Prez. Commission says no need to repeal PTA

  • Hands over interim report to President
  • Proposes indictments/home confinements for 3-month-plus detainees
  • Recommends multi-ethnic advisory board

By Pamodi Waravita

A Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) on human rights appointed earlier this year has stated that it disagrees with the calls to repeal the controversial Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act (PTA), No. 48 of 1979.

This was asserted in the interim report of the PCoI for the Appraisal of the Findings of Previous Commissions and Committees on Human Rights and the Way Forward, which was handed over to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat on Tuesday (20).

However, the Commission has made three recommendations pertaining to the Act in its interim report. With regard to Section 9 of the PTA, which currently allows the Defence Minister to extend the detention periods of a suspect without filing charges against them, the PCoI has proposed that indictments be filed against those detained for more than three months. However, when queried as to what would take place in the event the Attorney General does not find sufficient evidence to indict those detained under the PTA for more than three months, the President’s Media Division was not in a position to provide an explanation.

The PCoI has also recommended that Section 11 of the PTA be amended so those detained for over three months be confined to their own homes or residential areas, under special security. Section 11 of the existing Act provides for the Minister to impose prohibitions or restrictions concerning a suspect’s movement outside their residence/s.

Currently, Section 13 of the PTA allows the President to appoint an Advisory Board to advise the President and/or the Defence Minister. The PCoI has proposed that all ethnic groups in the country be represented in the said Advisory Board.

The Commission – chaired by sitting Supreme Court Judge Justice A.H.M.D. Nawaz, and including Inspector General of Police (Retd.) Chandra Fernando, District Secretary (Retd.) Nimal Abeysiri, and former Jaffna Mayor Yogeswari Patkunarajah – has been requested to hand over its final findings within six months. It was appointed in February of this year to inquire after the previous Commissions and Committees that were appointed to inquire into human rights-related matters.

Many detainees under the PTA, prisoners rights groups, human rights activists, international human rights watchdogs, the United Nations, and the European Union, among others, have called for the amendment or repeal of the PTA. The PTA currently allows for the admissibility of confessions given to the Police that are alleged to have been extracted by the Police through the use of torture, and the prolonged arbitrary detention of suspects, which borders on punishment.

Prez. Commission says no need to repeal PTA