The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka has welcomed the government’s decision to repeal the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), and the directive issued by President Maithripala Sirisena on the arrest and detention of persons under the PTA and a state of emergency when in force.
“The Directives would facilitate the Commission exercise its powers, functions and duties in this regard and would without doubt reinforce the protection afforded to persons subject to arrest and detention under extraordinary laws,” Dr. Deepika Udagama, Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka said in a statement.
The Commission while welcoming the government’s decision to repeal the PTA, urged the government to ensure that the national security legislation, which is being proposed to replace the PTA, adheres to international human rights standards.
“In this regard the Commission recommends the following elements that have been identified by the UN Special Rapporteur on Protecting and Promoting Human Rights While Countering Terrorism (hereinafter the Special Rapporteur, which should be an integral part of any future national security legislation that is drafted,” the statement said.
Dr. Udagama also said that these recommendations have already been shared with the Prime Minister in the hope the Commission will be able to engage in dialogue with, and extend its support to, the government to ensure national security laws adhere to international human rights standards and policies.
“It should be kept in mind recognizing the need to protect human rights during states of emergencies is not unique to international human rights law and is found in Sri Lanka jurisprudence as well. For instance, the Supreme Court in Sunil Kumar Rodrigo v. Chandrananda de Silva (Supreme Court minutes of 19 August 1997) held that the right of a person to be informed of reasons for arrest at the time of arrest, and the right of a detenue to be produced before a judicial authority within a reasonable period of time, had to be respected even in cases of detention under emergency regulations,” the statement said.
The Commission reiterated the need to be guided by the principle that any limitation on rights should adhere to the test of necessity and proportionality, and should be subject to judicial review when drafting national security legislation.