9/11/2009

Terror suspects languish in Sri Lanka's prisons for more than 10 years without trial, human rights lawyer points out

(September 11, 2009 - Lanka Polity) C.J. Weliamuna, one of Sri Lanka's leading human rights lawyers says that some Tamil Tiger rebel suspects languish in the island's prisons for 10 to 15 years without being convicted or acquitted.

The judges cannot grant them bail as they are either indicted or detained under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), said Weliamuna delivering the keynote address of a seminar held in Colombo Center for Society and Religion yesterday on PTA and the imprisonment of media person J.N. Thissanayagam for 20 years on charges framed under PTA.

Almost all of these ill-fated persons are ethnic Tamils, he said. In many other cases persons are held for years under PTA and they are released later without charges. The Defense Secretary has wide powers to arrest and detain persons under PTA that is needed to be amended, according to the human rights organizations of the island.

Responding to Mr. Weliamuna's speech, a women activist said that her organization was trying to unite a woman who was acquitted recently by courts after holding her for many years in prison, with her husband that lives in Jaffna in the Northern Province. The woman still lives in jail with her seven or eight years old daughter since no person affords to accept her in Colombo since citizens are in fear of being suspected as the sympathizers of the defeated Tamil rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE).

Sri Lanka introduced PTA in 1979 initially as a temporary measure to curtail the activities of the Tamil separatist organizations. However, it exists even three decades after too while government has introduced terrorism prevention measures under emergency regulations as well since recently.

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