Last week, WATCHDOG published a report on the situation of detainees remanded under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). The report “PTA detainees- Ignored under “yhapalanaya?” is based on interviews and an official list of 181 detained persons currently awaiting trial or the continuation of their trial. Yhapalanaya, or “good governance” was the election slogan of President Sirisena.

Some key findings include:

  • Five persons have been remanded for the past 18-19 years without having their cases concluded.
  • In some cases it took up to 15 years to file charges, several persons remain in remand prisons without charge.
  • Two cases remain without conclusion after 400-500 court hearings; many persons in remand had multiple cases against them in different courts.
  • The release of those detained and later found to be innocent can take several years.

Many detainees reported inhumane conditions of detention, torture and coerced confessions. Harassment and surveillance continue even after their release, fostering the general climate of fear and intimidation. This not only affects the physical and psychological health of the victims, but also has an impact on their families and wider Tamil society. Yet, the new government of Sri Lanka has failed to take any steps towards repealing or even amending the repressive PTA. Indeed, recent reports suggest that at least 21 persons have been arrested under the PTA after the elections on January 8th.

To read case studies and the full report, please click here.

The findings of this report show that arbitrary detention, torture and the dysfunctional judicial system persist as serious issues- even with the change in government. The new government of Sri Lanka must live up to its obligations under international human rights law and ensure that remand in custody follows lawful arrest, is both reasonable and necessary, and allows for due process guarantees.

Furthermore, the new government of Sri Lanka is urged to:

  • Provide clarity on the places of detention and the number of persons currently detained under the PTA;
  • Repeal repressive anti-terror legislation by abolishing the PTA and not replacing it with similar legislation.
  • Guarantee due process: including redress, and release all individuals unlawfully/arbitrarily deprived of their liberty.
  • End impunity by effectively investigating allegations of torture and other human rights violations, identifying and punishing the perpetrators.