Sri Lanka’s first post-war parliament must get rid of draconian emergency laws that have allowed for decades of widespread human rights abuses, international human rights defenders, Amnesty International said.

Ahead of the first sitting of Sri Lanka’s first post-war parliament on April 22, Amnesty International is calling on Sri Lanka to lift the State of Emergency that has been in force almost continuously since 1971, and to abolish the Prevention of Terrorism Act and other associated emergency security laws and regulations, replacing them with human rights-friendly laws.

In a statement, Amnesty International further said that the emergency laws grant state authorities sweeping powers of detention and permit the use of secret prisons, a practice that encourages human rights abuses like enforced disappearances, torture and death in custody, which could constitute crimes under international law. In the last thirty years, thousands of Sri Lankans have spent years in detention without trial.

Amnesty International added that over the past year, the government has increasingly used these laws to crack down on journalists, political opponents, and trade unionists.

“Sri Lanka must repeal these laws and end impunity for human rights violations if it wants to move forward,” said Madhu Malhotra, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Director.  “The Prevention of Terrorism Act, the Public Security Ordinance and other emergency provisions in Sri Lanka enable security forces to systematically violate human rights.”

Since the war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ended almost a year ago, Sri Lankan legislators have continued to extend the State of Emergency on a monthly basis. Successive governments have ignored calls for repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

“The war is over. Perpetuation of the emergency is now just being used as a weapon against political opposition, and as a quick fix for poor law enforcement practices and a dysfunctional justice system,” said Madhu Malhotra.

Amnesty International is calling on the new parliament to press for the release of people detained under Sri Lanka’s emergency laws unless they are charged with an internationally recognized criminal offence, and are tried in regular civilian courts to international standards for fair trial.

Source: Daily Mirror – 20.04.2010

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