New HRC Chief summons police over PTA cases
Posted on December 29th, 2021

By Shamindra Ferdinando Courtesy Island

Newly appointed Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission retired Supreme Court Justice Rohini Marasinghe has called for a meeting with the Director CID, Director TID and the head of the Police Legal Division today (29) to discuss cases of those who had been held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

In addition to those who had been taken in during the war, under the PTA, several hundred arrests were made in the aftermath of the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage.

Sources said that PTA cases would be a priority for HRC Chief Marasinghe who received the appointment in the wake of former UPFA lawmaker Jagath Balasuriya quitting the post.

Government and civil society sources told The Island that they hadn’t been able to reach a consensus on the PTA as the latter was sharply divided over the issue. Authoritative government sources said that the PTA couldn’t be done away with as requested by a section of the international community and some civil society organisations. However, the government was ready to explore ways and means of addressing the concerns of those demanding the abolition of the PTA, they said.

The European Union and the Geneva-based Human Rights Council want Sri Lanka to abolish the PTA. Both have raised specific issues such as the detention of lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah over his alleged involvement with the Easter Sunday attackers.

Dr. Balasuriya resigned in the wake of criticism of his appointment. Following his resignation, the HRCSL called for the appointment of what it called a distinguished person for the post. BASL President Saliya Peiris, in a letter addressed to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa stated: Since its inception the HRCSL has been chaired by persons who have distinguished themselves in the fields of human rights and law. Prior to 2020, the Chairpersons of the Commission were Justice O.S.M. Seneviratne (retired Judge of the Supreme Court); Faisz Mustapha PC; Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy; Justice P. Ramanathan (retired Judge of the Supreme Court); Justice S. Ananda Coomaraswamy (retired Judge of the Supreme Court); Justice Priyantha Perera (retired Judge of the Supreme Court) and Professor Deepika Udagama. As Your Excellency will note the Chair of the HRCSL has been held by either retired Judges of the Supreme Court or those who have been renown in Sri Lanka and internationally for their professional and academic work on human rights”.

In addition to Dr. Balasuriya, civil society activist and former head of Sevalanka Harsha Kumara Navaratne too resigned from HRCSL. The latter received appointment as Sri Lanka’s HC in Canada.

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