EU urges Lanka to replace anti-terror law in compliance with global norms

Colombo, Feb 16 (PTI) The EU has urged Sri Lanka to repeal its controversial anti-terror law and replace with a new one in compliance with the international norms.

Sri Lanka’s human rights record, particularly over the impunity enjoyed by law enforcement officers, has been the subject of international condemnation.

The country has been grappling with a new counter-terrorism law in view of the criticism on the Prevention of Terrorist Act (PTA) of 1979. This was enacted at the beginning of the Tamil separatist war in the north and east regions.

Sri Lanka was urged by the European Union (EU) to repeal the current anti-terror law and replace it with a new counter-terrorism law in keeping with the international standards, according to a statement issued at the end of the 22nd session of the EU-Sri Lanka Joint Commission in Brussels on February 14.

The EU welcomed Sri Lanka’s steps taken to implement the UN Human Rights Council resolution of October 2015 and setting up of the Office on Missing Persons (OMP) and passing of laws to set up the Office for Reparations.

The country’s human rights record due to the PTA was under international focus which led to three UN rights body resolutions calling for accountability for alleged human rights abuses blamed both on the Tamil separatist group and and the security forces.

The rights groups have long demanded for repealing of PTA as it gave troops sweeping powers to arrest and detain suspects indefinitely.

Currently, a parliamentary oversight committee is examining the proposed counter-terrorism act, the committee chief and parliamentarian Mayantha Dissanayake said.

The EU also expressed concern after Sri Lanka resumed death penalty. It has reminded Sri Lanka that its commitment to 27 conventions on human and labour rights, environment and good governance are conditions to qualify for the EU’s GSP+ preferential trade scheme.

Sri Lanka had benefited by 2.2 billion euros worth of exports to the EU between June 2017 and May 2018 since the facility was restored to Sri Lanka after its suspension in 2010.

Sri Lanka’s department of prisons on Monday said that applications have been sought to recruit two hangmen, days after President Maithripala Sirisena vowed to end a 42-year moratorium on death penalty within two months. Sri Lanka has not executed a death row convict since June 1976.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had launched a military campaign for a separate Tamil homeland in the northern and eastern provinces of the island nation for nearly 30 years before its collapse in 2009 after the Sri Lankan Army killed its supreme leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.

The UN Human Rights Council has called for an international probe into the alleged war crimes during the military conflict with the LTTE.

According to the government figures, around 20,000 people are missing due to various conflicts including the 30-year-long separatist war which claimed at least 100,000 lives.

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