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Amnesty says that Sri Lanka's new emergency regulations further erode human rights protection...
[see also 1998 Report on Sri Lanka by the Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers]Amnesty International in a 17 page report titled "Sri Lanka - New Emergency Regulations - Erosion of Human Rights Protection" (AI Index: ASA 37/19/00) dated July 2000 declared:
"In May 2000, the President of Sri Lanka promulgated new emergency regulations which confer powers of arrest to "any authorized person" in addition to the police and armed forces and considerably extend the powers to detain available to them.
The regulations also provide wide powers of censorship; provisions for prohibiting public meetings and processions; and broad provisions for proscribing organizations which the President considers to be prejudicial to national security, public order or the maintenance of essential services.
The emergency regulations which were in force up to 3 May already granted powers which considerably exceeded the limits permissible under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Sri Lanka acceded to in 1980.
The excessive powers available under emergency regulations and their contribution to human rights violations have been commented on by a number of international and local human rights bodies over the years.
Most recently, for example, the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) recommended that the emergency regulations in force at the time of its third visit to Sri Lanka in October 1999 "should be abolished or otherwise brought into line with internationally accepted standards of personal liberty, due process of law and humane treatment of prisoners".
Far from complying with its obligations under international human rights law, however, the Sri Lankan government has instead further eroded the human rights guaranteed in international human rights treaties with the emergency regulations promulgated on 3 May 2000 and their subsequent amendments. ...
...Since the introduction of the new emergency regulations, there has been an increase in the number of reports of torture. In addition, the methods of the torture reported appear to have become more severe than before and there have been at least two reports of detainees dying in custody as a result of torture...
...On 22 June, Thambiah Wijayakumar was reportedly taken away from the cinema in Veppankulam, Vavuniya District, where he works, by four officers of the Security Co-ordinating Unit (SCU), a police unit involved in interrogating suspected members of the LTTE. The SCU and other security forces continued to deny he was in their custody when Thambiah’s relatives made enquiries. His whereabouts remained unknown until 10 July when the SCU finally admitted he was in their custody.
While Amnesty International cannot provide conclusive evidence linking this emerging trend to the new emergency regulations, it is concerned that the wider powers given to the security forces may be resulting in an increase in torture, “disappearances” and deaths in custody...
...The proper protection of prisoners and detainees is a matter of critical importance in Sri Lanka, which remains the country with the second largest number of non-clarified cases of “disappearances” on the WGEID’s list, and where torture remains widespread...
...Five labourers arrested on 4 June in Trincomalee district, in the east of the country, and taken to Kantalai police station were badly tortured during the first days of their detention. One of them is suspected to have died as a result. When the men’s relatives tried to visit them the next morning, police chased them away. On 6 June, Kantalai police were seen taking two of them, Poopalaratnam Arulramesh and Sinnathamby Pradeepan, out of the police station. Both men appeared to have been badly tortured: Sinnathamby Pradeepan was bleeding from his mouth and had open wounds on his shoulders, and Poopalaratnam Arulramesh had difficulty walking.
A third detainee, Ganesh Chandrakanthan was badly tortured on the day of his arrest, 4 June. He was seen being carried out of the police station and put into a jeep around 3pm on 5 June. His left hand appeared to be broken. In the morning of 7 June, police told his family that he had been killed when he set off a grenade when taken to a secret place where arms had been buried. The police refused to release the body unless his relatives signed a statement confirming that Ganesh Chandrakanthan was an LTTE member. The relatives refused and the body was subsequently buried by police in the Kantalai cemetery. His relatives were not present at the time of the burial.
Post Mortem and Inquest Procedures:
On 6 May, three days after the new emergency regulations were promulgated, the government announced that ER55FF had been rescinded with immediate effect. According to this statement, the regulations of 3 May 2000 had been amended by gazette notification to remove this provision, which permitted police officers of the rank of at least Assistant Superintendent to dispose of bodies without post-mortem examination or inquest, thus enabling them to dispose of evidence of torture and extrajudicial killing.
This notorious provision was last brought into force under the previous government in 1989, during a period when tens of thousands of extrajudicial executions and “disappearances” were committed, and was removed from the regulations in February 1990. When such powers were introduced to the emergency regulations in the 1980s, there was an immediate increase in reports of extrajudicial killings. And indeed, after the revised emergency regulations were issued on 3 May 2000, there were again worrying reports of the appearance of bodies of people who appeared to have been victims of extrajudicial execution.
On the evening of 3 May, the day the new emergency regulations were issued, 45- year-old Thangiah Sivapooranam from Wattala, Colombo was taken away by three people in civil dress who identified themselves as officers of the Criminal Investigation Department of the police. The next day, his body was found at Kadawatha, together with three further bodies, whose identities remain unknown. There were five gunshot injuries on Thangiah Sivapooranam’s body, including one to his forehead, suggesting he may have been summarily executed.
Despite the government’s announcement, however, it is not clear that ER55FF was in fact in force between 3 May and 6 May. Amnesty International’s published copy of the emergency regulations dated 3 May 2000 does not contain this provision, although it has been informed that an earlier draft did contain it. So far, Amnesty International has not seen a copy of the gazette notification of the amendment to ER55FF which the government stated had been published. Given that the regulations of 3 May 2000 as published do not contain regulation 55FF, it can only be assumed that it was removed from the original text prior to printing. What remains unclear, if this was the case, is why the government then announced that they had been rescinded.
Even without the powers of ER55FF being available, the emergency provisions on post-mortem and inquest procedures remain wholly inadequate for the full and impartial investigation of deaths caused by security forces personnel, and could still be used to cover-up illegal killings by the security forces....
Conclusions and Recommendations...
Amnesty International believes that arrest and detention provisions under the emergency regulations violate a number of international commitments made by Sri Lanka, including several provisions of the ICCPR. In so far as the suspension of legal safeguards relating to arrest and detention facilitates torture and “disappearances”, Amnesty International believes that the emergency regulations de facto make easier abuses of human rights which are non-derogable under the ICCPR. Amnesty International believes that the emergency regulations should be repealed or, failing outright repeal, should be reviewed thoroughly with a view to bringing them into line with internationally accepted standards of personal liberty, due process of law and humane treatment of prisoners.
Amnesty International believes that all political prisoners must be charged with a recognizable criminal offence and promptly tried in a regular court of law in accordance with internationally accepted standards of fair trial. Alternatively, they should be released. Amnesty International recommends that the Government of Sri Lanka urgently reviews the necessity of maintaining preventive detention and urgently considers its repeal...."
Note 1: Emergency (Miscellaneous Provisions and Powers) Regulations No. 1 of 2000 as promulgated in Gazette 1130/8 of 3 May 2000; and amendments promulgated to regulations concerning control of publications on 10 May 2000 and to those concerning arrest and detention on 16 May 2000. Further amendments were promulgated on 3 June to lift the ban on public meetings and processions and on 1 July to regulations concerning control of publications. The issuing of new emergency regulations should not be confused with the declaration of a state of emergency as such. A state of emergency has been in force in Sri Lanka nearly continuously since 1983. During a declared state of emergency, which has to be renewed monthly by parliament, emergency regulations come into force. They are issued by the President under the Public Security Ordinance, by-passing the normal legislative procedure.
Note 2: See paragraph 63(d) of UN Document: E/CN.4/2000/64/Add.1, Report of the visit to Sri Lanka by a member of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (25-29 October 1999), 21 December 1999.