The United Nations Human Rights Council has expressed serious reservations about the forthcoming anti-terrorism bill set to be passed in the Sri Lankan parliament. Raveena Shamdasani, spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, emphasized that the current draft shares striking similarities with previous versions containing harsh provisions.
In a recent statement, Shamdasani stated, “Rather than the Prevention of Cruel Terrorism Act, we are closely monitoring the revised Anti-Terrorism Bill currently under consideration in the Parliament of Sri Lanka. The repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act should have marked a pivotal moment for a substantial reform in Sri Lanka’s internal security approach. However, this proposed legislation risks perpetuating past patterns of violations.”
The proposed law, reminiscent of earlier drafts that faced widespread criticism, defines acts of “terrorism” overly broadly. This restricts judicial guarantees, especially concerning the legality of detention orders. The bill also curtails the Human Rights Commission’s ability to inspect detention facilities, among other contentious provisions.
If passed unchanged, the bill would grant the executive branch excessive powers with insufficient safeguards against potential abuse. It would undermine the legal foundation for security forces to make arrests without warrants and extend pre-trial detentions.
In response, the UN urges Sri Lankan authorities to actively engage with civil society and other stakeholders. The goal is to substantially amend the bill, ensuring full compliance with Sri Lanka’s international human rights obligations.