Sri Lanka: The conflict’s legacy of impunity endures

On the eighth anniversary of the end of Sri Lanka’s decades-long conflict, Amnesty International calls on the government to repeal the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and ensure that any legislation it introduces to replace it meets international standards.
The failure to repeal the notorious law is one of several commitments that the to victims of the conflict, and enact reforms that would prevent further human rights violations.
“The PTA is a highly repressive law that contributed to many of the human rights violations that took place during and following Sri Lanka’s conflict. Despite being in power for two years, the current government has failed on its promise to repeal the law,” said Biraj Patnaik, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director.
“What’s worse, it’s considering adopting a new Counter Terrorism Act that would continue to give the police very broad powers to arrest and detain suspects without charge and place them in administrative detention.”
With the PTA still in force, the police retain broad powers to arrest and detain suspects without effective human rights safeguards. Under the Act, suspects can also be subjected to secret and incommunicado detention – practices that heighten the risk of torture and enforced disappearance.
Amnesty International has received credible testimony alleging human rights violations in the aftermath of the conflict, with Sri Lankan security forces subjecting people to arbitrary arrest, detention, torture, rape and enforced disappearance.
The PTA shifts the burden of proof onto a detainee alleging torture or other ill-treatment. The law has also been used to restrict people’s rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association.
On the eighth anniversary of the end of the conflict, Amnesty International is calling on the Sri Lankan government to present a clear and coordinated roadmap to implement its commitments to justice, truth, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, including repeal of the PTA.
“Transparency is absolutely vital. Draft legislation, including the CTA, should be open for public and civil society consultation,” said Biraj Patnaik.
Despite the government’s commitments, it has yet to establish effective justice mechanisms to investigate abuses of international human rights and international humanitarian by all sides of the conflict, including acts reported during the final months of the conflict that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
In March, the human rights organization published a major report detailing the struggles of the loved ones of the disappeared in their pursuit of justice.
“Each anniversary is a depressing reminder of the conflict’s ugly and unresolved legacy. Every year that passes is a reminder of the horrific injustices that were visited on people and what little has been done to address them. Eight years is a long time to wait. The victims and their families should not have to wait any longer. Justice is long overdue,” said Biraj Patnaik.
Amnesty International is deeply concerned about the harassment of activists and victims who are campaigning for justice and memorializing the victims of the conflict.
“It is appalling that nearly a decade after the conflict ended, people are still being prevented from remembering the dead and grieving their loss. No one should be stopped from mourning the dead or demanding justice. This is the very least that the authorities owe to them,” said Biraj Patnaik.
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