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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Anti-Terrorism Bill unnecessarily expands the scope of acts of terrorism & stipulated guidelines are vague -BASL (full report)

We publish below selected excerpts from the  Special Committee consisting of senior members of the legal profession were appointed by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka in order to review and identify the implications of the aforementioned Anti-Terrorism Bill. The full report is attached.

Offences of Terrorism

“The Committee notes that clause 3 does not encapsulates a clear definition of what acts
amounts to offences of terrorism. While the Committee concedes that certain guidelines
are presented under clause 3 (1) of the said Bill, it is the view that the stipulated
guidelines are formulated in vague manner. Thereby the said clause leaves room to be
haphazardly and broadly interpreted in a manner that could infringe upon the rights of
the citizens.

Freedom of Expression 

” The Committee submits that clause 10 broadly classifies acts as stated under clause 10
(1) and (2) as acts of encouragement of terrorism. It is the opinion of this Committee that
the phrase “speaks any word or words, or makes signs or visible representations which is
likely to be understood…” could also cover harmless actions of the public such as
organising and informing the public of a future protest and/ or a strike which is to be
conducted against a respective government, clapping and / or shouting slogans for a
passing by possession etc.

Terrorist publication

“The Committee observes that the word “terrorist publication” has a narrow
interpretation and the law enforcement authorities can misuse the said term to
apprehend and take innocent citizen to custody upon instances where they show their
displeasure against the government, or when they share content against the government.
Therefore there must be a clear and precise interpretation under clause 105 of the Bill.
Thereby it is the recommendation of this Committee that clause 11 of the said Bill be
revisited in order to prevent a subjective interpretation being adopted in the application
of clause 11..

The scope of Terrorism

“The Committee submits that the said clauses, have stipulated an unnecessary expansion
of the scope of acts of terrorism. It is submitted that the criteria stipulated under clause
83(2) is detrimental to the rights of the citizens especially in line of the Constitutional
guarantees afforded under Chapter III of the Constitution of Sri Lanka.
Thereby it is the opinion of this Committee that the said provisions of the Bill infringe
upon the principles of the criminal justice system and act in contravention to the legal
rights and entitlements provided for the citizens of the country, whilst obnoxiously
violating the fundamental rights of the people.

Powers afforded to President

” The Committee notes that the President has been afforded unilateral power under clause
82 of this Bill to proscribe an organisation. It is submitted that the President is not under
any obligation to obtain recommendations from any party in order to arrive at the said
conclusion. This is especially in relation to the broad categories stipulated under clause
82(2) and clause 82(3) which contains the actions under which an organisation is eligible
to be proscribed by the President.”




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