Who lives in a house like this?

Charge or release. Them’s your options. 

We have heard it before. In fact, if word documents had predictive text, that might well be our default sentence here at Amnesty. When you hear about people currently being held in detention, in camps, without charge or trial under repressive anti-terrorism laws, your mind might well flit to Guantanamo bay. But when the numbers of people being held in camps is revealed as in the thousands, where then? 

Surely we would have heard about that? Surely we would not be scrabbling around guessing at what sort of country might be able to conceal such huge numbers of people, held without ever having been formally charged, let alone fairly tried. 

Amnesty produced a briefing paper today, and aptly titled it Forgotten Prisoners

It highlights the plight of thousands of people in Sri Lanka, who are being held secretly where they are vulnerable to a range of abuses, including torture or even being killed in custody. 

People are being arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and Amnesty International will be raising its concerns at a session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva today. 

Sri Lanka has been under a state of emergency almost continually since 1971, and successive governments have used “national security” as an excuse to introduce a range of broad emergency regulations. 

This has led to the erosion and even suspension of people’s rights to freedom of thought, conscience and expression, as well as their right to live free from arbitrary arrest and detention. 

The national security laws grant state authorities sweeping powers of detention which are frightening in their scope and permit people to be held in secret locations. Security agents, often without proper uniforms or identification, can detain and hold suspects for months or years without a warrant or being produced before a magistrate.  

The laws must be repealed immediately if the government is to show it is serious about reconciliation in the country and establishing a lasting peace. As for the detainees? We’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; charge or release them.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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