(This is full detailed document written by lawyers)

The Anti-Terrorism Bill was gazette on 22nd March 2023 in order to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism
(Temporary Provisions) Act, No. 48 of 1979


The Anti Terrorism Act (ATA) is the latest attempt by a Sri Lankan government to reform the Prevention of Terrorism Act (1979) (PTA) that has resulted in innumerable human rights violations, marginalization of Tamil and Muslim communities and abuse of police power and impunity. In 2018, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe’s government attempted to enact a Counter Terrorism Act which was widely publicly rejected for the wide executive powers that it sought to install. In 2021, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government enacted amendments to the PTA which made minor changes such as reducing maximum periods of detention without judicial oversight from 18 months to 12 months and removing the egregious provision on prohibition of publications.  The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka in a statement issued on 15 February 2022 stated that “Notwithstanding the amendments already suggested by the government, the HRCSL advocates the complete abolition of the PTA.” Over 10 years after the war ended in Sri Lanka, there is no need for extraordinary executive powers.   

International Commitments and Attention

Owing to the terrible consequences of the PTA, in March 2015 Sri Lanka made a commitment by UNHRC Resolution 30/1 to “(a) repeal the PTA (b) replace it with anti terror legislation in accordance with contemporary international best practices”. In March 2019 the UNHRC by Resolution 40/1 provided further time for Sri Lanka to fulfill its commitments contained in Resolution 30/1. Sri Lanka has several times promised to the EU and Germany that they will bring the PTA in line with international standards to secure trade concessions under the GSP+ scheme. On 10 June 2021, the European parliament adopted a resolution calling for the repeal of Sri Lanka’s PTA and inviting the European Union (EU) Commission to consider temporarily withdrawing Sri Lanka’s access to the Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) concession. International organizations Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have repeatedly raised concerns over human rights violations and abuse of power under the PTA. HRW’s most recent report was in February 2022 and Amnesty International’s briefing on the PTA in February 2022. 

On 2 March 2022, seven UN human rights experts called for an immediate moratorium on the use of Sri Lanka’s Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), and urged the Government to substantively review and revise the legislation to comply with international human rights law.

It is in this context that Sri Lanka’s government is proposing the Anti Terrorism Act. There has been no public consultations, no white paper on the background and justifications for the provisions sought to be enacted.

Definition of ‘Acts of Terrorism’ must be precise

A law which removes ordinary safeguards from a criminal justice system must be precise. This is necessary to reduce the potential of the being abused. This is why the definition of acts of terrorism must be clear and precise.

Guidelines for definition as recommended by UN Special Rapporteur on CounterterrorismRelated provisions in the proposed Anti Terrorism Act (ATA)Definition in the PTA
Acts committed with the intention of causing death or serious bodily injury, or the taking of hostages ANDThis element is absent.This element is absent.
Irrespective of whether motivated by considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other similar nature, also committed for the purpose of provoking a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons or particular persons, intimidating a population, or compelling a Government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act  ANDClause 3(1) ATA identifies the intention to intimidate public or a section of the public”, wrongfully or unlawfully compel the Government of Sri Lanka, any other Government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act”, unlawfully prevent any such government from functioning”, violating territorial integrity or infringement of sovereignty of Sri Lanka or any other sovereign country; or “propagating war or advocate national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence”This element is absent.
Such acts constituting offences within the scope of and as defined in the international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism (Trigger offence)Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Internationally Protected Persons (1973) International Convention against the Taking of Hostages (1979)International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings (1997) International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism (1999) Convention on the Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft (1963) and Protocol (2014)Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft (1970) and Protocol Supplementary (2010)Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation (1971) Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts of Violence at Airports Serving International Civil Aviation, Supplementary Protocol (1988) Convention on the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Relating to International Civil Aviation (2010)Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (1980) and Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (2005)International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (2005)Convention on the Marking of Plastic Explosives for the Purpose of Detection (1991)Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (1988) and Protocol (2005)Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Fixed Platforms Located on the Continental Shelf (1988) and Protocol (2005)Clause 3(2) sets out the broadly worded ‘acts or illegal omission’ which includes 
murder (Clause 3(2)(a))grievous hurt (Clause 3(2)(b))hostage taking (Clause 3(2)(c))abduction or kidnapping (Clause 3(2)(d))causing serious damage to place of public use (Clause 3(2)(e)), causing serious interference with essential services or logistic facility associated with any essential service (Clause 3(2)(f)), committing robbery, extortion or theft of state or private property (Clause 3(2)(g)), causing serious risk to the health and safety of the public or section thereof (Clause 3(2)(h)) obstruction or interference to any electronic or automated system or to websites registered with domains assigned to Sri Lanka (Clause 3(2)(i)) destruction of or causing serious damage to religious or cultural property (Clause 3(2)(j))serious obstruction or damage to electronic analog, digital or other wire-linked or wireless transmission system including signal transmission and any other frequency-based transmission system (Clause 3(2)(k))being a member of an unlawful assembly for the commission of acts set out from (a) to (k) above. being a member of an unlawful assembly for the commission of any act  (Clause 3(2)(l)).unlawfully importing, exporting, manufacturing, collecting, obtaining, supplying, trafficking, possessing or using firearms, offensive weapons, ammunition, explosives, or any article to be used in the manufacture of explosives, combustible or corrosive substances, biological, chemical, electric, electronic or nuclear weapon. nulcear explosive device or nuclear material or radioactive substance or radiation emitting device. (Clause 3(2)m)) 

Offences criminalized which include causing cause death, kidnaps, abducts or attacks a specified personcause death, kidnaps, abducts or attacks a witnesscriminal intimidation of a specified person or witnessrobbery of / mischief to the property of the Government, any department, statutory board, public corporation, bank, co-operative union or co-operative society procures explosives unlawfully,   possession of firearms, causing acts of violence or religious, racial or communal disharmony, interfering with lettering on a board on a public place, prevents the apprehension of a proclaimed person or any other person believed to have committed an offence under the Act.

(a) and (b) above constitutes the cumulative intention approach that acts as a safety threshold to ensure that it is only conduct of a terrorist nature that is identified as terrorist conduct. The Special Rapporteur emphasizes that not all acts that are crimes under national or even international law are acts of terrorism or should be defined as such. 

It is important to note, that under the Public Security Ordinance which empowers the President to act in emergency situations, the President is vested with the power to recognize offences and prescribe penalties.

Other offences created

  1. Offences associated with proscribed organizations and movements (joins, serves, leader, cadre, supports or directs activity, recruits, encourages to be a member of) (Clause 6)
  2. Offences against victims and witness or possession of an article for commission, preparation, instigation of an offence of terrorism.(Clause 7)
  3. Harbours, conceals, or in any other manner, wrongfully or illegally prevents, hinders or interferes with the identification, arrest, custody or detention of a person knowing or having reasonable grounds to believe that the person has committed an offence of terrorism. (Clause 8)
  4. Gathering and supplying information – Gathers any confidential information having intention of supplying same or supplies information to a person knowing or having reasonable grounds to believe that such information will be used to conspire, abet, attempt or commit an offence. (Clause 9)
  5. Encouragement of terrorism – publishes (print, internet, electronic media, other form of public notice)  a statement (glorifying the commission of an offence or glorifying conduct to be emulated), speaks any word or makes signs or visible representations which is likely to be understood members of the public as a direct or indirect encouragement / inducement to commit, prepare, instigate an offence of terrorism. (Clause 10)
  6. Disseminating terrorist material – distributing, circulating, giving, selling, lending, offering for sale, providing a service that enables others to read, listen, look at or acquire, transmits the contents of, keeps in their possession terrorist publication with the intention of encouraging the public to commit terrorism. (Clause 11)
  7. Training for terrorism – provides instruction, training to commit or prepare or assist in the commission of an offence and knows that the instruction or training will be used in connection with an offence. Also for receives instruction or training. (Clause 12)
  8. Failure to provide information that an offence has been committed, preparation or attempt is being made to commit an offence, or having any information relating to whereabouts of any person he known has committed terrorism or a related offence. (Clause 15)
  9. Disobeying lawful orders – violates a lawful directive or order given under this Act, fails or neglects to comply with a direction, fails to provide information or provides false/misleading information in response to a question, prevents/hinders implementation of lawful order, prevents or obstructs enforcement of provisions of this Act. (Clause 16)


Issue Anti-Terrorism Bill provisionPTA and current practice Criminal Law: Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) Emergency law: Public Security Ordinance 
Powers of arrest and search

Permits any police officer, member of armed forces or coast guard officer to arrest a person without a warrant whom they have reasonable grounds to believe has committed an offence of ‘terrorism’. [Clause 19] This provision can be used to arrest persons based on flimsy grounds. 
In such instances, the arresting officer is also empowered to stop and search any person, vehicle, vessel, train or aircraft, question, enter and search premises or take into custody any document, thing or article connected with committing a ‘terrorism’ offence; [Clause 22] There is no requirement for a warrant or any oversight. 
Further, the involvement of the armed forces is problematic given their inclination to use excessive force . 
A police officer not below the rank of Superintendent or not below Sub Inspector if authorized by a Superintendent may arrest without a warrant if reasonably suspected to be connected with any unlawful activity (S.6 PTA)
Practice under the PTA has resulted in indiscriminate arrests of individuals for messages posted on facebook, messages on whatsapp, web design for an organization that several years later was proscribed (website had no offensive content), having material with arabic writing, having decorative swords, put in a whatsapp group, attending a religious sermon which was framed as participating in terrorist training, renting a premises, publishing material on the ethnic conflict etc. 
A police officer may arrest without a warrant for cognizable offences (all offences against the State are included), where there is a reasonable complaint, credible information, reasonable suspicion; S.32 CPC(Only relevant if power of arrest is enacted by way of emergency regulations)
Power to issue detention orders devolved from Minister to any DIG; A Deputy Inspector General of Police is empowered to issue Detention Orders on reasonable grounds [Clause 31]Minister of Defence is empowered to issue Detention Orders on having reasons to believe suspect is connected to unlawful activity (S:9 PTA)N/A(Only relevant if power is enacted by way of emergency regulations)
Magistrate’s supervision over detention removed If there is a valid detention order the Magistrate shall give effect to the order. This means Magistrate cannot decide whether or not there is sufficient reasons for the arrest. [Clause 28]
Detention Orders will be for 3 months at a time and maximum detention period is 12 months. Amounts to prolonged detention. [Clause 31 and 37] 

The maximum period of remand without instituting criminal proceedings is one year. If still in remand, Magistrate can consider granting bail (not discharge) unless AG applies for extension from a High Court who can make an order extending the period of remand to three months at a time. [Clause 30] 
A Magistrate can discharge the suspect if the Officer-in Charge so requests on a ground that the Magistrate is satisfied. [Clause 28] This means that the power of discharge is actually with the police though it gives a semblance of a Magistrate oversight.  The Magistrate can only release a person on bail when there are no reasons to believe he has committed an offence. [Clause 36]  
Without Detention Order maximum period of detention before judicial review is 72 hours: (S 7(1)) 
With a Detention Order maximum period of judicial review can be for 3 months extendable for 12 months (S.9(1) PTA)
The practice demonstrates that although maximum periods of detention were prescribed by the PTA, suspects continued to remain in detention for years. Suspects who detention was converted to remand custody also remained in custody for years including decades before trials were taken up and completed. While in detention suspects are taken from place to place, families are not notified of changes in detention, and pressures has been brought to bear on persons to incriminate others. 
Arresting officer cannot detain a person for a period more than 24 hours; S.37 CPC 
Arrest is reviewed after 24 hours by judicial officer. 
After first producing before a Magistrate, if not granted bail, must be produced every 14 days before Magistrate.(restraint on physical liberty is technically reviewed by judicial officer)
(Only relevant if power of arrest is enacted by way of emergency regulations)
SSP is given power to issue orders restricting movement.A police officer not below the rank of Senior Superintendent of Police is empowered to issue directives to  the  public (with sanction of a Magistrate)  to inter alia not to enter any specified area/premises, not to leave a specified area/premises and remain within a specified area, not to travel on any road, and not to transport anything or anybody [Clause 61] No comparable powersNo comparable powersCurfew can be imposed by President under Public Security Ordinance 
Introduction of Confidential Reports contravenes fair trial standards guaranteed in the ConstitutionIf  the  officer  in  Charge  files  a  confidential report, the Magistrate will maintain confidentiality of the report. [Clause 36] 
Article 13(3) of the Constitution currently guarantees fair trial. This guarantee will be permanently altered to enable ‘confidential reports’ to be an accepted practice. 
No comparable provision.No comparable provision. No comparable provision.
Power granted to President to apply for Restriction OrdersClause 83(1) of the Bill empowers the President to apply for Restriction Orders from the High Court. The Clause appears to be triggered against a person who has committed or is preparing to commit an offence and as such all of the restrictions sought ought to be granted by a judicial officer against whom there is evidence of wrongdoing. No comparable provision.No comparable provision
President’s power to declare curfew replicated for purposes broader than public orderNotwithstanding  powers under  the  PSO,  the President may   declare   a   curfew   for   a specified period either to the entirety or part of Sri Lanka including its territorial waters and air space for the purpose of(a)controlling, detecting or investigating the occurrence of systematic and widespread committing of terrorism and other offences under this Act; (b)for the protection of national or public security from terrorism and other offences under this Act; or (c)to prevent the systematic and widespread committing of offences under this Act. Curfew Order can be for a maximum period of 24 hours at a time and there shall be an interval of three hours between two periods of curfew. [Clause 84] No comparable provision.No comparable provisionThe President, for the maintenance of public order, has the power to make orders that no person in a specified area during a specified time shall be on any public road, railway, park, recreation ground or public ground or seashore; S.16 PSO. Such order is valid for only one month; this Order may be rescinded by Parliament S: 21(4) PSO.
Seizure of propertyClause 86 creates a scheme by which persons are deprived of property in the first instance and thereafter placed in the position of having to establish their claims. No comparable provisionProperty must be 
President is given additional powers to make ‘regulations’ and ‘directionsThe    President    is    empowered    to    make regulations for the purpose of the Act which shall be placed before Parliament for approval within 30 days of publication in the gazette. [Clause 98]
The President is empowered to make directions which shall apply to the police, armed forces and  coast guard officers. Such direction shall be published in the gazette. [Clause 99] 
No comparable provision. No comparable provision. Under the PSO President can make ‘emergency regulations’ for the purpose of public security and the preservation of public order and the suppression of mutiny, riot or civil commotion, or for the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the life of the community; S:5 PSO 
Emergency regulations can only be made if emergency has been declared by the President. The Proclamation of emergency expires within 14 days unless approved by Parliament; S:2 PSO
Rehabilitation without proof of guiltThe    President    is    empowered    to    make regulations to implement rehabilitation programmes    for    persons    whom    the    AG recommends    criminal    proceedings    to    be suspended, deferred or indictments withdrawn; [Clause 100]PTA Regulation 1721/5 of Aug 2011 –empowered Minister to approve Centres to be known as “Protective Accommodation and Rehabilitation Centres” and introduced rehabilitation programmes.
The Bureau of Rehabilitation Act No 2 of 2023 provides for the establishment of a bureau of rehabilitation which is to rehabilitate inter alia ex-combatants, members of violent extremist groups and any other groups of persons who require treatment and rehabilitation by adopting various therapies in order to ensure effective reintegration and reconciliation, through developing socio-economic standards: (S 3 Bureau of Rehabilitation Act)
No comparable provision. (Only relevant if power is enacted by way of emergency regulations))
Wide power for President to stipulate any public place or any other location as prohibited placePresident may by publication in Gazette declare any   public   place   or   any   other   location   a prohibited place [Clause 85] This power extends to private locations. It also does  not  specify  the  purpose  for  which  the power  can  be  used,  meaning  it  results  in  wide discretionary power to the President. It results in broad  curfew  like  powers  usually  restricted  for the President to use during times of emergency.No comparable provision. No comparable provision.(Only relevant if power is enacted by way of emergency regulations)
Wide power granted to President to proscribe an organizationWhere the President has reasonable grounds to believe that any organization is acting unlawfully ‘prejudicial  to the national security’ a Proscription Order may be made. The overbroad nature of this power can lead to curtailment of dissent on the basis that such was prejudicial to national security. 
Such order may include (a) prohibiting any person being a member of such
(b) prohibiting such organization recruiting members to such organization; (c)prohibiting any person acting in furtherance of the
objectives of such organization;
(d) prohibition on conducting meetings, activities and
programmes by such organization;
(e) prohibition on the use or mobilization of bank
accounts and other financial depositories of such
organization;(f) prohibition to entering into contracts;
(g) prohibition on raising of funds and receiving grants
and bequests;
(h) prohibition to transferring funds and assets of the
(i) prohibition for lobbying and canvassing on behalf
of such organization; or
(j) prohibiting any person by publication of any
material in furtherance of the objects of such organization. 
The Order can be made for a period of 1 year and extended one year at a time. No avenue to challenge prior to Proscription Order. Only an appeal to the Court of Appeal is available after the Proscription Order is made which is after detrimental impact has been caused. [Clause 82] 
The following regulations were introduced pursuant to Section 27 of the PTA which empowers the Minister to make regulations: 
Prevention of Terrorism (Proscription of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) Regulations No. 1 of 2011; Prevention of Terrorism (Proscription of the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization) Regulations No. 2 of 2011 
Prevention of Terrorism (Proscription of Extremist Organizations) Regulations No. 2 of 2021:The United Thawheed (Thowheedh) Jamma’ath (UTJ), Ceylon Thawheed (Thowheedh) Jamma’ath (CTJ), Sri Lanka Thawheed (Thowheedh) Jamma’ath (SLTJ), All Ceylon Thawheed (Thowheedh) Jamma’ath (ACTJ), Jamiyathul Ansaari Sunnathul Mohomadiya (JASM) alias Jamma’ath Ansaaris Sunnathil Mohomadiya Organization alias All Ceylon Jam-E- Athu Ansaris Sunnathil Mohammadiya alias Ansaris Sunnathil Mohammadiya Association alias Jama’ath Ansaris Sunnathil Mohammadiya, Dharul Adhar alias Jamiul Athar Mosque alias Dharul Athar Quran Madrasa alias Dharul Aadhaar Ath’thabawiyya, Sri Lanka Islamic Student Movement (SLISM) alias Jamia, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) alias Al-Dawlah al-Islamiah Dawla Islamia, Al-Qaeda, Save the Pearls alias Save the Pearl Society and Super Muslim.
No comparable provision(Only relevant if power is enacted by way of emergency regulations)
Central Database for arrests and detention has been proposed without privacy considerations“The Inspector General of Police shall establish and maintain a Central database and Register, which contains
information with regard to each arrest, detention, remanding, grant of bail, discharge, prosecution, conviction or acquittal and punishment of persons arrested under this Act.” [Clause 27(1)] 
There is a real danger of such information being shared between     state institutions and international agencies with  the  potential  of those   merely   detained   or   charged   being adversely   affected   in   terms   of   reputation, freedom  of  movement,  and  exercise  of  legal rights relating to property and employment.
No comparable provision. No comparable provision.No comparable provision. 
Questionable nature of the Independent Review Panel (IRP) 
The Independent Review Panel is empowered to receive complaints with regard to the alleged violations of fundamental rights consequent to the exercise of powers under the Act. This is a function that is assigned to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka. The IRP is to maintain strict confidentiality about information disclosed to it. [Clause 92].
Further, the President is assigned to appoint this Panel. [Clause 89] 
Notification of arrest to Human Rights Commission falls short of the usual practice.  The Officer-in-Charge of the police station should notify the Human Rights Commission about a detention within 72 hours. [Clause 33] The Human Rights Commission Act states that the HRC should be informed about a person arrested/detained under the PTA within forty-eight hours: (S 28 PTA) The Human Rights Commission Act states that the HRC should be informed about a person arrested/detained under regulations under the PSO within forty-eight hours: S 28.
Board of Review is not independentThe Board of Review is to grant administrative relief for appeals against Detention Orders. However, its chairperson is the Secretary to the Minister of Defense. The other two members are to be appointed by the President. Therefore this is not an independent body. The President is tasked with appointing the Advisory Board which can hear representations from those against whom detention orders or restriction orders have been made. (s. 13) 
No penalties for misuse/ No compensation for victimsIf any person is wrongfully arrested and detained under the extended period permissible under the ATA there is no penalty imposed on the state agents involved in misapplying the law. ATA introduces broad powers without imposing related responsibilities.No provisions to redress misuse or compensation for victims.

What is the current legal framework in Sri Lanka and laws relating to terrorism?

The Criminal Law of Sri Lanka: Some key laws dealing with ‘acts of terror’(available in times of peace)In emergency situations(in times of war)Laws with extraordinary power available during times of peace
Penal Code – S.114 Waging or attempting to wage war, or abetting the waging of war against the State.Penal Code – S.116 Collecting men, arms and ammunition the intention of waging war against the State.Penal Code – S. 117 Deliberately concealing design to wage war. Penal Code S.118 – Insulting words attempting to bring State into contemptPenal Code S. 119 – attempts to refrain President or MP from use of lawful power or assaults, restrains, uses criminal force against President or an MP.Penal Code S. 120 – Causing disaffection towards the State or excites hatred or contempt towards the administration of justice.Offensive Weapons Act No. 18 of 1966Offences against Aircraft Act No. 24 of 1982Suppression of Unlawful Acts of Violence At Airports Serving International Civil Aviation No. 31 Of 1996Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation No. 42 of 2000 Prevention of Hostage Taking No. 41 Of 2000 Prevention And Punishment Of Crimes Against Internationally Protected Persons No. 15 of 1991Suppression of Terrorist Bombings Act, No. 11 Of 1999Chemical Weapons Convention No.58 Of 2007Convention on The Suppression of Terrorist Financing Act No. 25 of 2005 Financial Transactions Reporting Act No. 6 of 2006Prevention of Money Laundering Act No. 05 of 2006 (as amended)SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression Of Terrorism Act No. 70 Of 1988United Nations Act No 45 of 1968 and regulations made under that to deal with terrorist financing and money laundering and which has led to listing of persons and organizations.Computer Crimes Act, S.6 – Offences committed against National SecurityPublic Security Ordinance – curfew, call military, declare emergency and enact Emergency RegulationsPTA
Proposed ATA

  In terms of Executive powers, Sri Lanka has 

  • a National Intelligence Service (82 years), 
  • a Terrorist Investigation Department (TID), and
  • a Financial Intelligence Unit of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. In November 2017, Sri Lanka made a high-level political commitment to work with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and Asia Pacific Group on money laundering (APG) to strengthen the effectiveness of its Anti Money Laundering/Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) regime and address any related technical deficiencies. Between 2015 and 2018 Sri Lanka received improved ratings on compliance as a result of several measures taken to strengthen the financial framework.

What are Sri Lanka’s general international obligations on fighting terrorism?

  • The Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) was established by Security Council Resolution 1373, which was adopted unanimously on 28 September 2001 in the wake of the 11 September terrorist attack in the United States which is binding commitment on all UN Member States to counter terrorism, including through the adoption of “comprehensive legislation” .
  • The Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy introduces four pillar
    1. Addressing the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism
    2. Measures to prevent and combat terrorism
    3. Measures to build states’ capacity to prevent and combat terrorism and to strengthen the role of the United Nations system in that regard;
    4. Measures to ensure respect for human rights for all and the rule of law as the fundamental basis for the fight against terrorism.
  • The United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy Review in para 11“Stresses that when counter-terrorism efforts neglect the rule of law, at the national and international levels, and violate international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, international humanitarian law and refugee law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, they not only betray the values they seek to uphold, they may also further fuel violent extremism that can be conducive to terrorism

Does Sri Lanka need to enact the proposed ATA to fulfill its UN HRC Resolution 30/1 commitment?

No. Repealing the PTA and replacing it with the proposed overly broad ATA would be a complete undermining of the commitment made. Sri Lanka should repeal the PTA and if absolutely necessary in response to specific needs adopt a law or laws that address only the gaps in the Sri Lankan legal framework on terrorism or only addresses identified contemporary threats. Such a law or laws would satisfy the commitment made to the UN Human Rights Council.

Key Takeaways 

  • Provisions in the ATA significantly reduce judicial oversight and discretion in administration of justice and grant extraordinary and excessive powers to the armed forces, police and the President, thereby reducing protections, checks and balances to guarantee human rights. 
  • ATA demands Sri Lankans trust the armed forces, police and President to exercise their extraordinary and unchecked powers in good faith, a despite history of abuse 
  • Provisions in the ATA will serve as a license for unchecked state terror, leading to repression of dissent and rights violations 
  • PTA is a terrible law, and resulted in terrible abuses, and we should not use it as a benchmark to compare any new law. But overall, ATA is similar to PTA. ATA is better than PTA in some ways, but worse than PTA in several ways.
  • ATA violates international standards and best practices expected in counter terror laws  
  • Sri Lanka has a legal framework to deal with terrorism, which is also sufficient to fulfill international obligations. Hence, there is no need to adopt ATA or any such overarching “terror law”. Any gaps or new situations should be addressed with narrowly crafted specific laws. 


Ambika Satkunanathan, Anti-Terrorism Bill: The Good, Bad and the Ugly, 

CPA Statement on the Anti-Terrorism Bill, 2023. 

Ermiza Tegal, When Repeal is not Reform: An Anti Terrorism Act Worse than the PTA,