Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) gazetted

00:00 Mar 17 2023 President Secretatriat

The proposed Anti Terrorism Act (ATA) which expects to replace the existing draconian
legislature Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) of 1979, was gazetted on 17th March 2023.
Despite the repeal of PTA was a long time demand of the civil society in Sri Lanka, ATA was
widely criticised by trade unions, human rights organisations, civil society, legal experts, and
press freedom advocates and others, for its potential of being used to crack down dissent,
restrict freedom of expression and other human rights reproducing and further expanding
some problematic powers in the PTA. ATA provides powers for Police and military to arrest
people without a warrant, even without evidence, if they have “reasonable grounds to believe”
that an offence has been committed, along with powers given to the President to issue orders
proscribing organisations for being ‘terrorist organisations’ and to restrict their access for
funding, and maintaining membership. Further the Act empowers Police to detain a person
under a Detention Order issued by a Deputy Inspector General of the Police up to one year.The law would also expand the legal definition of terrorist offences beyond international
guidelines and include the infliction of serious damage to any place of public use, the
obstruction of essential services, and participation in an unlawful assembly to be connected
to ‘terrorism’. A number of international and local organisations including Amnesty
International, International federation of Journalists (IFJ), Forum Asia, Human Rights
Watch, Sri Lanka Bar Association, and
others issued statements criticising the bill. Separately 450 civil society activists and
organisations wrote a public letter addressing all the diplomatic missions in Colombo, copying
to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN Special Rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights.
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