In a Special Procedure report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) dated 09 August 2021 addressed to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, concerns have been raised around the adoption and implementation of Prevention of Terrorism (De-radicalization from holding violent extremist religious ideology) Regulations No. 01 of 2021.
According to the report, the President has been encouraged to rescind the Regulation because its provisions are contrary to Sri Lanka’s international legal obligations.
Read the full text here:UNSPs on deregulation act
It was noted that the new Regulation expands upon provisions of concern found in the PTA. It also points out that the human rights challenges of the PTA and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Act of 2007 were the subject of previous communications sent to the Government on 26 October 2018 and on 26 February 2019.
“We regret that, to date, we have not received responses regarding those communications,” the Special Rapporteur noted.
Further, the report details that despite observations on the legislative proposals being advanced by Sri Lanka and on some provisions of the new draft Counter Terrorism Act, published in the Gazette Extraordinary dated 17 September 2018, it appears that the advice on human rights compliance has not been addressed in the new Regulation.
“Following their visits to Sri Lanka, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances made several recommendations to your Excellency’s Government with regard to corrective or remedial measures that they deemed ought to be taken in relation to the PTA. We regret that these remedial measures have not been adopted, and rather that an additional set of rights-denying measures are being advanced by this Regulation, further undermining the protection of human rights in Sri Lanka,” it stressed.
President Rajapaksa’s Government was reminded that although there is no agreement on a multilateral treaty on terrorism which inter alia defines terrorism, States should ensure that counterterrorism legislation is limited to criminalizing conduct which is properly and precisely defined on the basis of the provisions of international counterterrorism instruments and is strictly guided by the principles of legality, necessity, and proportionality.
It also stressed on the fact that the measures adopted under this new Regulation may contradict the Government’s international obligations under the following:
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights (‘UDHR’)
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (‘ICCPR’)
- International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (‘ICESCR’)
- International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances (‘ICPPED’)
- 1992 Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance
- 1992 Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities
- 1981 Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, which reflect, codify and consolidate the customary international law that is legally binding on all States and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UN ‘CAT’).
To this effect, the Special Rapporteur elaborates that the Regulation risks jeopardizing the rights and liberties of persons who may be detained arbitrarily, especially religious and ethnic minorities, and may curtail political dissent with no effective due process guarantees, while lacking precision and legal certainty, impacting freedom of expression, opinion, and religious belief.
“We note that two fundamental rights petitions challenging the legality of the Regulations were recently heard in front of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka. As a result of those petitions, an interim order was issued staying the operation of the Regulation until 24 August 2021 when a hearing will determine whether the petitioners will be granted leave to proceed. We urge your Excellency’s Government to immediately commence with a thorough examination of the Regulation with a view to rescission to ensure that human rights are not further eroded under the auspices of countering terrorism. Further, we recommend repeal of the PTA and an immediate moratorium on its use,” it stated.
As it is their responsibility, under the mandates provided to them by the Human Rights Council, to seek to clarify all cases brought to their attention, President Rajapaksa was requested for his observations on the matters.
According to the official website of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, a Government reply has been received and is being processed.
With the inputs from The Morning.