The experts recognize positive initiatives, including engagement with UN human rights mechanisms, as well as the recent accession to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.
However, they say further urgent action is required to give effect to Sri Lanka’s obligations under international human rights law, as well as the commitments made by the Government in its Human Rights National Action Plan 2017-2021.
“The right to personal liberty has yet to be respected by law enforcement, security forces, judicial and other authorities,” The experts said in a statement after a 3-member delegation carried out an official visit to the country.
They said that current powers to deprive individuals of their liberty extended across a range of facilities, including police stations, prisons, open work camps, centers for juveniles and the elderly, mental health institutions and rehabilitation camps for former combatants, as well as those for drug addicts and people in vulnerable situations.
The experts called for urgent reforms to address problems including the excessive use of remand, a lack of effective alternatives to detention, an outdated legal framework and reliance on confessions, often extracted under torture or duress.
“Court proceedings were affected by excessive and unjustified delays, while suspects remained in detention indefinitely”, they said, adding that the rights to the presumption of innocence and due process were yet to be fully recognized.
The experts called for the abolition of the special laws and powers enacted during the state of emergency.
In particular, the Working Group urged the Government of Sri Lanka to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 1979, as one of the key enablers of arbitrary detention for over four decades.
Meanwhile, a group including the wife and daughter of remanded Commodore D. K. P. Dassanayake came to the location of the media conference to meet those experts.
However, they did not get an opportunity to do so.
They had come there to hand over a letter citing that human rights of war heroes have also been violated.