"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
 
- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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INDICTMENT AGAINST SRI LANKA

 SRI LANKA PREVENTION OF TERRORISM ACT -
'UGLY BLOT ON STATUTE BOOK OF ANY CIVILISED COUNTRY'

[See also: Prevention of Terrorism Act & the Martyrdom of Thangathurai & Kuttimuni]


"The Sri Lanka Prevention of Terrorism Act contains a number of disturbing provisions from the human rights point of view... A number of the objectionable features of the Sri Lankan Act are similar to provisions of the widely criticised 1967 Terrorism Act of South Africa. The South African Act defines a 'terrorist', inter alia, as a person who has committed or attempted to commit any act which could 'cause, encourage or further feelings of hostility between the White and other inhabitants of the Republic'. This provision has been criticised as unduly vague since speeches or writings which criticise the apartheid system, for example, could be considered terrorist activities under this defintion. The same criticism may be directed against a similar section of the Sri Lankan Act [section2(1)(h)] which states that

"Any person who..by words either spoken or intended to be read... causes or intends to cause commission of acts of violence or religious, racial or communal disharmony or feelings of ill-will or hostility between different communities or racial or religious groups shall be guilty of an offence under this Act"

Such a broad definition could be construed as encompassing the advocacy of a separate state by the Tamils or criticism of policies which appear to be discriminatory against minorities.

The South African like the Sri Lankan Act is retroactive. Similarly to the Sri Lankan Act, it permits prolonged detention without access to legal counsel on suspicion of commission of an offence...

The South African Terrorism Act has been called 'a piece of legislation which must shock the conscience of a lawyer.' Many of the provisions of the Sri Lankan Act are equally contrary to accepted principles of the Rule of Law.

While a substantial number of the provisions of the Terrorism Act are clearly contrary to internationally acepted minimum standards for criminal procedure, they also appear to be contrary to the provisions of the Sri Lankan Constitution which provides that every person held in custody or detained shall be brought before the judge of the nearest comptent court and shall be held in custody or detained only on the order of the judge.(article 13.2)..

The Prevention of Terrorism Act was declared an urgent Bill and rushed through Parliament without the opportunity for public discussion or debate or for any challenge to its constitutional validity." - Virginia Leary: Ethnic Conflict and Violence in Sri Lanka - Report of a Mission to Sri Lanka on behalf of the International Commission of Jurists, July/August 1981


"These provisions (in the Prevention of Terrorism Act) are quite extraordinarily wide. No legislation conferring even remotely comparable powers is in force in any other free democracy operating under the Rule of Law, however troubled it may be by politically motivated violence. Indeed there is only one known precedent for the power to impose restriction orders under section 11 of the Sri Lankan P.T.A., and that - as Professor Leary rightly pointed out in her Report - is the comparable legislation currently in force in South Africa... such a provision is an ugly blot on the statute book of any civilised country." - Paul Sieghart: Sri Lanka: A Mounting Tragedy of Errors - Report of International Commission of Jurists 1984


"...The present government has enacted both permanent preventive detention legislation and temporary emergency legislation...some of the terms and utilisation of which bring Sri Lanka, a signatory to the International Covenant and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, into conflict with her obligations under international law.." - Patricia Hyndman: Sri Lanka - Escalating Violence and Erosions of Democracy: Interim Report to Lawasia Human Rights Standing Committee, March 1985


"...Under this law, a person can be detained for 18 months without trial and court decisions to transfer suspects to the custody of the judiciary can be reversed by Parliament. The brutal manner in which the Act has been enforced, as well as the widespread killings and torture by the security forces, have been investigated and condemned by international human rights organisations such as Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists, as well as other observers..." - Tamils of Sri Lanka: Minority Rights Group Report September 1983

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