British HC expresses concern over use of PTA in Sri Lanka

The British High Commission in Colombo says it is concerned about the reported use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) in Sri Lanka. 

PTA is seen as inconsistent with respect for human rights, it said. “We urge authorities to stand by their commitments to stop its use”, the High Commission said in a tweet.

Meanwhile the U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung yesterday said that using laws that do not conform with international human rights standards like the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) erodes democracy in Sri Lanka.

She said the US encourages the government of Sri Lanka to uphold the rights of the people to express their views.

“Using laws that don’t conform with international human rights standards – like the PTA – erodes democracy in Sri Lanka. We encourage the government to uphold the rights of the people to express their views,” she tweeted.

Meanwhile the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Defenders, Mary Lawlor recently said signing the detention order on three activists including Inter-University Students’ Federation (IUSF) convenor Wasantha Mudalige would mark a dark day for Sri Lanka.

In a tweet, Lawlor raised deep concerns about the arrest of Wasantha Mudalige, Ven. Galwewa Siridhamma Thera and Hashantha Jeevantha Gunathilake under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). She went on to urge President Ranil Wickremesinghe not to sign the detention order on the three activists.

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International yesterday charged that using a draconian anti-terror law to crackdown on protesters is a new low for the Sri Lankan government and that charges of terrorism do not commensurate with any offenses the protesters are alleged to have committed.

Responding to reports that Wasantha Mudalige, the convener of Inter University Students’ Federation, Galwewa Siridhamma Thero, the convener of Inter University Bhikku Federation, and Hashantha Jawantha Gunathilake, member of the Kelaniya University Students’ Union, who were arrested on 18 and 19 August, are being detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), Yamini Mishra, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director, said:

“Using a draconian anti-terror law to crackdown on protesters is a new low for the Sri Lankan government. This weaponizing of an already highly-criticized law, which should be repealed immediately, is a testament to how the authorities are unwilling to withstand any form of criticism and are systematically stifling dissenting voices. This is against Sri Lanka’s international human rights obligations, especially the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.”

“Charges of terrorism do not commensurate with any offenses the protesters are alleged to have committed. Such an action by the authorities is excessive, disproportionate and in violation of international law. The PTA allows for detention of suspects for up to a year without charge, which is in violation of international law. The defence minister must not sign an order to detain them further under the PTA.”

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