Annual Report 2013
The state of the world's human rights

9 March 2011

Sri Lanka must release thousands being held under repressive laws

Sri Lanka must release thousands being held under repressive laws

Amnesty International has called 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.
 
An Amnesty International briefing paper, Forgotten Prisoners, released on Wednesday, 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 from May 2010.

“Sri Lanka’s so-called national security laws, and in particular the PTA, are being used to harass, intimidate and punish critical voices,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director.

“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.”

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 of 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.

“Amnesty International recognizes 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,” said Sam Zarifi.

“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.”

Amnesty International will again be raising its concerns about Sri Lanka’s emergency laws at a 9 March session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, including at a seminar about the laws and their application that will include lawyers from Sri Lanka.

Read More

Sri Lanka: Forgotten prisoners: Sri Lanka uses anti-terrorism laws to detain thousands (Briefing paper, 8 March 2011)

Issue

Death In Custody 
Detention 
Extrajudicial Executions And Other Unlawful Killings 
Torture And Ill-treatment 

Country

Sri Lanka 

Region

Asia And The Pacific 

@amnestyonline on twitter

News

28 January 2015

New evidence shows that the Nigerian military were repeatedly warned of impending Boko Haram attacks on Baga and Monguno which claimed hundreds of lives, and failed to... Read more »

22 January 2015

The Attorney General of Mexico has failed to properly investigate all lines of inquiry into allegations of complicity by armed forces and others in authority in the... Read more »

26 January 2015

Tucked in a dark corner of a secret detention centre in The Philippines was a mock-up of the multicolour wheel used in the "Wheel of Fortune". But rather than spinning for... Read more »

20 January 2015

European governments that cooperated with the CIA’s secret detention, interrogation, and torture operations as part of the USA’s global “war on terror” must act urgently... Read more »

29 January 2015

Further floggings of Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi could cause debilitating long-term physical and mental damage, a medical expert from the charity Freedom from Torture has... Read more »