Fresh instructions issued in respect of PTA

By Shamindra Ferdinando

In the wake of a spate of arrests of former senior members of the LTTE, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) has issued specific directives in respect of detaining persons under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

HRCSL spokesman attorney-at-law Saliya Peiris yesterday told The Island that directives had been issued following concerns expressed by some persons. Responding to a query, Peiris emphasized that their intervention wasn’t in any way meant to impede ongoing investigations.

The government has assured Western powers that the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act No 48 of 1979 would be repealed with a new law in line with UN approved standards.

The HRCSL spokesperson said the latest directives had been issued after having taken into consideration instructions regarding arrest and detention issued during the administrations of Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and Mahinda Rajapaksa as well as HRCSL chairperson Dr Deepika Udagama, called binding international human rights law standards. Some of those allegedly wanted in connection with the ongoing investigation are believed to have fled to India. Dr Udagama said: “The PTA should be construed narrowly and used in very specific circumstances, and should not be used to arrest persons for ordinary crimes.”

Nearly twenty members of the LTTE had been detained under the PTA consequent to the chance recovery of a suicide vest, four claymore mines, three parcels of explosives and 100 rounds of small arms ammunition during the last week of March, 2016.

The government recently closed down the police media unit and prohibited its head then ASP (recently promoted SP) Ruwan Gunasekera responding to media queries detailed the arrest of several former LTTE seniors under the PTA. The government is yet to reactivate the unit.

Attorney-at-law Peiris stressed the importance of law enforcement officers following HRCSL instructions during arrests, detention as well as follow-up action.

HRCSL chairperson Dr. Udagama dealt with the process in arresting suspects, procedures to be followed after arrests, special measures in respect of arresting women and persons under 18 and the mandate of the HRCSL.

Key HRCSL directives included officers to reveal their identities to families, relatives or friends of those taken into custody, suspects to be told specific reason/s for the arrest, use of vehicles which can be identified as official, use of minimum force in case of resistance, ensure suspects being produced before a judicial medical officer within 48 hours, detention only at authorised places, access to lawyers, measures to prevent sexual abuse in detention and to follow UN standards in special circumstances. Dr. Udagama has issued specific instructions with severe warning to those who violated human rights would be appropriately dealt with.