Sri Lanka: New Amnesty paper highlights plight of thousands being held under repressive laws

Amnesty to raise concerns at Human Rights Council in Geneva today

  Amnesty International is calling on the Sri Lankan government to immediately release thousands of people currently being held in detention without charge or trial and to amend its repressive anti-terrorism laws to conform to international standards.    Amnesty International will be raising its concerns at a session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva today (9 March), including at a seminar about the laws and their application that will include lawyers from Sri Lanka.   An Amnesty International briefing paper, Forgotten Prisoners, released today, highlights how some of those detained are being held secretly where they are vulnerable to a range of abuses, including torture or being killed in custody.     More than 1,900 people already arrested and detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) remain in custody pending investigations, according to the last relevant official statements.    Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director, said:   “Sri Lanka’s so-called national security laws, and in particular the PTA, are being used to harass, intimidate and punish critical voices.   “Thousands of people are languishing in detention without charge or trial under these laws, outside even the protections offered by the Sri Lankan legal system and in clear violation of recognised international human rights standards.   “Amnesty International recognises the right and duty of the Sri Lankan government to protect its citizens from violence by armed groups, but these laws, and in particular the PTA, are too often abusive and too rarely result in proper convictions of alleged wrongdoers.    “Despite the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in May 2009, the government has failed to demonstrate its commitment to human rights and the rule of law by getting rid of the PTA.”   Background information: 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 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.

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