The United Nations Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka Ms. Hanaa Singer-Hamdy spoke at an initiative to enhance the capacity, skills and knowledge of prosecutors to counter terrorism and prevent radicalization in Sri Lanka.
The initiative is carried out under the overall objectives of an European Union (EU) funded project “Support to Sri Lanka on Counter-Terrorism” by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The objective of the project is, institutional capacity building to effectively prevent/detect, investigate, prosecute and adjudicate terrorism cases in Sri Lanka, in line with the relevant international legal instruments and human rights norms, standards and good practices.
Speaking here, Ms. Singer-Hamdy said that effective counter-terrorism measures and respect for the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms are complementary and mutually reinforcing objectives.
“Because counter-terrorism activities can offer a peaceful, accountable and legitimate response to terrorism – only if they are grounded in a criminal justice process that respects the principles of the rule of law and human rights,” she said.
Hanaa Singer-Hamdy said that ensuring that innocent people do not become the victims of counter-terrorism measures should be an important component of efforts to root-out terrorism.
“We cannot resort to excessive measures which suppress or restrict individual rights including privacy rights, freedom of thought, presumption of innocence, fair trial, political participation, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. In order to construct the solid human rights culture required to eliminate terrorism, there is a need to bridge the gulf between human rights norms and their application in reality,” she said.
Hanaa Singer-Hamdy said that there are specific issues that the criminal justice system in Sri Lanka need to address in ensuring the protection of human rights while countering-terrorism.
“There needs to be a review of the Counter-terrorism legal framework, including the legislation, the definition of terrorism and addressing the backlog of cases,” she said.
She also called on the authorities to address human rights violations that take place under activities intended to prevent terrorism and also provide those accused of terrorism with a fair trial and due process.
The UN official also said that Sri Lanka must deal with non-discrimination and stigmatization of those accused of terrorism and their families and address the need to provide rehabilitation and reintegration for those suspected, accused or convicted of terrorism. (Colombo Gazette)