Emergency stop button, by Tabula Electronica.
Today, President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced that Sri Lanka will not renew Emergency Regulations. So, phew, everybody can relax now. Emergency Law gave ‘extensive arrest and detention powers to authorities over citizens [and presumably, yakas]’. So, now they need warrants and stuff. Except, of course, ‘Sri Lanka also has another law, the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which gives extensive powers to law enforcement authorities over citizens’ (LBO). So, uh, yeah.
While it’s nice that we are no longer in a state of Emergency, under the PTA, much of the same restrictions apply.
(1) Any police officer not below the rank of Superintendent or any other police officer not below the rank of Sub-Inspector authorized in writing by him in that behalf may, without a warrant and with or without assistance and notwithstanding anything in any other law to the contrary”
(a) arrest any person ;
(b) enter and search any premises ;
(c) stop and search any individual or any vehicle, vessel, train or aircraft; and
(d) seize any document or thing, connected with or concerned in or reasonably suspected of being connected with or concerned in any unlawful activity. (LawNet)
Hence, while Emergency is officially over, Emergency powers remain. It’s like leaving the emergency room but still being in the hospital. Better, but still not good.
This PDF briefing by the International Commission Of Jurists is useful for background:
Under Section 5 of the PSO, the President made the EMPPR 2005, the Emergency Regulations 2006 and other emergency regulations creating prohibited zones in certain areas in Sri Lanka. These emergency regulations are only valid for one month at a time and require monthly parliamentary approval to remain valid. The President also has special powers under Section 12 (power to call out the armed forces), Section 16 (power to order curfews) and Section 17 (power to declare essential services), whether or not a state of emergency has been declared.
These regulations have been repealed or, more accurately, not renewed.
Whilst not an emergency law per se the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act (‘PTA’) is relevant to the emergency laws in Sri Lanka. Adopted in 1979 as a temporary measure in response to growing political violence in the North, it contains broad security-related offences, and wide powers of search, arrest and detention. Shortly after the introduction of the PTA, the ICJ concluded that it “violates norms of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ratified by Sri Lanka, as well as other generally accepted international standards of criminal procedure, by permitting prolonged detention on administrative order without access to lawyers and the use of evidence possibly obtained under duress.” (ICJ Mission report 1981, p75).”
This law is still on the books.
So, here’s the new boss, same as the old boss? Little bit.
Not to be ungrateful. Props for lifting Emergency Regs. Since Sri Lanka has defeated terrorism, perhaps we should remove the similarly draconian Prevention Of Terrorism Act next.