(Lanka-e-News -12.April.2013, 9.45PM) A petition has been submitted to the Colombo diplomatic missions to force the Sri Lankan government to immediately withdraw the proposed Sri Lanka Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). Below is the complete petition sent by more than 500 people including clergy, academics, professionals, doctors, lawyers, trade unions, civil organizations, artists, journalists, filmmakers, writers.
11th April, 2023
To: Diplomatic Missions in Colombo
We, the undersigned organisations and individuals from Sri Lanka write to you regarding the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) proposed by the Government of Sri Lanka. The ATA was published in the official government gazette on 17th March 2023 and issued on 22nd March 2023. Indications are that it may be tabled in Parliament in late April 2023 after which it could be enacted as law in May 2023 if approved by Parliament.
We categorically state that the ATA, which is intended to replace the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), is an even more serious threat to democracy in Sri Lanka. We are demanding that the Government withdraw this atrocious proposed law with immediate effect and repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act. We seek your support in this endeavour.
The definition of ‘terrorism’ in the ATA is not in compliance with international guidelines and casts a wide net over ordinary criminal offences (Clauses 3, 8, 9, 10,11, 12 and 16). The ATA empowers:
■ Any Deputy Inspector General of Police to detain a person without a judge having meaningful oversight (Clause 31).
■ Any Senior Superintendent of Police can obtain from court curfew-like Orders (not to enter any specified area/premises, not to leave a specified area/premises and remain within a specified area, not to travel on any road, and not to transport anything or anybody) (Clause 61).
■ The President to proscribe organisations (Clause 82), to apply for Restriction Orders restraining persons in various ways (Clause 83), to declare curfew for 24-hour periods (a power currently provided only under the Public Security Ordinance to be used in public security situations with Parliamentary oversight), to declare ‘Prohibited Places’ (Clause 85), and to potentially make law in the form of ‘regulations’ and ‘directions’ relating to the Police and Military (Clauses 98 & 99).
■ The Police to seize movable property (not land) for 3 days and ask a Magistrate to extend the detention of property for 90 days (Clause 86).
■ The Attorney General, without having to prove a suspect's guilt, incentivizes them to accept rehabilitation and other penalties (Clause 100).
■ The Military to exercise powers of arrest, search persons and places, and take documents and articles to the military (Clauses 20 & 22) militarising civilian administration.
■ Imposing the death penalty, overriding the moratorium on its use in place since 1976.
■ The State to remove protections granted to suspects under ordinary criminal law (Clauses 57, 58, 59, 67, 71 & 80)
The Government of Sri Lanka has disingenuously proposed a law with a far greater capacity to infringe the human rights of its citizens than the PTA. The ATA both retains and enhances PTA provisions that will shrink the space for active civilian participation in democracy, subject communities to intensive state surveillance, and militarise the State, thus intensifying the damage done by the PTA.
The PTA has been the source of countless human rights violations. Many Tamils detained under the PTA have spent up to 16 years in detention under the PTA before being acquitted by courts as not guilty. Since 2019, many Muslims have also been similarly detained. The PTA has also been used to unjustly detain lawyers, religious leaders, journalists, student activists, opposition politicians and human rights activists from all ethnic communities. Many PTA detainees have been subjected to horrendous torture. Commitments to replace the PTA cannot be used to introduce even worse, anti-democratic legislation, such as the ATA.
Sri Lankans have called for the repeal of the PTA for many years. Over the past two years, there have been concerted public campaigns, including by PTA victims and their families, opposition politicians, religious and community leaders, and lawyers to repeal the PTA. Previous attempts to reform the PTA (such as in 2022) and replace it with similar laws (such as in 2018) were cosmetic efforts to appease national and international pressure, without any genuine intention to address the massive rights violations accrued under it.
In 2015, the Sri Lankan Government pledged to repeal the PTA and to replace it with, “anti-terrorism legislation in accordance with contemporary international best practices,” through UN Human Rights Council resolution 30/1, when the present Executive President was the Prime Minister. However, a careful analysis of the ATA reveals that the overarching content, tone and spirit are far from compliant with international best practices. The few positive features of the ATA are those that should be part of the ordinary criminal legal system. The ATA’s negatives far outweigh the positives in terms of the dangers to human rights, rule of law and democracy.
Since the publication of the ATA, it has been widely condemned in Sri Lanka, including by opposition politicians, trade unions, academics, legal experts, religious and community leaders, and PTA victims and their families, through discussions, street protests and media. Regional and International human rights groups have also condemned the ATA.
Given the limitations in the legal system and difficulties for citizens to challenge draft laws such as the ATA in the Supreme Court, the highly political nature of this government initiative and our past experiences in judicially challenging attempts at replacing or reforming the PTA, it is unlikely we will get adequate redress from petitioning the Supreme Court to prevent the ATA's enactment.
It is our considered and consistent position that the PTA must be repealed, and must not be replaced with any legislation that contains any extraordinary executive powers. If absolutely necessary, subject to a process of consultation with particularly affected individuals and communities and relevant experts, well-defined new offences could be introduced to the Penal Code and subject to normal criminal law safeguards.
Given all this, we urge you to utilise your esteemed offices and the diplomatic, political and economic relations you have with the present Sri Lankan government to take a principled position to promote and protect human rights, rule of law and democracy for all Sri Lankans. We urge you to take a firm stance on the fact that the overall content, tone and spirit of the ATA not only makes reform meaningless, but undermines Sri Lanka’s commitment to a counter-terrorism legal framework compliant with human rights protections.
1. Immediately withdraw the proposed Anti Terrorism Act gazetted on 17th March 2023.
2. Commit to an immediate moratorium on the use of the PTA and take expeditious measures to repeal it.
3. Consider the extensive array of existing terrorism-related legislation in Sri Lanka, including the terrorism-related offences in the Penal Code, as part of Sri Lanka’s compliance with international obligations to have comprehensive legislation to counter terrorism.
4. Review the existing legal framework for countering terrorism to identify any specific offences against the State that need to be introduced; draft well defined offences for insertion into the Penal Code which is subject to the safeguards in the Criminal Procedure Code; and make any deviations from normal safeguards afforded to criminal suspects proportionate and justified and publish these for public consultation prior to enactment.
We attach herewith a six-page detailed analysis with background and key concerns related to the ATA. We are very open to engage in further discussions on this with you.
We look forward to your response.
1. Mr. Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
2. Ms. Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while counter-terrorism
3. Regional and International human rights organisations
Aruni Samarakoon - University of Ruhuna
Dr. Ajith Jayasekara - Consultant Psychiatrist/Sr. Lecturer, University of Ruhuna
Dr. Farah Mihlar
Dr. Farzana Haniffa - University of Colombo
Dr. Geethika Dharmasinghe - Colgate University
Dr. Kaushalya Ariyarathne
Dr. Kaushalya Perera - University of Colombo
Dr. Mahendran Thiruvarangan - University of Jaffna
Dr. Nilu Anandappa - Educationist, NICE International School
Dr. Ranil D. Guneratne (Retired)
Dr. Ruvan Weerasinghe - University of Colombo
Dr. Sanjana Hattotuwa
Dushyanthi Mendis - University of Colombo
Hasini Lecamwasam - University of Peradeniya
Kanchana N. Ruwanpura
M. Sitralega - Academic / Scholar /Independent Researcher
Maduranga Kalugampitiya - University of Peradeniya
Nadeesh de Silva - Open University of Colombo
Nicola Perera - University of Colombo
Prof. Ajit Abeysekera - Scientist
Prof. Arjuna Parakrama - University of Peradeniya
Prof. Camena Guneratne
Prof. Sivamohan Sumathy - University of Peradeniya
S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole
Shamala Kumar - University of Peradeniya
Sharika Thiranagama - Stanford University
A.M. Nandawathi Hamine
Amalini De Sayrah
Amila Pradeep Kumara Jayathilaka
Anuruddha Bandara - Social Activist
Aruna Paul - Social Activist
C. Tozer - Women's Rights Activist
Chathuranga M. Pradeep Kumara
Ekeshawara Kottegoda Vithana
Fathima Nabeela Iqbal
H.M. Chathurika Sewwanadi
Hasanah Cegu Isadeen
J.L.R.C. Liyanage - Political Activist
Jeana De Zoysa
Jeremy R. Liyanage - Bridging Lanka
Joanne Senn - Counselling Psychologist
K. A. Karunarathne
K.J. Brito Fernando
K. Nihal Ahamed
Malinga Prasad Jayaratna
Malith Indika Jayarathna
Marisa de Silva
Minoli de Almeida - Association for Constructive Engagement
Nishanthini Stalin George - Women's Rights Activist
P. Morin Rose
P. Sampath Gunathilake
Prasantha Dinesh Kumara
Rizani Hamin - Women's Rights Activist
S. Sendil Sivaganam
Sandunika Nimali Sirisena - Student Activist
Singarasa Jeevanayagam - Kilinochchi District Citizen Committee
Suchith Abeyewickreme - Civic Activist
Vanie Simon - Women's Rights Activist
Vasuki Jeyasankar - Women’s Rights Activist & Artist, Batticaloa
W.B. Samitha Madurangi
W.F. Priyankara Costa
W.M. Chathura Nishan
Ashfaque Mohamed - Film Director
Bennett Rathnayake - Film Director
Chandrika Gadiewasam - Freelance Writer
Dr. Vinoth Ramachandra
Namini Panchala De Silva
Ruwanthie de Chickera - Playwright
Sulochana Peiris - Writer/Researcher/Documentary maker
Rev. Ajit Perera
Rev. Andrew Devadason - Vicar, St. Paul's Church, Milagiriya
Rev. Dr. Jayasiri T. Peiris
Rev. Fr. Bennette Mellawa - Director, Caritas Anuradhapura
Rev. Fr. F.C.J. Gnanaraj (Nehru)
Rev. Fr. Jeevantha Peiris
Rev. Fr. Jeyabalan Croos
Rev. Fr. M. Sathivel
Rev. Fr. Nandana Manatunga
Rev. Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda
Rev. Fr. Terence Fernando
Rev. Sr. Deepa Fernando
Rev. Sr. M.J. Vijaya
Rev. Sr. Nichola Emmanuel
Rev. Sr. Noel Christine Fernando
Rev. Sr. Rasika Pieris
Rev. W.P. Ebenezer Joseph
Tempitiye Sugathananda himi
Thenne Gnanananda himi
Ven. Fr. Samuel J. Ponniah
Wekandawala Rahula himi - Environmentalist, School of Nature
Anil De Silva
Bulathsinhalage Chamila Niroshani
Chandima Nilantha Rathnapriya
Dinali de Zoysa
Dino De Fonseka
Dr. Mareena Thaha Reffai - Almuslimaath
Hilary N. Wirasinha
Peter Rezel - Chartered Accountant
Ranjith de Silva
Shehani Claudette Perera
Steffan De Rosairo
Tharindu Damith Madushan Abeyrathna
Veena D. Bakshi
Yasantha Chamara Jayasooriya
Aadhil Ali Sabry
Buddika Gayan Samaraweera
Dilrukshi Handunnetti, AAL
Indunil Usgoda Arachchi
Melani Manel Perera
P. Nirosh Kumar
Rekha Nilukshi Herath
Ruwan Laknath Jayakody
Sampath Samarakoon - Editor, Vikalpa.org
Sandun Priyankara Vithanage
Selvaraja Rajasegar - Editor, Maatram.org
Ameer Faaiz, AAL
Bhavani Fonseka, AAL
C. Ranitha Gnanarajah, AAL
Ermiza Tegal, AAL
Ishara M. Jayasena, AAL
Jayantha Dehiaththage, AAL
M. Mangaleswary Shanker, AAL
Neshan Gunasekera, AAL
Nuwan Bopege, AAL
Prathap Welikumbura, AAL
Ramalingam Ranjan, AAL
Rev. Sr. Ramanie Fernando, AAL
Sabra Zahid, AAL
Safana Gul Begum, AAL
Sarah Arumugam, AAL
Soraya M. Deen
Suren D. Perera, AAL
Swasthika Arulingam, AAL
Ananda Galappatti - Medical Anthropologist
Dr. C.S. Jamunanantha
Dr. Dishani Hasanthika
Dr. Neelika Dissanayake - Consultant Paediatrician
Dr. Nilan Fernando
Dr. Rajeewa Matharage
Dr. Vindya Gunasekara - Consultant Paediatric Nephrologist
Evangeline S. Ekanayake - Psychologist
Somasundaram Norman Roshanth - Consultant Paediatrician (Acting)
Affected Women's Forum, Ampara
Alliance for Minorities
Ampara District Alliance for Land Rights
Caritas Sri Lanka
Community Welfare and Development Fund
Eastern Social Development Foundation (ESDF)
Ekabadda Prejasanwardana Kantha Mahasangamaya
Endearment Friend Organisation
Estate Peoples Education Center
by (2023-04-12 16:24:57)
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