Repealing PTA, regaining GSP+, connected – EU

By Paneetha Ameresekere

Repealing the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) was a commitment made by Sri Lanka to the European Union (EU) in the lead-up to Sri Lanka’s readmission to the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP+) as well as to the UN Human Rights Council in April 2019, the EU in its ‘Human Rights Report 2019’ released recently said.

Despite the progress made following the 2015 elections, progress in implementing UN Human Rights Council Resolution 30/1 continued to be slow, the report said.

The EU continued to support the implementation of the UNHRC resolution through support to resettlement, transitional justice, non-recurrence and constitutional reform and advance women’s political, economic and civic rights and rights and physical and psychological integrity, it said.

A GSP+ monitoring mission which visited Sri Lanka in September 2019 focused on issues including the PTA and the implementation of the UNHRC resolution, as did the fourth meeting of the Working Group on Governance, Rule of Law and Human Rights in August 2019, the EU said. The EU delegation, jointly with Member States, conducted a number of meetings with Government representatives, which centred on human rights and political issues including the death penalty and minority issues, the EU report said.

The results of last year’s Presidential Poll clearly illustrated the majority-minority divide and contributed to further strengthening post-election nationalist fervour, which is likely to further impact Sri Lanka’s ethno-religious minorities, it said.

The Easter Sunday Terror Attacks further degraded the already-brittle relations between Sri Lanka’s Sinhala majority and Muslim minority, and led to several serious incidents of anti-Muslim violence and discrimination including against Muslim refugees and asylum seekers, the EU said. Tensions also increased between the Muslim community and other religious and ethnic minorities. The UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture completed its first visit to Sri Lanka in April 2019, where it examined the treatment of people deprived of their liberty and the safeguards in place for their protection against torture and ill-treatment.

 The Subcommittee is expected to submit a confidential report to the Government containing its observations and recommendations arising from the visit.

The Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Peaceful Assembly and Association, who visited the country in July 2019, was daunted by the widespread fear expressed by all sectors of society of setbacks in the democratic gains, and called on Sri Lankans to act together in favour of sustained democracy. Following his mission to Sri Lanka in August 2019, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief noted the serious trust deficit among ethno-religious communities, the EU said.

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