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The government intensified its crackdown on dissent in 2022 – Amnesty International

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The government intensified its crackdown on dissent as thousands of people protested against the dire economic situation, Amnesty International said in its latest annual world report.

The report, The State of the World’s Human Rights, highlighted that The rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly came under fierce attack by law enforcement agencies, which at times used unlawful force leading to deaths and injuries.

“Protesters were arbitrarily arrested, detained using draconian counterterrorism legislation, and ill-treated in custody. Serious human rights violations committed during the internal armed conflict remained unaddressed. Families of people forcibly disappeared continued to seek truth and justice. Amendments to the Prevention of Terrorism Act failed to address key human rights concerns, and Muslims and Tamils continued to be targeted under the Act,” AI said.

Given below are excerpts of the report on Sri Lanka: “The PTA, which had been used in previous years to facilitate torture, enforced disappearances and prolonged detention without trial, remained in use despite government assurances of a moratorium. Amendments to the PTA in 2022 failed to bring it in line with international law and standards, as it continued to facilitate the prolonged detention of suspects without charge, among other concerns.

“The authorities made no progress in bringing to justice in fair trials before ordinary civilian courts all those suspected of criminal responsibility concerning allegations of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the three decades-long conflict. Emblematic cases made no notable progress. In light of Sri Lanka’s failures to provide redress to victims of crimes under international law and grave human rights violations, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution in October extending the mandate and capacity of OHCHR’s Sri Lanka Accountability project to collect, consolidate, analyse and preserve information and evidence for future accountability processes.

“Domestic transitional justice bodies, including the Office on Missing Persons and the Office on Reparations, lost the confidence of victims’ families further after being undermined by the appointment of members not deemed independent. Families complained of being surveilled, intimidated, and restricted from holding peaceful protests and memorialization initiatives, while being pressured to accept financial compensation and death certificates in lieu of certificates of absence until the fate of those forcibly disappeared could be ascertained.

“The government showed renewed interest in setting up a truth and reconciliation commission to address the grievances of those affected by the war. However, such a process had yet to be set up in line with the findings of public consultations on reconciliation mechanisms by the end of the year.

“Domestic redress mechanisms including the National Human Rights Commission remained politicized. In October, the legislature passed an amendment to the Constitution, ostensibly to make appointments to key commissions more independent. However, the council that makes such appointments required nomination by a majority of government members, bringing the independence of their appointments into question. The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions recommended that the National Human Rights Commission be downgraded due to its lack of independence, amongst other concern

“In a landmark decision, in March the CEDAW Committee found that the criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual conduct between women under Section 365A of Sri Lanka’s Penal Code (1883) violates their right to non-discrimination. The CEDAW Committee called on the Sri Lankan authorities to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct between women. A Private Member’s Bill seeking to amend the Penal Code provisions that criminalize same-sex conduct was handed to the president in August, but did not receive government support by the end of the year.

Muslim and Tamil minorities remained disproportionately affected by the use of the PTA. Even in cases where suspects were released on bail, who included Hejaaz Hizbullah, Ahnaf Jazeem, Davaniya Mukunthan and Mohamed Imran, their livelihoods remained affected by bail conditions which included the freezing of their assets and restrictions on livelihood-generating activity.”



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Keheliya, seven others further remanded till 28th June

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The Maligakanda Magistrate’s Court today [14] ordered that former Minister of Health Keheliya Rambukwella and seven others be further remanded until June 28 by over the import of substandard human Immunoglobulin vials.

 

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President launches Public Learning and Education Platform for Sri Lankan Youth

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe officially launched www.publiclearn.lk a new education platform aimed at transforming Sri Lanka’s learning landscape at the Chamber Hall of the Presidential Secretariat, on Thursday [13]

Public Learn is a platform that guides users to free courses from the world’s top universities. .

Emphasizing the importance of adapting to a knowledge-intensive society, the President highlighted Sri Lanka’s strong educational results despite various systemic flaws. He noted that the new platform would enhance the education system’s effectiveness and stressed that Sri Lanka must swiftly advance in digitization to drive the new economic transformation.

President Wickremesinghe highlighted that the Public Learn platform serves as a crucial tool for enabling many Sri Lankans to advance personally and transform their nation. He reflected on Sri Lanka’s historical learning journey in three phases: first, during the era of Arahath Mahinda and the Pirivena system; second, with the introduction of the British public school system; and now, with the advent of digital education platforms like Public Learn, marking the third phase. He emphasized the importance of leveraging digital technology and knowledge to propel Sri Lanka forward in the digital economy, underscoring the need for continuous adaptation and innovation.

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Easter Sunday carnage: ‘Another probe nothing but an exercise in futility’

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Rev. Father Cyril Gamini

‘Implement PCoI recommendations at least now’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Catholic Church yesterday (14) reiterated its longstanding demand that the recommendations made by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (P CoI) into 2019 Easter Sunday attacks be implemented.

Rev. Father Cyril Gamini Fernando said so when The Island sought the Catholic Church’s reaction to the appointment by President Ranil Wickremesinghe a new committee of inquiry to investigate the actions and responses of the country’s intelligence and security authorities following the intelligence warning received from India.

The committee is headed by retired Judge Ms. A. N. J. de Alwis. Rev. Fernando said that the government should implement the recommendations made by the PCoI headed by Supreme Court judge Janak de Silva. He said another inquiry would be nothing but an exercise in futility as the PCoI conducted an in-depth investigation into the Easter attacks, including the failure on the part of the intelligence apparatus to act on foreign intelligence as well neutralise the growing threat posed by extremist elements.

Rev. Fr. Fernando questioned the rationale behind re-examining the conduct of State Intelligence Service (SIS) and Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) as the Supreme Court in January last year ordered Senior DIG Nilantha Jayewardena and retired DIG Sisira Mendis, who headed the SIS and functioned as CNI, respectively, to pay compensation to the tune of Rs 75 mn and Rs 10 mn.

“What is there to investigate again?” Rev Fernando asked, urging the government to go through the PCoI recommendations in respect of politicians and security officials.

In addition to the PCoI report, the report of the Parliamentary Select Committee and a Special Investigation Committee of three members appointed by the then President Maithriapla Sirisena probed the Easter carnage, Rev Fernando said, adding that if those in parliament were still interested in justice and fair play should look into that matter.

Rev. Fernando urged the government to examine how successive leaders had responded to PCoI findings. When President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed a committee consisting of six MPs to look into the PCoI report and its findings soon after justice Janak de Silva handed over his report on Feb 1, 2021 it became clear that the powers that be would resort to old tactics. Nearly two years after President Rajapaksa’s ouster, the situation remained the same, Rev. Fernando said, adding that the Church wouldn’t give up its fight for justice.

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