TNA slams draft framework of Counter Terrorism Act

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) today slammed the draft framework of the proposed Counter Terrorism Act (CTA) which obtained cabinet approval recently.

TNA spokesperson M A Sumanthiran said the TNA is shocked by the extent to which the draft framework curtails civil liberties, erodes judicial control over the state security apparatus and the staggering potential for abuse and torture.

” We are unequivocally committed to supporting a legal framework that would prevent and punish acts of terrorism in a manner that is lawful, in compliance with fundamental rights and the rule of law. To this end, we have engaged constructively in Parliament. We are therefore deeply perturbed by the turn the government’s latest draft has taken,” he said.

Sumanthiran said the TNA observed that the proposed definition of terrorism would extend far beyond activities defined internationally as terrorism, replicating restrictions on free speech that have previously been used to punish dissenting voices including politicians and journalists such as AsathSalley and J. S. Tissainayagam among others. The definitions are also exceedingly vague and indeterminate, and would have a chilling effect on advocacy in favour of greater diversity in Sri Lanka.

Moreover, he says the proposed framework envisages the unconstitutional stripping of judicial discretion even where a suspect is produced before a Magistrate after arrest, and renders the judge a virtual appendage of the executive arm.

“The safeguards which we believe are essential to prevent torture—such as eliminating confessions—were initially assured, but have since been reversed. The present framework envisages the admissibility of confessions under certain conditions, which are deeply inadequate to prevent torture and abuse given the widespread and continuing practice of torture in Sri Lanka. Moreover, the Act also permits the extensive violation of the rights of those wholly unconnected with terrorism,” he said.

The TNA urged the Government to reconsider and urgently reformulate its proposals in light of the fundamental need to avoid torture and enforced disappearance, prevent abuse and effectively investigate actual threats to terrorism.

Sumanthiran says the proposed framework neither ensures the security nor the liberty of Sri Lankans and instead, it represents an attempt to enlarge the scope of unchecked executive power over the citizen, stifle freedom of speech and diversity, and provide the necessary loopholes for continued torture and abuse. (Colombo Gazette)