Following the turn of events in terms of ousting of the Prime Minister and his government by the President and appointing Mahinda Rajapakse as the new President which pushed the country into a constitutional crisis; Namal Rajapakse, son of the present Prime Minister has widely stated to the local and international media that the long-held demand of the Tamil community to release all Tamil prisoners may be fulfilled soon, which many presume a move aimed at gaining support of the victim communities.
Subsequent to this statement, reliable sources state that only 25 prisoners with minor offences would be released, which many activists speculate that this is a calculated political move in order to gain the support Tamil National Alliance (TNA).
While there are 107 political prisoners under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) languishing in prisons island-wide, releasing just 25 political prisoners would be deemed as meaningless and in-genuine in the part of the government, if the political prisoners’ longstanding demands are not met.
Therefore, the Centre for Human Rights and Development (CHRD) would like to highlight the following demands of the political prisoners.
1. Release all political prisoners on general amnesty or short-term rehabilitation It must be highlighted that the demand of the political prisoners is that they be released unconditionally. They cite a precedent set in 1971 and 1989 when Sinhalese rebels from the South were released without court cases and with minimum conditions and within very short time.
2. Building trust and support of the Tamil victim communities. Agitation for repeal of the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act and release of political prisoners have been long-standing and forms an important aspect of the Government’s international human rights commitments. This piece of legislation is being continued to discriminate against and marginalize the country’s ethnic Tamils through detentions and arbitrary arrests.
3. To review and repeal the PTA. The Act should be replaced by laws complied for due process and with international law. However, the government should not wait for the repeal of the PTA, it should end abuses by the terrorism investigation division of the police, which continues to detain suspects without charge, often holding them in abusive and humiliating ways, in contravention of procedures outlined by Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission.
4. Heeding to the directives of the Human Rights Commission given to the Attorney General’s Department Take immediate measures to establish a special unit to handle cases related to PTA and ensure expediting the legal process which has been dragging on for a lengthy period of time. Revamping of the Attorney General’s Department which was part of the directives of the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commissions’ directives should also take p
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