AI report on Sri Lanka
AI report on Sri Lanka
By James McDonald
(Date: Feb 1996)
Amnesty International has recently issued a new 25-page report
on Sri Lanka entitled "Sri Lanka: Under scrutiny by the Human
Rights Committee." Those interested in obtaining a copy of the
report should contact the Amnesty International section in their
country; those in the U.S. should contact Amnesty International USA,
322 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10001; Attn: Publications. Those
with access to the World Wide Web may wish to visit the Amnesty
International site (http://www.amnesty.org/) to see if the report is
A summary of the report and of Amnesty's 17 recommendations contained
in the report follow below.
Summary of Report
The Human Rights Committee is a body composed of 18 experts from a wide
range of legal systems. The Committee was established under the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to monitor
implementation of the ICCPR by the countries which are parties to it.
Sri Lanka is a party to the ICCPR.
The Amnesty report reviews the various questions put and observations
made by members of the Committee during its examination of Sri Lanka's
third periodic report to the Committee on July 24-5, 1995. The AI
report also includes the conclusions drawn by the Committee about the
practical application in Sri Lanka of those human rights guarantees
provided in the ICCPR, which fall within Amnesty International's mandate.
Among the main recommendations made by the Human Rights Committee is a
recommendation for Sri Lanka to take urgent steps to ensure that its
laws are in full compliance with the ICCPR and that within the context
of the present process of constitutional reform due consideration be
given to the provisions of the ICCPR.
Amnesty International is widely distributing this report in Sri Lanka,
thereby hoping to assist discussions - particularly among those
professionally or otherwise involved with human rights protection - about
the effective implementation of international human rights standards
which the Government of Sri Lanka is bound to respect and ensure.
Summary of Amnesty International Recommendations
1. In light of the Human Rights Committee's comments on the third periodic
report, Amnesty International recommends to the Government of Sri Lanka
that the fourth periodic report to the Human Rights Committee be submitted
on time in the format required by the Committee and after adequate
consultation with local human rights organizations.
2. Amnesty International recommends that in light of the government's
stated policy of transparency in government, the recommendations of the
Advisory Group to the Minister of Foreign Affairs are made public
together with the steps taken by the government in response to them.
3. Amnesty International recommends that the government undertake a
thorough review of the Emergency Regulations (ERs) at the earliest
opportunity to bring them fully in line with relevant international
standards, in particular the relevant provisions of the ICCPR and the
Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of
Detention or Imprisonment (the Body of Principles).
4. Amnesty International recommends that the government take immediate
steps to ensure a prompt, comprehensive and thorough review of the
Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) to bring the law in conformity with
relevant international standards, in particular the relevant provisions
of the ICCPR and of the Body of Principles.
5. Amnesty International urges that provisions in the ERs and PTA
allowing for statements made to the police to be admitted as evidence,
be abolished, and that the normal rules relating to confessions, as
laid down in the Evidence Ordinance, be restored.
6. Amnesty International urges the government to ratify all international
human rights and humanitarian treaties to which Sri Lanka is not as yet a
party, in particular the first Optional Protocol to the ICCPR.
7. Amnesty International recommends that in the context of the present
process of constitutional reform, all rights set forth in the ICCPR be
provided and that any limitations placed on these rights do not exceed
those permitted by the ICCPR.
8. Amnesty International recommends that the death penalty be abolished
in a constitutional provision.
9. Amnesty International recommends that the government ratify the
Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR.
10. Amnesty International welcomes the news that the government is
considering making declarations under Articles 21 and 22 of the
Convention Against Torture and urges it to do so at the earliest
11. Amnesty International urges the government to submit its first
periodic report to the Committee Against Torture.
12. Amnesty International recommends that a thorough review of the
habeas corpus procedure should take place to ensure that petitions are
dealt with as speedily as possible and that judges have the authority
to obtain unrestricted access to places of detention to investigate
the legal situation and physical condition of detainees. If access is
refused, or if the detention is denied in spite of evidence of the
involvement of members of the security forces in the arrest, judges
should have full authority to ensure that their orders to bring
detainees before them have to be complied with by the security forces.
The government must take effective steps to ensure habeas corpus orders
are implemented and there are effective sanctions for not doing so.
13. Amnesty International also urges that all necessary steps are taken
to conduct full and impartial investigations and bring to justice those
members of the security forces identified by the Court of Appeal in
habeas corpus judgments as having been involved in illegal arrests and
14. Amnesty International recommends that the government when finalizing
the review of the fundamental rights chapter of the Constitution take
into account the comments of the Human Rights Committee with a view to
strengthening the remedy of fundamental rights petitions and that it
take all the necessary steps to effectively implement the Supreme Court
judgments ordering the relevant authorities to take action against those
members of the security forces responsible for torture and ill-treatment.
15. Amnesty International recommends that all legal provisions providing
immunity from prosecution, including the Indemnity (Amendment) Act and
Section 26 of the PTA, be abolished and that the government make further
efforts to restore full accountability among members of the security
forces, including by bringing to justice all perpetrators of human rights
16. Amnesty International recommends that the mandate, composition and
methodology of the Human Rights Commission would be in accordance with
internationally recommended principles and standards as laid down in
the "Principles relating to the status of national institutions"
adopted by the UN Commission on Human Rights. It also recommends that
the creation of a Human Rights Commission should go hand in hand with
a thorough review of the existing legal remedies. Finally, it recommends
that the activities of various other institutions active in the field of
human rights protection and promotion be coordinated with the work of
the Commission and among themselves.
17. Amnesty International recommends that the government formally extend
the mandate of the commissions of inquiry into "disappearances" to
include cases reported prior to 1988 as well as extrajudicial executions.