Sri Lanka asked to repeal PTA at UNHRC Universal Periodic Review

from Daily FT
  • Stakeholders including the US reminds SL of its commitment to replace existing anti-terror law and the need to decriminalise same-sex relationships
  • New Zealand calls for timely elections in SL as scheduled in accordance with the law
  • SL’s FM Ali Sabry assures repealing of PTA is in the final stages

Sri Lanka was reminded of its undertaking to repeal the draconian and controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) when the 4th Cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) came up for consideration by the UN Working Group on UPR in Geneva yesterday.

The United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Norway among others urged Sri Lanka to repeal the PTA and to also decriminalise same-sex relationships. US Human Rights Council Deputy Permanent Representative Kelly Billingsley presenting the country’s statement said the US calls for the PTA to be replaced and for arbitrary detentions for freedom of expression to be ceased. Billingsley said the US also calls on the Sri Lankan Government to ensure the rights of LGBTQI+ persons are respected and take steps to end discrimination and harassment of the community, including by amending the penal code to decriminalise same-sex relations.

“We recognise steps taken during the recent months to improve economic transparency in governance, however, we are concerned by reports of abuse by security forces, the use of anti-terror legislation to detain human rights defenders and rise in corruption,” the US representative said. Meanwhile, New Zealand called on Sri Lanka to work to protect its vibrant democracy, by safeguarding freedom of expression and peaceful protest and continuing to hold timely elections as scheduled in law.

In response, Foreign Minister Ali Sabry assured that the establishment of a truth-seeking mechanism and new security legislation, replacing the PTA is currently being finalised.

“As Sri Lanka prepares to undertake the next round of commitments under the UPR process, a range of policy measures are being identified to be addressed, including the replacement of the PTA,” he said. Sabry said Sri Lanka has faced many unprecedented crises during the review period.

“Despite all this turmoil, Sri Lanka continues to adhere to constitutional processes during social unrest, and also took measures to enhance the public’s trust in the Government, thereby empowering the Parliament and strengthening democratic governance and financial accountability,” he added. This year’s Review took place in a hybrid format due to Sri Lanka’s 75th Independence celebrations falling during the same period. Sri Lanka’s delegation to the Review was led by Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Sabry. He addressed the session via a pre-recorded video statement.

Sri Lanka’s first, second and third UPR reviews took place in May 2008, October 2012 and November 2017, respectively.

Sri Lanka’s National Report under the 4th Cycle of the UPR was submitted on 22 December 2022 and provides a self-assessment of the steps taken since the last UPR in November 2017, to fulfil Sri Lanka’s voluntarily undertaken human rights obligations. The process of preparation of the National Report was undertaken under the guidance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Broad consultations were held with stakeholders from Government and non-Governmental organisations as well as the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka.