Sri Lanka: UN findings reveal scale of abuses in country’s ‘war on terror’

Responding to the findings of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson, during his visit to Sri Lanka from 10-14 July 2017, David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Senior Advisor on South Asia, said: “The UN Special Rapporteur’s findings lay bare the shocking extent to which the Sri Lankan authorities have abandoned their human rights responsibilities under the guise of counter-terrorism.

“The authorities have hidden behind the Prevention of Terrorism Act to commit a litany of violations that make for very uncomfortable reading. From forgotten prisoners languishing behind bars for years without trial, to whole communities targeted for persecution and harassment, to endemic torture, this report must serve as a catalyst for wholesale changes.

“This must start with repealing the Act and replacing it with legislation that meets international human rights standards. And, if the country is ever to truly move forward, those responsible on all sides for serious violations must be brought to justice.”

Background

The UN Special Rapporteur’s key findings were as follows:
– People arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) have languished in detention without trial for years and many of those who have been tried were convicted based solely on a confession to a police officer that may have been extracted under torture.
– The use of torture was found to be so commonplace and widespread as to warrant a review of the validity of all past PTA convictions where a confession to the police was central to prosecution.
– Counter-terrorism in Sri Lanka has targeted whole communities for persecution, including harassment and arbitrary arrest and detention, and in particular Tamils. At the same time Government has done little to hold to account those who committed gross human rights violations during and since the conflict.