be used to protect people from terrorists.

"What Ranil Wickremasinghe is doing now seems to be using the law to protect terrorists from the people. Terrorists are political rogues who have robbed the country's wealth from ports and airports," said Galappatti.

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka informed the Inspector General of Police of its deep concerns due to the resurrection of the PTA.

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs G. L. Peiris said that the implementation of the PTA will cause the country to fall into a big problem both domestically and internationally.

The PTA was introduced in 1978 as a temporary measure during the civil war which ended in 2009. Hundreds of ordinary people, human rights defenders and journalists were detained under it over the years. They were left to survive in inhuman conditions and subjected to torture.

The PTA has served as a license for enforced disappearances and sexual violence, rights defenders say.

After the Easter Sunday attacks, many Muslims were reported to be detained under the PTA.

Amnesty International said the government should work to abolish the draconian law.

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