Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has announced that the first draft of the new counter terrorism law, which will replace the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) will be out this week. He made this statement while on an official tour to New Zealand, over the weekend. Wickremesinghe had said that the new draft will be available for discussion.
The announcement comes amidst increasing pressure, both locally and internationally, calling on the government to repeal the PTA.
Incidentally, Wickremesinghe’s announcement also comes just days after several thousand Tamils took to the streets in Jaffna highlighting their grievances and calling on the government to address their issues. At the Jaffna ‘Ezhuga Tamil’ (Rise Tamils) protest march organized Northern Chief Minister C. V. Wigneswaran, the protestors also demanded the government to repeal the PTA, and to release Tamil detainees.
In June, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka 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 May, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez said that if the government was to replace the PTA with any other legislation, then a robust and transparent national debate should take place that provides for full participation of civil society. The PTAallows for prolonged arbitrary detention without trial, and allows police investigators to use torture and ill-treatment as a routine method of work against suspects. With the help of the PTA, the police use the most brutal forms of torture used to interrogate suspects including; beatings with sticks or wires on the soles of the feet (falanga); suspension for hours while being handcuffed, asphyxiation using plastic bags drenched in kerosene and hanging of the person upside down; application of chili powder to face and eyes; and sexual violations including mutilation of the genital area and rubbing of chili paste or onions on the genital area.