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Sri Lanka's Genocidal War - '95 to '01
"Amnesty International says that an increase in torture, disappearances and deaths in custody have been reported since the introduction of new Emergency regulations in May.
After a visit to Sri Lanka in mid-July, European members of Parliament Robert Evans and Richard Howitt told the BBC that the island’s government has not done enough to protect civilians caught up in the war with the LTTE and is covering up a major humanitarian crisis.
The government implemented an oppressive press censorship policy and is not allowing essential supplies, including baby food and medicine, to be distributed in LTTE-held areas. The plight of displaced people in conflict areas was as bad as the sufferings of civilians in Sierra Leone and Chechniya, the MEPs say.
In a radio interview, Robert Evans also referred to arrests of Tamils in Colombo. Human rights agencies recorded over 225 arrests in July throughout the island, including the capital. Nine Tamil youths were taken into custody in Pettah suburb on 12 July. Police allege that they did not have national identity cards or proof of police registration.
Police detained nine Hill Country Tamils, including three women, in Polgahawela in mid-July. On 15 July, three Tamil youths from Jaffna were arrested during a search operation in Peliyagoda, north of Colombo. Police say they failed to establish their identity.
Amnesty International says under the new Emergency regulations of 3 May, it is no longer a legal requirement that a list of places of detention be published, increasing the risk of secret detention, torture and disappearance. Under the new regulations, preventive detention can be in ‘such place as may be authorized by the Inspector General of Police’ which could include prisons, military custody, police stations or any other place.
The previous regulations had provisions for the Defence Secretary to notify the existence and the addresses of places of detention to the magistrate of the area and for officers in charge of any place of detention to furnish to the magistrate, once every 14 days, a list of all persons detained and for the magistrate to display the list on the court’s notice board. It also contained provisions for the magistrate to visit the places of detention at least once a month and for every detainee to be produced before the magistrate. The regulations of 3 May have done away with all these important safeguards.
Under new regulation 16, the Defence Secretary may order restrictions on people, including on employment, communication and movement. A person can be confined to his residence. The regulation sets no time limit for the period for such an order, which implies that it can last indefinitely. The regulation does not provide for judicial or administrative scrutiny of the order.
Regulation 17 says that a preventive detention order for a period up to a year by the Defence Secretary 'shall not be called in question in any court on any ground whatsoever'. Amnesty points out that this is an attempt to deny detainees their constitutional right to petition the Supreme Court regarding violations of fundamental rights not to be arbitrarily arrested and detained. There would be no checks on the basis of the Secretary’s decisions to issue preventive detention orders or on abuse of the procedure.
Earlier, regulation 17 provided that the Defence Secretary should be 'satisfied upon the material presented to him or upon such further additional material called for by him', that it was necessary to detain a person to prevent him from committing an offence. The Supreme Court in 1997 had ruled that this provision meant that the Defence Secretary must make a 'reasonable, objective and independent decision'. Under the new regulation 17, the Secretary needs only to be 'of opinion' that it is necessary to issue a preventive detention order and has no requirement that he should be able to justify his opinion with reference to any actual evidence.
The new regulation 17 also removes the right of representation to an administrative advisory committee from detainees whom the Defence Secretary certifies as suspected members of a proscribed organisation. There is no redress for persons who believe that they have been wrongfully detained.
There is also no requirement for full details on detention to be provided to the detainee who makes representations to the advisory committee. Nor is there any requirement for information, on the grounds of detention, to be given to a detainee who does not make representations to the advisory committee or who has been prohibited from doing so because he/she is deemed to be a member of a proscribed organisation..." (British Refugee Council, Sri Lanka Monitor, July 2000)