UN rights experts urge Sri Lanka to urgently end arbitrary detention
Posted on December 15th, 2017

Courtesy Adaderana

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has identified significant challenges to the enjoyment of the right to personal liberty in Sri Lanka, resulting in arbitrary detention across the country.

The experts recognize positive initiatives, including engagement with UN human rights mechanisms, as well as the recent accession to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.

However, they say further urgent action is required to give effect to Sri Lanka’s obligations under international human rights law, as well as the commitments made by the Government in its Human Rights National Action Plan 2017-2021.

The right to personal liberty has yet to be respected by law enforcement, security forces, judicial and other authorities,” the experts said in a statement, after a three-member delegation carried out an official visit to the country.

UN rights experts urge Sri Lanka to urgently end arbitrary detention

They said that current powers to deprive individuals of their liberty extended across a range of facilities, including police stations, prisons, open work camps, centres for juveniles and the elderly, mental health institutions and rehabilitation camps for former combatants, as well as those for drug addicts and people in vulnerable situations.

The experts called for urgent reforms to address problems including the excessive use of remand, a lack of effective alternatives to detention, an outdated legal framework and reliance on confessions, often extracted under torture or duress.

Court proceedings were affected by excessive and unjustified delays, while suspects remained in detention indefinitely, they said, adding that the rights to the presumption of innocence and due process were yet to be fully recognized.

The experts called for the abolition of the special laws and powers enacted during the state of emergency. In particular, the Working Group urged the Government of Sri Lanka to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 1979, as one of the key enablers of arbitrary detention for over four decades. Any new legislation must be in accordance with international human rights law and best practices.

The delegation highlighted that detainees in general did not enjoy some of the most fundamental guarantees of due process, such as immediate access to legal assistance from the moment of the arrest and before their initial statement was recorded.

The fact that the detainees are interrogated by the authorities without a lawyer, in particular at police stations, is of great concern,” the experts said.

At the invitation of the Government, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention conducted its official country visit to Sri Lanka from 4 to 15 December 2017.

WORKING GROUP ON ARBITRARY DETENTION: PRELIMINARY FINDINGS FROM ITS VISIT TO SRI LANKA (4 TO 15 DECEMBER 20… by deranapics on Scribd

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