Tamil National Alliance Spokesperson Parliamentarian and President’s Counsel M.A.Sumanthiran has urged the government to reconsider and urgently reformulate its proposals in the Counter Terrorism Act in the light of the fundamental need to avoid torture and enforced disappearance, prevent abuse and effectively investigate actual threats of terrorism.
He has voiced his displeasure over the Cabinet approval for the policy and the legal framework relating to the proposed Counter Terrorism Act.
Pointing out serious flaws, he said : "We are also shocked to the extent that the draft framework curtails civil liberties, judicial control over the State security apparatus and the staggering potential for abuse and torture. The proposed framework ensures neither the security nor the liberty of Sri Lankans. Instead, it represents an attempt to enlarge the scope of unchecked executive power over the citizen, stifle freedom of speech and diversity, and provide the necessary loopholes for continued torture and abuse. We wish to reiterate that the protection of the rights of our citizens particularly given the legacy of horrific past abuses – should not be sacrificed on the altar of trade concessions.
Moreover, the proposed framework envisages the unconstitutional stripping of judicial discretion even where a suspect is produced before a Magistrate after arrest, and renders the judge a virtual appendage of the executive arm. The safeguards which we believe are essential to prevent torture such as eliminating confessions, were initially assured, but have since been reversed. The present framework envisages the admissibility of confessions under certain conditions, which are deeply inadequate to prevent torture and abuse given the widespread and continuing practice of torture in Sri Lanka. Moreover, the Act also permits the extensive violation of the rights of those wholly unconnected with terrorism."