Nov 15, Colombo: The Sri Lankan government says its work on the draft counter terrorism legislation to replace the current Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) is progressing with the technical assistance of United Nations agencies.
Presenting Sri Lanka's 5th Periodic Report submitted to the 59th Session of the Committee Against Torture (CAT) under the International Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Sri Lanka said the technical assistance has been obtained to ensure the draft legislation adheres to the international norms and standards.
The Government has appointed a Committee to develop the policy and the legal framework on new Counter Terrorism Legislation in consistent with the policy of the present Government to restore good governance and respect for human rights and the rule of law, Sri Lanka delegation said in its statement.
Among the objectives to be achieved by the proposed legislation is the need to ensure that the proposed law will conform to related international norms and standards including human rights law and other applicable human rights norms and standards. It is also sought to ensure that the proposed law is consistent with principles of democracy, good governance and the rule of law.
The draft policy and legislative framework also seeks to effectively and comprehensively respond to contemporary manifestations and threats of terrorism and attacks on the national security of Sri Lanka.
The Committee appointed by the government has engaged with the United Nations Counter Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED) and other agencies such as the UNODC, as it proceeded with its work, the delegation said. The CTED provided technical assistance through an expert who studied a preliminary version of the Draft framework and expressed his preliminary views.
The draft policy and legal framework was thereafter presented to the Cabinet of Ministers for its consideration. The Cabinet decided, inter alia, to request the Prime Minister to forward the policy and legal framework to the Parliamentary Sectoral Oversight Committee on national security seeking its views prior to approval being granted by the Cabinet.
The deliberations of the Committee appointed to formulate the draft framework resulted in a series of drafts emerging from these deliberations, which, while progressively developing the drafts, also brought to surface some of the key issues that need to be further addressed, such as the scope of offences sought to be covered under the draft law; powers of arrest, investigation and detention; issues relating to the production of suspects before a Magistrate, and questions of admissibility of evidence.
With a view to further engaging on these issues with international experts, a High Level Dialogue on counter terrorism and the proposed Counter Terrorism Act of Sri Lanka was convened last week on 8th and 9th November in Colombo with the cooperation of the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator.
The high-level dialogue had the participation of a number of international experts including those from the UNODC Terrorism Prevention Branch, OHCHR, the UN Special Rapporteur on Counter Terrorism Mr. Ben Emmerson QC (and presented through Skype) and experts from the United Kingdom. The dialogue resulted in an in-depth discussion on key areas, such as International Norms and Standards relating to counter terrorism; Sri Lanka's proposed Counter Terrorism Act in the context of human rights standards, ensuring respect for human rights when countering terrorism and also United Kingdom's experience in countering terrorism and lessons for Sri Lanka.
The discussions with the international experts resulted in bringing into focus some of the key issues that need to be further addressed as the work on the draft legal and policy framework progresses, in order to ensure that international norms and standards related to counter terrorism are taken due account of, when the new legislation takes final form. The International experts appreciated the opportunity offered to make their inputs while the draft legal and policy framework was still an ongoing process, prior to finalizing the legislation.
The Parliamentary Oversight Committee on National Security also commenced their deliberations on the draft law last week and the members of the Oversight Committee as well as other members of Parliament also had the opportunity to participate at a Workshop held in Parliament on 10th November, and to listen to presentations given by the experts of the UNODC, OHCHR as well as experts from the United Kingdom.
The Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Security is also expected to engage with members of Civil Society. At the end of these deliberations views of the Oversight Committee will be submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers.
The Government said it expects to continue its collaboration on providing technical assistance with the CTED as the work on the draft counter terrorism legislation progresses.
Full text of Sri Lanka's statement