by Ermiza Tegal, Law & Society Trust, Colombo, February 2021
This report aimed to respond to three main questions (1) what are the international legal standards in relation to arbitrary arrest and detention particularly in the context of countering terrorism? (2) what is Sri Lanka’s domestic legal framework in protecting the rights of persons relating to arbitrary arrests and detentions with respect to countering
terrorism? and (3) what are the practical and lived experiences of people who have been impacted by terrorism related legislation prior to 2019 and after the Easter attacks of April 2019?
In responding to these questions, this report contributes to a conversation on the impact of terrorism related law on society. A key observation is the complete failure by the State to transparently document the implementation of the PTA. The main finding of this study is that the manner in which terrorism related laws are applied in Sri Lanka results in potentially long-term human suffering and represents legal and administrative practice that undermines the rule of law. The costs have been high and many appear to be irreversible for those affected.
LST’s vision is for a country in which citizens are assured of certainty of legal processes, are secure in the knowledge that all protections will be afforded to suspects who are part of a process of determining guilt, and that punishment will not be extra judicially meted out to citizens by use or misuse of administrative and legal measures. This report hopes to
contribute to the development of policy, legal and administrative discourse that must take place to secure human security and rule of law when countering terrorism.
This report seeks to add to the body of literature on the implementation and impacts of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) of Sri Lanka (1979) by offering some preliminary documentation of the ongoing experiences of deprivation of liberty of citizens after the Easter Sunday attacks of April 2019. The report connects these experiences with the long-standing use of the PTA over the past four decades. The report compares the use of the PTA against international human rights standards and domestic legal protections. The report also serves as a reminder that the experiences of suspects under the PTA are situated within the broader context of malaise of criminal justice administration in Sri Lanka. This work, dedicated to the individuals and families affected by the PTA, underscores the need for a complete rethink of the counter terrorism legal framework in Sri Lanka and the introduction of one that is centered on ensuring rule of law and ensuring human security for all people in Sri Lanka, including those who are accused of ‘terrorism’.