By Mirudhula Thambiah
Sri Lankan Muslim expatriates yesterday (11) voiced disappointment over the current implementation of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) against muslims in Sri Lanka, and stressed that they would take up the human rights violations in relation to this rigid law at the 51st United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions scheduled to commence today (12) in Geneva, Switzerland.
Sri Lanka Muslim Expatriates’ Council International Affairs Co-ordinator Aiyoob Azmin told The Morning that human rights violations relating to the PTA should be raised during the UNHRC sessions, and that their organisation would mainly focus on the implementation of this draconian law against the muslims in Sri Lanka.
“Sri Lanka’s economic crisis is yet unsolved and continues to create immense human suffering, but the PTA continues to be in force. State-level abuse of this law, illegal arrests, detentions, and repression continues,” he added.
Azmin further noted that more than 300 young muslim men and women have been detained for months under the PTA in connection to the Easter Bombings, while bans on selected muslim organisations continue, and legal proceedings against muslim detainees who have already been illegally arrested are yet to be completed. Thus, Sri Lankan muslims, in particular, are facing the consequences of various human rights violations in connection with the PTA, he stated.
On these grounds, Sri Lankan muslim human rights activists living internationally demand that the UNHRC should continue to implement measures to ensure Sri Lanka’s accountability, and inter-community reconciliation, as well as to ensure the co-operation of the international community in response to Sri Lanka’s economic crisis, including justice for country’s economic mismanagement and corruption, he added.
“Sri Lanka faces an unprecedented economic crisis and political challenges. Regardless, Sri Lanka can never escape from its accountability in human rights matters before the international community and the UNHRC. It is a general observation that the governments responsible for human rights violations in Sri Lanka over the past two decades have not taken any promising progressive steps. In this situation, it has now been revealed that the governments in power are involved in several major economic irregularities. The data available from Sri Lanka also indicate that human rights violations have taken place through economic abuses as well, during the crisis period,” Azmin said.
Sri Lanka’s human rights issues are set to be focused on at the 51st session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission to be held from 12 September to 7 October 2022. As the 46/1 Human Rights Commission’s proposals will expire by this session, the UK is expected to re-table the proposals afresh. In this context, the General Reporting of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, and the Reporting of the Special Representatives have now been published ([A/HRC/51/5] and [A/HRC/51/26/Add.1]). Based on this, representatives of Sri Lankan Muslim civil societies, and human rights activists living internationally, have put forward the observations above.
Minister of Justice Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe PC recently noted that the less stringent National Security Bill is being currently formulated and that would repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act No. 48 of 1979.
Additionally, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) had re-launched its mobile signature campaign demanding to repeal the PTA on 10 September in Kankesanthurai. TNA Spokesman MP M.A. Sumanthiran PC said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe promised to repeal the PTA in 2017 in Brussels.
“It has been five years since, and it is still to be repealed,” he said.
“Early this year they gave a guarantee of a moratorium placed on PTA that it won’t be used. This was stated in Parliament and various international bodies. Despite all these promises, they have started using the PTA. The President had signed three detention orders recently under the PTA. Therefore, we re-energised the mobile campaign, and in the second phase from Kankesanthurai to Hambantota. It will go through all 25 districts, at least one day in each district, and reach Hambantota.”