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SL’s human rights situation has deteriorated: UK

BY Pamodi Waravita

The UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office’s (FCDO) updated assessment statement on global human rights issues identified Sri Lanka as an “area of deterioration” and has raised concerns over the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act No. 48 of 1979 (PTA), increased deaths in custody, controversial appointments to the Office on Missing Persons (OMP), the surveillance and intimidation of human rights activists, deradicalisation regulations, and the marginalisation of minorities.

“Security forces increased their surveillance and intimidation of human rights activists and their use of the PTA, with a number of arbitrary arrests. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed controversial individuals to lead independent institutions such as the OMP. There were several deaths in custody, which the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) described as having ‘all the hallmarks of extrajudicial killings’,” noted a statement by the FCDO on Tuesday (23).

The FCDO further highlighted the Sri Lankan Government’s proposed new deradicalisation regulations to “arrest and send individuals to rehabilitation centres with no judicial oversight” as a cause for concern.

“Government marginalisation of minority groups continued, with the banning of several groups, including Tamil and Muslim welfare organisations, and restrictions on memorialisation events particularly of communities in the North and East,” the statement added.

Furthermore, the FCDO has also quoted the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN-OHCHR), which expressed deep concern about Sri Lanka in January 2021, and said that the situation has deteriorated within the first six months of 2021.

Meanwhile, Minister of Foreign Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris, in a meeting yesterday (24) with UN Assistant Secretary General (ASG) for the Middle East, Asia, and the Pacific of the Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations Departments Mohamed Khaled Khiari has highlighted the proposed revisions to the PTA and reiterated the Government’s commitment to achieving tangible progress.