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Saturday, December 5, 2020

Sri Lanka: Government to Categorise of Tamil Prisoners before Releasing Them

A protest in Jaffna town calling for the immediate release of Tamil political prisoners; Tamil Guardian photo)

While reiterating that there are no political prisoners in Sri Lanka’s jails, the government today reassured that the issue of LTTE suspects incarcerated for alleged acts of terrorism would be addressed on a priority basis and those who have evidence of direct involvement of terrorist acts against them would be prosecuted as early as possible.

Cabinet spokesman and Minister Rajitha Senaratne told the weekly cabinet news briefing that President Maithripala Sirisena had instructed the relevant law enforcement authorities to accelerate the judicial process regarding the persons in remand custody as suspects on terrorist activities during and after the conflict.

He said the majority of some 12,000 LTTE carders who had surrendered to the government during the end of the conflict had been rehabilitated by the government except those who had been accused of terrorist activities.

Those who had been convicted and are under an ongoing judicial process and those who had been remanded as suspects are still detained. Considering the proposal made by Minister D.M. Swaminathan, the Cabinet has requested the Justice Minister to present the recommendation on accelerating the judicial procedures on these detainees to the Cabinet of Ministers.

The detainees are categorized broadly into three groups as those who are already convicted, those who had already been issued a charge sheet and pending trial or partially heard and those who had not been framed with any charge sheet and kept in the remand custody as suspects.

The cabinet gave the nod to a set of proposals presented by Minister Swaminathan that require the Justice Ministry, Law & Order and Prison Reforms Ministry and the Ministry of Defence to separately submit a list of persons who are presently in prison and in remand custody for various conflicts related offences. The list should provide the details of offences on a category-wise basis as set out in the memorandum. This may also identify minor offences including the reasons for detention.

The minister proposed to frame a guideline as to how amnesty or pardon would he granted for persons under the 3 categories by a team of officials drawn from relevant Ministries. This may also include granting of bail under certain circumstances.

In case where there is strong evidence and where the offender has committed major offences in the opinion of the Attorney-General, the legal proceedings and cases should be fast tracked within a short time frame.

He also proposed the consideration by the President to grant amnesty or pardon as a goodwill gesture and as part of the commitment to the t resolution and grant such amnesty during Christmas, New Year day and Thaipongal Day which falls on January 15, 2016 and to authorize the Ministry of Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs to formulate a scheme to provide State financial assistance through the relevant Divisional secretaries and other state agencies in order to extend support in livelihood, income generation, self-employment and settlement and re-integration activities. (Sandun A Jayasekera)

Original Caption: No Political Prisoners in Sri Lanka: Govt.
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