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Human rights must be ‘at the heart’ of the next presidency: Amnesty International

14 November 2019 12:01 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Ahead of Sri Lanka’s presidential election this weekend, Amnesty International has called on the country’s next president to put human rights at the heart of their policies. Issuing a statement, Amnesty is appealing to all candidates to prioritise key human rights issues, including commitments on transitional justice made in the aftermath of the country’s bloody conflict.  


The organisation is also calling on candidates to commit to repealing repressive laws, abolishing the death penalty and protecting essential human rights - including the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. Biraj Patnaik, South Asia Director at Amnesty International, said:  
“Human rights must be at the heart of the next Sri Lankan president’s policies. The authorities have made slow and limited - but important - progress when it comes to addressing human rights violations and abuses, including the areas of truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence.  


A worrying trend in Sri Lanka in recent years has been a rise in anti-Muslim violence. In the wake of this year’s Easter Sunday massacre, where many were killed in churches and hotels in different parts of Sri Lanka, violent mobs unleashed their rage against Sri Lankan Muslims as well as refugees and asylum seekers from Muslim-majority countries. Sri Lanka continues to criminalise homosexuality using an archaic, colonial-era penal code. LGBTI people routinely face harassment and discrimination at the hands of the police and other state officials.  
Sri Lanka has not executed anyone for more than four decades, but the death penalty remains legal, including for drug-related crimes. Prisoners remain on death row with the terrible uncertainty that they may yet face a cruel and irreversible punishment. The next Sri Lankan president must consolidate the country’s positive record by introducing an official moratorium on executions, moving towards the abolition of the death penalty for all crimes. In 2015, Sri Lanka made commitments to pursue truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence for victims of the 26-year-long conflict that ended in 2009.  


There has been dismayingly slow progress on these commitments over the past four years, but there have been some important advances, including the operationalisation of an Office of Missing Persons, the Office for Reparations, and the return of some of the land occupied by the Sri Lankan military.  
Amnesty is calling on the next Sri Lankan president to build on these gains. The next president should push for the repeal of the notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act, one of main drivers of human rights violations to this day. It should be replaced by a law that meets international standards.  


While tracts of civilian-owned land have been returned to their owners, many families are still struggling to get their land back. Land still occupied by the Sri Lankan military should be returned and there should also be reparations for their decades-long dispossession.  

 

The next president should push for the repeal of the notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act, one of main drivers of human rights violations to this day. It should be replaced by a law that meets international standards

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