Advocacy group calls on Sri Lanka to repeal ‘anti-terror’ law

The Sri Lankan government must repeal a controversial security act, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said on Tuesday, adding that the proposed reforms by the right-wing government were “woefully inadequate”.

The Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) gives security forces sweeping powers to arrest and imprison suspects.

“The PTA as it stands allows for arbitrary and indefinite deprivation of liberty of any individual, group of individuals, association, organisation or body of persons within or outside Sri Lanka suspected of a wide range of ill-defined activities that are considered unlawful under this Act,” the ICJ, which advocates for human rights, said in a statement on Tuesday.

The advocacy body said the proposed amendments to the law, such as the reduction of detention period, and allowing a person detained for 12 months to seek bail, still allow for “persons to be deprived of liberty for an entire year without being given the opportunity to be heard before a court of law”.

The UN Human Rights Council in September called for an “immediate moratorium” on the use of PTA, and that “a clear timeline be set for its comprehensive review or repeal”.

Critics warn the law is being used as a weapon targeting dissidents and minorities in the Buddhist-majority South Asian island nation.