Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has issued a series of new directives to be followed by the police and security forces when arresting and detaining persons suspected of terrorism under the much criticized Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).
The President as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and Minister of Defense has instructed the police and security forces of the new directives issued by the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) on May 18, 2016.
Sirisena’s move comes ahead of United Nation Human Rights Commissioner Zaid Ra’ad Al Hussein’s brief on Sri Lanka to the ongoing 32nd session of UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva on June 27, reports Colombo Page.
According to the new directives issued by the Lankan President, the arresting officers should not physically harass, torture or humiliate suspects in a disrespectful manner, only women shall search female detainees and the attorneys representing the suspects should be permitted to meet their clients.
Further the officer arresting the person shall identify himself by name and rank to those arrested or to the family or friend and inform of the reason for the arrest.
In case the suspects need medical care, prompt action should be taken to provide such care and adequate basic amenities.
Detention should be in keeping with the established fundamental rights enshrined in Article 13 (5) of the Constitution that an accused is presumed innocent until he or she is proved guilty.
These directives are intended to protect the detainees against the security forces’ broad powers under the PTA, particularly at the time of arrest and ensuing detention.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) had last week called on the Sri Lankan Government to abide by the directives issued by the HRCSL and take measures to revoke the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act.