ICJ concerned over Sri Lanka’s Proposed Anti-Terrorism Bill

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has expressed concern over the proposed Anti-Terrorism Bill.

It is extremely concerned, in particular, by clause 4(1)(a) of the Bill, which, if adopted in its current formulation, would introduce the death penalty for “the terrorism offence of murder”, ICJ said in a statement.

“Purported threats to national security, whether or not arising in connection with acts of ‘terrorism’, should not be used as a justification for the death penalty,” ICJ’s Senior Legal Adviser Livio Zilli said.

The Bill does feature certain improvements on the PTA. However, the ICJ considers that the Bill’s other problematic aspects clearly outweigh the positives, the statement noted.

In addition, the ICJ expressed particular concern over the overbroad and vague definition in clause 3 of “acts of terrorism” that can be interpreted in a manner that stifles dissent and to crush peaceful protests. 

It also pointed out that clause 16 identifies disobeying any direction issued under the Act as a “terrorist offence”. This creates a fresh category of offences likely to be misused by the present government and future administrations against any kind of opposition.

“If enacted as currently formulated, these vague and overbroad offences, similar to and building up on those contained in the PTA, are open to abuse and, as such, they violate Sri Lanka’s international legal obligations and the country’s own constitutional guarantees under Article 13,” Zilli added.

Highlighting that the ICJ has consistently called for the repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, the ICJ renewed its call on Sri Lanka to repeal the PTA and immediately halt attempts to replace it with an even worse piece of legislation.

Full statament: