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[Media Lines] Sri Lanka: Proposed Vague Anti-Terrorism Act Suppress Fundamental Freedoms

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In response to the proposal of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) by the government of Sri Lanka, FORUM-ASIA says:

FORUM-ASIA is alarmed by the newly proposed Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), an anti-terror legislation to replace the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) of 1979. Although the bill is being introduced to do away with provisions of the PTA that are considered to violate international human rights law, the proposed ATA bill is vague and broad in its definition of ‘acts of terrorism’.

The proposed bill is not an improvement over the  PTA as it seems to become yet another pretext for suppressing fundamental freedoms and criminalising human rights defenders, protestors and minorities, entrenching a culture of impunity in Sri Lanka. It also introduces the death penalty for ‘the terrorism offence of murder’ – which is a retrograde step and a stark violation of the right to life.

While replacing the PTA is a good initiative, the proposed ATA Bill requires serious revisions, as otherwise, it has the same repressive tendencies as the PTA and gives the State extraordinary powers to curtail civil liberties. The Bill must be read in the context of Sri Lanka’s contentious legacy of abuse and must not become an additional tool to crack down on fundamental freedoms.

We urge the Sri Lankan government to ensure that the new legislation is in line with its constitutional guarantees, under Article 13, and its obligations under international human rights law.


The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) is a network of 85 member organisations across 23 countries, mainly in Asia. Founded in 1991, FORUM-ASIA works to strengthen movements for human rights and sustainable development through research, advocacy, capacity development and solidarity actions in Asia and beyond. It has consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, and consultative relationship with the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights. The FORUM-ASIA Secretariat is based in Bangkok, with offices in Jakarta, Geneva and Kathmandu.

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