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Sri Lankan govt tables PTA amendment bill in Parliament

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Colombo, Feb 10 (PTI) The Sri Lankan government on Thursday tabled in Parliament the bill to amend its controversial counter-terrorism law, which has drawn widespread international criticism for its harsh provisions.

Foreign Minister G L Peiris presented the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) Amendment Bill, which proposes a number of changes including introduction of a new section to allow bail for detainees, reduction of the period of detention, allowing magistrates to visit places of detention to eliminate torture and expedite hearing of cases.

As per the proposed legislation, lawyers will be given access to detainees and those detained under PTA will be allowed to communicate with their relatives.

Presenting the bill, Peiris said it will be debated in Parliament and can also be challenged in court.

“The government will wait for the court’s determination (if the bill is challenged)and there will be a full debate in the matter thereafter,” Peiris said.

Sri Lanka is under pressure from the European Union to reform the draconian PTA, which allows detention up to 90 days without being charged with provisions for further extension of the time.

In EU-Sri Lanka 24th Joint Commission meet held in Brussels on Tuesday, the European Union welcomed Colombo’s action to amend PTA but noted that “important elements” are not included in the gazette issued and urged Colombo to undertake further practical and administrative steps to release on bail those detained under the law without charges.

The Sri Lankan government by a gazette notification on January 27 announced amendments to PTA, which the officials described as its bid to make the law fall in line with international standards of counter-terror legislation.

Colombo took note of the views expressed by the EU to take further steps to make the PTA fully compliant with international norms and assured that further practical and administrative steps to release on bail those detained under the PTA without charges would be taken, according to a joint press statement issued at the end of the Joint Commission meet.

The European Parliament in June 2021 had called for the repeal of the PTA and urged the EU Commission to consider temporarily withdrawing Sri Lanka’s access to GSP+, a favoured trade concession for the island’s exports.

GSP+ preferences for Sri Lanka were withdrawn in 2010 due to significant shortcomings in the country’s implementation of three UN human rights conventions.

Sri Lanka was readmitted to GSP+ in May 2017. The EU’s GSP+ trade concession allows Sri Lankan exports to Europe without taxation. This has been a big boost to Sri Lanka’s apparel and fishing industries.

The EU remains Sri Lanka’s biggest exports partner followed by the US and India. Over 80 per cent of Sri Lanka’s exports to the EU are eligible for GSP+ concessions. PTI CORR SCY AKJ SCY

This report is auto-generated from PTI news service. ThePrint holds no responsibility for its content.

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