Human Lives Human Rights: The emergency regulations have been brought into operation in the name of public security in Sri Lanka as a new President was voted to power today.
However, the emergency regulations released should not become a pretext for more human rights violations, because such regulations can serve as a springboard for further crackdown on people’s fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, right to personal security, liberty and freedom from arbitrary detention.
The emergency regulations give sweeping powers to the police and the armed forces to search and make arrests of ‘suspects’ without due process safeguards.
It levies hefty penalties including life imprisonment for ordinary penal offences like causing ‘mischief’. Detainees can be kept in custody for up to seventy-two hours without being produced before a Magistrate and guaranteed access to lawyers.
This prolonged period of custody without timely judicial oversight or the ability to challenge their detention heightens the risk for detainees to be subjected to torture or other ill-treatment.
So, as Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe takes power as new President, he must ensure that the people of Sri Lanka can exercise their right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, including to express dissent and demand respect for their rights.
It must be noted that the Sri Lankan authorities have carried out a number of arrests of largely peaceful demonstrators since the beginning of the current wave of protests in Sri Lanka.
Torture or other ill-treatment in custody in Sri Lanka has been documented before by the Rights groups.