Torture

මරණ දඬුවම: අධිකරණමය ඝාතන සඳහා වන අවසර පත්‍රය

First published on Anidda newspaper of 7th July 2019 and then at https://www.vikalpa.org/?p=35292 also on 7th July 2019

පසුගිය වසරේ ඔක්තෝම්බර් 02 වන දා ඉරානය විසින් සෙයිනබ් සෙකාන්වාද් නමැති 24 හැවිරිදි කාන්තාවක් මරණ දඬුවමට පැමිණෙව්වේ ඇය සිය ළමා කාලයේ සිදු කළැයි කියා චෝදනා එල්ල වූ වරදක් සම්බන්ධයෙනි. ජාත්‍යන්තර නීතිය යටතේ ඇයව මරණ දඬුවමෙන් නිදහස් කළ යුතුව තිබිණි. ඇය අනෙකුත් බොහෝ ළමා මනාලියන් මෙන්ම ස්ත්‍රී-පුරුෂ සමාජභාවය පදනම් කර ගත් ප්‍රචණ්ඩත්වයෙන් දිවි බේරාගත් අයෙකු විය. දුප්පත් සහ ගතානුගතික පවුලක උපන් ඇය ව වයස අවුරුදු 15දී විවාහ කර දී තිබුනේ හිංසාකාරී සහ ප්‍රචණ්ඩකාරී පිරිමියෙකුට ය. තමාව නැවත නැවතත් දූෂණයට ලක්කළ තම සැමියාගෙන් සහ මස්සිනාගෙන් තමාව ආරක්ෂා කර දෙන ලෙස දෙමාපියන් සහ අදාළ බලධාරීන්ගෙන් ඇය අයැද සිටි නමුත් ඒවාට ඇහුම්කන්දීමක් සිදුනොවීය.  වයස අවුරුදු 17දී ඇය ඇගේ සැමියා මරණයට පත්කොට තිබුණ අතර පොලිසියේ දරුණු වධහිංසා හමුවේ සෙයිනබ් තමා එම අපරාධය කළ බවට පාපොච්චාරණය කළාය. අවසානයේ ඇය වෙනුවෙන් නීතීඥවරියක පත්කළ පසු නඩු විභාගයේදී තමා පෙර කළ පාපොච්චාරණය ඉල්ලා අස්කරගත්ත ද, ඒ වනවිට ඇය ඉතා ප්‍රමාද විය: ඇයට මරණ දඬුවම නියම කෙරිණ.

ඇලිස් නුන්ගු තම හිංසාකාරී සැමියාගේ බීමත් ප්‍රහාරවලින් තමා සහ තම මහලු මව බේරාගැනීම ට උත්සාහ කරන අතරතුර ඔහුව මරණයට පත්කිරීම නිසා මරණ දඬුවමට නියම කෙරුණ මලාවියානු කාන්තාවකි. ඇයට මරණ දඬුවම නියම වීමට පෙර වසර ගණනාවක් තිස්සේ ඇය දරා ගත් අධික හිංසාවන් ගැන අවධානය යොමු කළ අධිකරණය අවසානයේ 2015 දී ඇයව වහාම නිදහස් කරන්නට නියෝග කරන ලදී.  HIV ආසාදිතව, අනුකම්පා විරහිත ජීවන තත්ත්වයන් යටතේ සහ ආහාර හිඟකමින් පීඩා විදිමින් ඇයට මරණ දඬුවමට කැප ලැයිස්තුවේ වසර 12ක් පුරා කල්මරන්නට සිදුව තිබිණි. නිදහස් වීමෙන් සති කිහිපයකට පසුව තම මව සමීපයේ දී ඇලිස් මියගියා ය.

ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ මරණ දඬුවමට නියම කෙරුණ ලැයිස්තුවේ කාන්තාවන් සිටිය ද එසේ මරණ දඬුවමට මුහුණදෙන ඔවුන්ගේ ස්ත්‍රී පුරුෂ සමාජභාවය මත පදනම් වූ විවිධ මාන ගැන එතරම් තොරතුරු සොයාගැනීමට නොහැක. නමුත් අන්තර්ජාතික පර්යේෂණ පෙන්නුම් කරන ආකාරයට මරණ දඬුවමට ලක් කෙරෙන කාන්තාවන් ස්ත්‍රී පුරුෂ සමාජභාවය පිළිබඳ අගතිගාමී අදහස්වල බහුවිධ ආකාරයේ ගොදුරු බවට පත්වේ. ස්ත්‍රී පුරුෂ සමාජභාවය මත පදනම් වූ සමාජ සම්මතයන් කඩ කරන බවට පෙනී යන කාන්තාවන් වැඩි වශයෙන් මරණ දඬුවම ලැබීමට ඉඩ ඇති අතර, මිනීමැරීමේ අපරාධය සිදුකිරීම නිසා මරණ දඬුවමට නියම කෙරෙන බොහොමයක් කාන්තාවන් නිතරම පාහේ ස්ත්‍රී පුරුෂ සමාජභාවය මත පදනම් වූ ප්‍රචණ්ඩත්වය යන සන්දර්භය තුල තම පවුලේ සාමාජිකයින් මරා දැමීම සම්බන්ධව දඬුවම් ලැබූවන් ය. උදාහරණයක් ලෙස ජෝර්දානයේ මරණ දඬුවම හිමි කාන්තාවන් 16ක් අතුරෙන් එක්කෙනෙක් හැර අන් සියල්ලන්ම වරදකාරියන් කෙරුණේ හිංසාව පිණිස විභවයක් නිර්මාණය කරන සම්ප්‍රදායික බලයක් දරාසිටින සැමියෙකු, පියෙකු හෝ නැන්දම්මා කෙනෙකු වැනි පවුලේ සමීප සාමාජිකයෙකු මරාදැමීම නිසා ය.

පසුගිය ජුනි 14 වෙනිදා ඇමෙරිකා එක්සත් ජනපදයේ චාල්ස් රේ ෆින්ච් නමැත්තා සියලු චෝදනාවලින් නිදොස් කොට නිදහස් කෙරුණේ මරණ දඬුවම නියම කර වසර 43කට අනතුරුව ය. මේ වසරේම පෙර අවස්ථාවක, ඇමෙරිකා එක්සත් ජනපදයේ ක්ලිෆර්ඩ් විලියම්ස් නමැත්තා එසේ චෝදනාවලින් නිදහස් කෙරුණේ වසර 42කට පසුව ය. 1973 වසරේ පටන් පුද්ගලයින් 10 දෙනෙකු නිදොස් කොට නිදහස් කිරීම සඳහා වසර 30කට වඩා බැගින් කල් ගතව ඇත. ඔවුන් සියල්ලන්ම කළු ජාතිකයින් වූහ. එරට වසර 36ක් පුරා වාර්ෂිකව නිදොස් කොට නිදහස්වීම් ලැබූ පුද්ගලයින්ගේ සාමාන්‍ය අගය 4කට වැඩි අගයක පවතිද්දී එසේ නිදහස් වූ ලැයිස්තුවේ පිළිවෙළින් 165වෙනි සහ 166වෙනි පුද්ගලයින් වූවේ විලියම්ස් සහ ෆින්ච් ය. 2019 ජුනි 20 වන දින එම නිදහස් වීම සිදු වූයේ එරට 1500 වන පුද්ගලයා මරණ දඬුවම යටතේ මරා දැමීම සිදුවීමට ඉතා ආසන්නයේය.

 අධිකරණමය ඝාතන සඳහා ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ නව අවසරය

අවසන් වරට ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ මරණ දඬුවම ක්‍රියාත්මක කිරීම 1976 දී සිදු වී ඇති අතර එදා පටන් මරණ දඬුවම යොදාගැනීම සඳහා තාවකාලික තහනමක්  පැවත ඇත. අප නීතියේ මරණ දඬුවම සඳහා ප්‍රතිපාදන පැවතීම සහ අධිකරණය විසින් එසේ මරණ දඬුවම සඳහා නියම කිරීම් නිතිපතා සිදුවුවද 1976න් පසු සිටි ජනාධිපතිවරු මරණ දඬුවම සඳහා අවශ්‍ය වරෙන්තුව අත්සන් නොකළහ.

නමුත් වධහිංසාවට ගොදුරුවූවන් වෙනුවෙන් සහයෝගය දක්වන අන්තර්ජාතික දිනය යෙදුනු පසුගිය ජුනි 26 වෙනිදා මාධ්‍ය විසින් ප්‍රකාශ කළේ ජනාධිපති මෛත්‍රීපාල සිරිසේන වසර 43ක් පුරා ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ පෙර ජනාධිපතිවරුන් පවත්වාගෙන ආ තාවකාලික තහනම ඉවත්කරමින් කෲර, අමානුෂික සහ අවමන් සහගත දඬුවමක් වන මරණ දඬුවම නැවත ගෙන ඒමට කටයුතු කරන බවයි. පසුගිය වසර කිහිපය පුරා අධිකරණයෙන් බලාත්මක නොකෙරුනු ඝාතන සම්බන්ධව අපකීර්තියට පත් ශ්‍රී ලංකාව දැන් සිටින්නේ අධිකරණය විසින් බලාත්මක කරන ඝාතන සම්බන්ධයෙන් අපකීර්තියට පත්වීමට ඉතා ආසන්නයේය.

මරණ වරෙන්තුව සඳහා අත්සන් කෙරුණ පුද්ගලයින් 4 දෙනා කවුරුන්දැයි තවමත් නිවේදනය කොට නැත. මේ වසරේ ආරම්භයේදී මරණ දඬුවමට නියම වුණ ලැයිස්තුවේ නම් 1299ක් විය. ඔවුන් සියලුදෙනාත්, ඔවුන්ගේ පවුල්වල සාමාජික සාමාජිකාවනුත් ඔවුන් හෝ ඔවුන්ගේ ආදරණීයයන් එම පළමු නම් 4ට අයත්දැ’යි සහ ඔවුන්ගේ වාරය කොයි මොහොතේ පැමිණේදැයි බලවත් වේදනාවෙන් සහ කම්පනයෙන් සිටිනවා විය යුතුය. බන්ධනාගාර නිලධාරීන් උපුටා දක්වමින් මාධ්‍ය විසින් කියා සිටියේ මරණ දඬුවමට නියමව ඇති පුද්ගලයින් ආතතියට පත්ව, ආහාර නොගනිමින් සහ ක්ලාන්ත ගතියෙන් පෙළෙමින් කල් ගතකරන බවයි.

මරණ දඬුවමට විරුද්ධ විය යුත්තේ ඇයි ?

මරණ දඬුවම යනු නැවත හැරවිය නොහැකි වර්ගයේ දඬුවමකි. එසේ දඬුවම පැමිණවීමෙන් අනතුරුව මතුවෙන නව සාක්ෂි සලකා බැලීමට අවකාශයක් එය විසින් ලබා නොදෙන නිසාය. උදාහරණයක් ලෙස, නව තාක්ෂණය තුළින් සාක්ෂි විමසා බැලූ කල, යමෙකු වැරැදි විනිශ්චයක් හරහා අයුතු ලෙස වැරදිකරුවෙකු කර ඇතැයි පෙනී යා හැක. එසේ අයුතු ලෙස වරදකරුවෙකු වූ බව නව සාක්ෂි මගින් සනාථ වී දශක කිහිපයකට පසුව මරණ දඬුවමෙන් නිදහස් වුණ මිනිසුන් පිළිබඳව සිද්ධි ගණනාවක් ලොව පුරා වාර්තා වී ඇත. ශ්‍රී ලංකා මානව හිමිකම් කොමිසම පෙන්වා දෙන ආකාරයට ඇමෙරිකා එක්සත් ජනපදය, කැනඩාව සහ එක්සත් රාජධානිය යන රටවල අයුතු ලෙස වරදකරුවන් කෙරුණ පුද්ගලයින් පසු අවස්ථාවලදී මරණ දඬුවමෙන් නිදහස්ව ඇත. කොමිසමට අනුව, ඇමෙරිකා එක්සත් ජනපදයේ නඩුවක දී, අපරාධ කිහිපයකට වරදකරු කෙරුණ පුද්ගලයෙකු වසර 23කට පසු නිදහස් වී ඇත්තේ, පසු කලකදී අදාළ විමර්ශන නිලධාරියා සහ විනිසුරුවරයා තම දඬුවම් පැමිණවීම යුක්තිය නිසියාකාරව ඉටු නොවීමක් ලෙස ප්‍රකාශ කිරීමෙන් අනතුරුවය.

ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ නීති පද්ධතිය තුළ නඩු පැවරීමේදී නිර්දෝෂී පුද්ගලයින් වරදකරුවන් කෙරෙන ආකාරයෙන් සිදු වන විෂමාචාර ද මානව හිමිකම් කොමිසම විසින් නිරීක්ෂණය කර ඇත. නඩු පැවරීමේදී සහ අභියාචනයේ දී දුප්පත් සහ පීඩිත මිනිසුන්ට පහසුවෙන් ළඟා කරගත නොහැකි, ගුණාත්මක බවින් යුතු නීති ආධාර හිඟකම ඇතුළත්ව අපරාධ යුක්ති පද්ධතියේ ඇති බරපතල ඌනතා විශේෂ කොටගෙන, අන් සියලු ස්ථානවල දී මෙන්ම ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ ද අයථා දඬුවම් පැමිණවීම් සිදුවිය හැක. ඒ නිසාවෙන් අයථා දඬුවම් පැමිණවීම්වලට මුහුණදීමට වඩාත් ඉඩ ඇත්තේ දුප්පතුන් ය.

එමෙන්ම මරණ දඬුවම ලබා දීම මගින් ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ හෝ ලෝකයේ වෙනත් කිසිදු රටකින් අපරාධ වළක්වා හෝ අඩු කර ඇති බවට සාක්ෂි නොමැත.

මත්ද්‍රව්‍ය ආශ්‍රිත අපරාධ ඇතුළුව අපරාධ වැළැක්වීම සම්බන්ධයෙන් ගන්නා වැඩදායී පියවර වෙත සහයෝගය ලබාදෙමින්ම, මරණ දඬුවමට විරුද්ධ වීමට හැකියාව පවතී. සිවිල් හා දේශපාලන අයිතීන් සහ ආර්ථිකමය, සමාජයීය හා සංස්කෘතික අයිතීන් යන දෙකම සියලුම දෙනා වෙනුවෙන් සහතික කරමින් අපරාධ වැළැක්වීම පිණිස ක්‍රියා කිරීම තීරණාත්මක ය. යම් බන්ධනාගාර රැඳවියන් බන්ධනාගාරගතව සිටියදී මත්ද්‍රව්‍ය ආශ්‍රිත වැරදි සිදුකරන්නේ නම්, බන්ධනාගාර තුළ මත්ද්‍රව්‍යවලට අවසර දෙන බන්ධනාගාර නිලධාරීන් වගකිවයුත්තන් කරමින් බන්ධනාගාර තුළ ආරක්ෂාව තර කළ යුත්තේ නව තාක්ෂණයේ භාවිතය ද එක්කරගනිමිනි.

අන්තර්ජාතික බැඳීම් සහ ප්‍රවණතා

මරණ දඬුවම සඳහා තාවකාලික තහනමක් ඉල්ලා සිටි එක්සත් ජාතීන්ගේ මහා මණ්ඩල යෝජනාවට එතෙක් මෙතෙක් අනුමැතිය පළ කළ වැඩිම රටවල් ගණන වූ රටවල් 121 අතරට පසුගිය දෙසැම්බර් මාසයේ ශ්‍රී ලංකාවද අයත් විය. මෙහි දී මරණ දඬුවම ඇති නිසා අපරාධ වැළකෙන බවට ඇති අදහස සම්බන්ධයෙන් ඔප්පු කළ හැකි සාක්ෂි නොමැති බව ද, මරණ දඬුවම බලාත්මක කිරීමේදී සිදු විය හැකි මොනයම් හෝ යුක්තිය නිසි ලෙස ඉටු නොවීමේ අත්වැරදීමක් ආපසු හැරවිය නොහැකි හා ප්‍රතිකර්ම නොමැති එකක් ලෙස ද හඳුනා ගන්නා ලදී. මරණ දඬුවම තහනම් කළ රටවල් දිරිමත් කෙරෙන සහ මරණ දඬුවමේ අඛණ්ඩව යෙදීම පිළිබඳව මහත් සැලකිල්ලක් දක්වන ගෝලීය ප්‍රකාශනයකට ද ශ්‍රී ලංකාව එක් විය.

ඉන් මාස 6කට පසුව දැන් ශ්‍රී ලංකාව පෙනී සිටින්නේ මරණ දඬුවම අහෝසි කිරීම වෙත ගමන් කිරීම වෙනුවට පැවති දීර්ඝතම තාවකාලික තහනම ආපසු හරවන අවස්ථාවකට ඉතා ආසන්නයේය. මත්ද්‍රව්‍ය ආශ්‍රිත වැරදි සම්බන්ධයෙන් ලබා දෙන මරණ දඬුවම ජාත්‍යන්තර නීතිය යටතේ අනීතික ඝාතන ඝණයෙහි ලා සැලකේ. එසේම එය ශ්‍රී ලංකාව ද පාර්ශ්වයක් වන සිවිල් හා දේශපාලන අයිතීන් සඳහා වන අන්තර්ජාතික ප්‍රඥප්තියේ 6 වන ව්‍යවස්ථාව මේ හරහා උල්ලංඝණය කරයි.

ඇම්නෙස්ටි ඉන්ටනැෂනල් සංවිධානයට අනුව අධිකරණය බලාත්මක කරන මරණයට පත් කිරීම් සිදු කරන සේම, මරණ දඬුවම නියම කිරීම සිදුකරන රටවල් ගණනෙහි දක්නට ඇත්තේ අඩුවීමකි. එම සංවිධානය පවසන්නේ රටවල් 20 කින් ලබාගත් දත්ත අනුව 2017 වසරේ 993ක්ව පැවති එවන් මරණයට පත්කිරීම්, 2018 වසරේ 690ක් ලෙස වාර්තා වී තිබුනි. එය 2017ට සාපේක්ෂව 31%ක අඩු වීමක් වන අතර, පසුගිය දශකයේ ඇම්නෙස්ටි සංවිධානය වාර්තා කර තිබූ අඩුම අගය ද වේ. ඇම්නෙස්ටි සංවිධානය 2017 වසරේ රටවල් 54කින් ලබාගත් දත්ත අනුව, මරණ දණ්ඩනයට නියම කිරීම් 2591ක් වාර්තා වී තිබූ අතර, එම සංඛ්‍යාවේ අඩුවීමක් පෙන්වමින් 2018 වසරේ අවම වශයෙන් එවන් නියම කිරීම් 2531ක් වාර්තා කර තිබුණි. වසර 2018හි අවසානය වන විට ලොව පුරා මිනිසුන් 19,336ක පිරිසක් මරණ දඬුවමට නියමව ඇති බවට දැනගන්නට ලැබිණ. රටවල් 170කට අධික ගණනක් මරණ දඬුවම අහෝසි කර හෝ නීතියෙන් හෝ භාවිතාවෙන් තාවකාලික තහනම් කිරීම් හඳුන්වාදෙමින් මරණ දඬුවම නැවැත්වීමට හිතකර තත්ත්වයක් ඇති කිරීමට ක්‍රියා කර ඇත. රටවල් 40කට අඩු ගණනක් මරණ දඬුවම ලබාදීමේ භාවිතාව දිගටම පවත්වා ගෙන යාම සිදුකරයි.  එක්සත් ජාතීන්ගේ සංවිධානයට අනුව 2019 මැයි 23 වන දා වන විට සිවිල් සහ දේශපාලන අයිතීන් පිළිබඳ අන්තර්ජාතික ප්‍රඥප්තියේ, මරණ දඬුවම අහෝසි කිරීම පිණිස වන 2වන වෛකල්පිත ප්‍රොටොකෝලය රටවල් 87ක් විසින් ස්ථිර කර ඇත.   ‍

ඝාතනවලට එරෙහි ආගමික ඉගැන්වීම්

කතෝලිකයෙකු ලෙස මා විශ්වාස කරන මූලික දේශනයක් වන්නේ “ඔබ (කිසිවෙකුත්) නොමැරිය යුතුය” යන්නයි. මරණ දඬුවම යනු ” කවර ආකාරයකින් සිදු කළ ද මානව ගෞරවයට නින්දා කෙරෙන අවමන් සහගත පියවරක්” ලෙසත්, “කිතුනු දහමට පටහැණි” ලෙසත් සහ මනුෂ්‍ය ජීවිතය පූජනීය බවටත්, සෘජු සහ නොවෙනස් ප්‍රතිපත්තිමය ස්ථාවරයක් ෆ්‍රැන්සිස් පාප්තුමා ගනු ලැබ ඇත. කෙසේ වෙතත් පසුගිය වසරේ ජූලි මාසයේ කොළඹ දී සිදු කළ ප්‍රකාශයක අගරදගුරු අතිඋතුම් මැල්කම් රංජිත් හිමිපාණන් කියා සිටියේ ඇතැම් අවස්ථාවල දී මරණ දඬුවම ක්‍රියාවට නැංවීම සම්බන්ධයෙන් තමාගේ සහය හිමිවෙන බවයි. ඔහු ප්‍රකාශ කළේ බිහිසුණු අපරාධ සිදුකරන්නන්ට ඔවුන්ගේ ජීවත් වීමේ අයිතිය අහිමි කළ යුතු බව සහ අධිකරණයෙන් ලබාදෙන ඕනෑම දඬුවමක් බලාත්මක කළ යුතු බව ය. කාදිනල්තුමාගේ ප්‍රකාශයෙන් සති දෙකකටත් අඩු කාලයක දී අගෝස්තු 1 වෙනිදා බිෂොප්වරුන් වෙත ලිපියක් නිකුත් කළ වතිකානුව කියා සිටියේ අහිංසක මිනිසුන්ගේ ජීවිත ආරක්ෂා කිරීමට වුව ද මරණ දඬුවම යොදා ගැනීම අනුමත නොකළ යුතු සහ අනවශ්‍ය දෙයක් ලෙසය. 2018 අගෝස්තු 9 වෙනිදා ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ බිෂොප්වරුන්ගේ සම්මේලනය මේ අනුව යමින් වතිකානුවේ ලිපිය පුළුල් ලෙස උපුටා දක්වමින් සහ ස්වකීය ප්‍රකාශයක්ද නිකුත් කරමින් පහදා සිටියේ ඔවුන් නිසැකවම මරණ දඬුවමට එරෙහි බවය. කාදිනල් රංජිත් හිමිපාණන් ද තම පෙර ස්ථාවරය වෙනස් කරමින් මෙම ප්‍රකාශයට එකඟතාව පළ කර තිබිණි.

එසේම බෞද්ධයින් බහුතරයක් වාසය කරන මේ රටෙහි බුදුදහමේ එන පළමු ශික්ෂාපදය ඝාතනවලින් වැළකී සිටීම යි.(පාණාතිපාතා වේරමණී සික්ඛාපදං සමාදියාමි)

මරණීය දඬුවම – නැතහොත් අධිකරණය විසින් බලාත්මක කරන ඝාතන, ජීවිතයේ පූජනීය බව පවත්වා ගැනෙන ආගමික හා ආධ්‍යාත්මික අගයන්ට ද, ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ අන්තර්ජාතික බැඳියාවන්වලට ද පටහැනි ය. අප එයට විරුද්ධ විය යුතු වන්නේ සිවිල් හා දේශපාලන අයිතීන් පිළිබඳ අන්තර්ජාතික ප්‍රඥප්තියට අනුකූලව  මරණ දඬුවම අහෝසි කිරීම ඉල්ලා සිටින 2 වන වෛකල්පිත ප්‍රොටොකෝලයට එකඟ වෙමින් දීර්ඝකාලීනව බලපැවැත්වෙන පරිදි මරණ දඬුවම අහෝසි කිරීමටත්, කෙටිකාලීනව බලපැවැත්වෙන තාවකාලික තහනම එලෙසින්ම පවත්වාගැනීමටත් අවධාරණයෙන් ඉල්ලා සිටිමිනි.

Death Penalty: License for Judicial Killings

First published at http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2019/06/30/news-features/death-penalty-license-judicial-killings on 30th June 2019

Last year, on October 2, Iran executed a 24-year-old woman, Zeinab Sekaanvand[. Born into a poor and conservative family, she was married at the age of 15 to a man who had turned abusive and violent. She appealed to the authorities and her family to protect her from both her husband and her brother-in-law, whom she claimed had raped her repeatedly, but her pleas went unheard. When she was still a child at 17, her husband was found dead, and she confessed to the crime under police torture. At her trial hearing – when she was finally appointed a lawyer – she retracted her confession, but it was too late: the court sentenced her to death.

Alice Nungu, was a Malawian woman who was sentenced to death after killing her abusive husband while defending herself and her elderly mother from his drunken attack. In 2015, a court heard about the intense abuse that Alice endured before sentencing, and ordered her release. She had languished on death row for over 12 years, fading from HIV, inhumane living conditions, and lack of food. Only weeks after her release, Alice died, with her mother by her side.

Research indicates that women who are sentenced to death are subjected to multiple forms of gender bias. Women who are seen as violating entrenched gender norms are more likely to receive the death penalty and most women are sentenced to death for the crime of murder, often in relation to the killing of family members and in a context of gender-based violence.

This year, in the United States of America (USA), Charles Ray Finch and Clifford Williams Jr., were exonerated 43 years and 42 years after having been sentenced to death[4]. Williams and Finch were the 165th and 166th persons respectively to be exonerated after being given the death penalty in the USA, over a period of 36 years, an average of more than four exonerations per year.

Sri Lanka’s new license for Judicial Killings

Sri Lankan judges have been handing down death sentences, with the number increasing from 96 in 2010 to 217 in 2017. However, the last execution was in 1976 and since then, there has been a moratorium on the use of death penalty.

But on June 26, the International day in support of Victims of Torture, media announced President Sirisena had brought back the death penalty, a cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment, breaking the 43 year long moratorium upheld by all Sri Lankan presidents.

The names of the four persons against whom the death warrant has been signed is yet to be announced. As of early this year, 1299 persons were reported to have been on the death row[6]. All those on the death row, and all of their families, must be in agony and trauma, not knowing whether they or their loved ones are amongst the first four to be executed or when their turn might come. Media quoted Prison officials saying most on the death row were stressed, not eating and feeling faintish after the President’s announcement.

Why say NO to the Death Penalty

The death penalty is an irreversible form of punishment which grants no space to consider new evidence that may emerge after a conviction is made, for example through new technology, indicating a wrongful conviction. As has been mentioned above, people wrongly convicted have been released from death row decades after they were put there as new evidence has shown that they were wrongfully convicted.

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka has noted allegations of prosecutorial misconduct leading to conviction of innocents in Sri Lanka. Like everywhere else, wrongful convictions are possible in Sri Lanka, especially given the serious deficiencies in the criminal justice system, including a lack of easily accessible, quality, legal aid for the poor and vulnerable – during trial and appeal. Thus, it is the poor who are more likely to face wrongful convictions.

There is no evidence in Sri Lanka or in any part of the world that the death penalty has prevented or reduced crimes.

It is possible and necessary to oppose the death penalty and support strong measures to address crime, including drug related crimes. It is crucial to work towards prevention of crime, by guaranteeing all human rights for all – both civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights.

If some detainees are engaged in drug-related offences from within prison grounds, security in prisons must be strengthened, including through the use of new technology and holding prison officials accountable for allowing drugs inside prisons.

International commitments and trends

In December last year, Sri Lanka was amongst the 121 countries that endorsed a United Nations General Assembly Resolution noting that any miscarriage of justice in the implementation of the death penalty is irreversible and irreparable and that there is no conclusive evidence of the deterrent value of the death penalty. Sri Lanka also joined the collective global expression of deep concern about the continuing application of the death penalty and encouraged states which had moratoriums to maintain it. Six months later, Sri Lanka has abandoned its own moratorium, instead of progressing to abolish the death penalty.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian government is reported to have announced that it is in the process of abolishing the death penalty or scrapping the mandatory death penalty. Nepal’s 2015 constitution has prohibited any law to be made that prescribes the death penalty. Over 170 countries have either abolished the death penalty or taken a position in favour of ending executions by introducing moratorium sin law or practice. As of May 23 2019, 87 countries had ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights calling for the abolishing of the death penalty.The number of countries implementing judicial executions as well as passing death sentences is on the decline. According to Amnesty International, there have been at least 690 executions in 2018, down by 31 percent from 2017 (at least 993 executions). Death sentences passed in 2018 has also declined to 2,531 in 2018 from the 2,591 reported in 2017. At least 19,336 people were known to be under the sentence of death globally at the end of 2018.

Religious teachings against killings

As a Catholic, a fundamental precept I believe in is “Thou Shall not Kill”. Pope Francis has said that the death penalty is “an inhuman measure that humiliates human dignity, in whatever form it is carried out” and that it is “contrary to the Gospel.” The Catholic Bishops Conference of Sri Lanka have unequivocally opposed the death penalty through its statement dated August 9 2018. The first precept of Buddhism is to abstain from killings (Pānātipātā veramanī sikkhāpadan samādiyāmi).

The Death Penalty – or Judicial Killings – is against Sri Lanka’s international obligations and religious and spiritual values, which uphold the sacredness of life. We must oppose the death penalty in any form – in the short term to maintain the moratorium, and in the long term to abolish the death penalty for all crimes and ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which calls for the abolition of the death penalty.

Death Penalty: License for Judicial Killings

First published at https://groundviews.org/2019/06/28/death-penalty-license-for-judicial-killings/ on 28th June 2019

Last year, on October 2, Iran executed a 24-year-old woman, Zeinab Sekaanvand, who was a child at the time of her alleged offense. Under international law, she should have been excluded from the death penalty. She was also, like many child brides, a survivor of gender-based violence. Born into a poor and conservative family, she was married at the age of 15 to a man who had turned abusive and violent. She appealed to the authorities and her family to protect her from both her husband and her brother-in-law, whom she claimed had raped her repeatedly, but her pleas went unheard. When she was 17, her husband was found dead, and she confessed to the crime under police torture. At her trial hearing – when she was finally appointed a lawyer – she retracted her confession, but it was too late: the court sentenced her to death.

Alice Nungu, was a Malawian woman who was sentenced to death after killing her abusive husband while defending herself and her elderly mother from his drunken attack. In 2015, a court finally heard about the years of intense abuse that Alice endured before sentencing, and ordered her immediate release. She had languished on death row for over 12 years, fading from HIV, inhumane living conditions, and lack of food. Only weeks after her release, Alice died, with her mother by her side.

Though there are women in the death row in Sri Lanka, not much information is available about gender dimensions of those facing the death penalty. But international research indicates that women who are sentenced to death are subjected to multiple forms of gender bias. That women who are seen as violating entrenched gender norms are more likely to receive the death penalty and that most women are sentenced to death for the crime of murder, often in relation to the killing of family members and in a context of gender-based violence. In Jordan, for example, of 16 women on death row, all but one was convicted of killing a close family member who traditionally wields authority, creating the potential for abuse: a husband, a father, or a mother-in-law.

Two weeks ago, on June 14, in the United States of America (USA), Charles Ray Finch was exonerated of all charges, 43 years after he had been sent to the death row. Earlier this year, also in the USA, Clifford Williams Jr., was exonerated 42 years after having been sentenced to death. Since 1973, exonerations had taken more than 30 years each for ten persons. All of them have been black. Williams and Finch were the 165th and 166th persons respectively to be exonerated after being given the death penalty in the USA, over a period of 36 years, an average of more than 4 exonerations per year. The 166th came just before the 1500th execution on June 20, 2019.

Sri Lanka’s new license for Judicial Killings

Sri Lanka last’s execution was in 1976 and since then, there has been moratorium on the use of death penalty. Although death sentence remained in our laws and courts regularly imposed the death penalty, successive Presidents didn’t sign the death warrant.

But on June 26, the International day in support of Victims of Torture, media announced President Sirisena had brought back the death penalty, a cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment, breaking the 43 year long moratorium upheld by all Sri Lankan presidents. Sri Lanka, a country notorious for extra-judicial executions for last several decades, is on the verge of becoming notorious now for judicial executions.

The names of the four persons against whom the death warrant has been signed is yet to be announced. As of early this year, 1299 persons were reported to have been on the death row. All those on the death row, and all of their families, must be in agony and trauma, not knowing whether they or their loved ones are amongst the first four to be executed or when their turn might come. Media quoted Prison officials saying most on the death row were stressed, not eating and feeling faint.

Why say NO to the Death Penalty

The death penalty is an irreversible form of punishment which grants no space to consider new evidence that may emerge after a conviction is made, for example through new technology, indicating a wrongful conviction. As has been mentioned above, people wrongly convicted have been released from death row decades after they were put there as new evidence has shown they were wrongfully convicted. The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka has pointed out that persons wrongly convicted had been later released from the death row or prison from countries such as USA, Canada and the United Kingdom. The Commission has pointed out a case in the USA, where a convicted man was released after 23 years in prison for several crimes, and the lead investigator and the judge later had claimed his conviction was a miscarriage of justice.

The Commission has also noted alleged prosecutorial misconduct leading to conviction of innocents in Sri Lanka. Like everywhere else, wrongful convictions are possible in Sri Lanka, especially given serious deficiencies in the criminal justice system, including a lack of easily accessible, quality, legal aid for the poor and vulnerable – during trial and appeal. Thus, it is the poor that are more likely to face wrongful convictions.

There is no evidence in Sri Lanka or any part of the world that the death penalty has prevented or reduced crimes.

It is possible and necessary to oppose the death penalty and support constructive measures to address crime, including drug related crimes. It is crucial to work towards prevention of crime, by guaranteeing all human rights for all – both civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights. If some detainees are engaged in drug-related offenses from within prison grounds, security in prisons must be strengthened, including through the use of new technology and holding prison officials accountable for allowing drugs inside prison.

International commitments and trends

Last year December, Sri Lanka was amongst the 121 countries, the largest number ever, that endorsed a United Nations General Assembly Resolution calling for a moratorium on the Death Penalty. Sri Lanka joined 120 other countries in noting that that any miscarriage of justice in the implementation of death penalty is irreversible and irreparable and that there is no conclusive evidence of the deterrent value of the death penalty. Sri Lanka also joined the collective global expression of deep concern about the continuing application of death penalty and encouraged states which had moratoriums to maintain it. Six months later, Sri Lanka now appears to be on the verge of reversing the longest moratorium, instead of progressing to abolish death penalty. Death penalty for drug related offenses also violates article 6 of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, to which Sri Lanka is a party to and is considered to be unlawful killings under international law.

According to Amnesty International, the number of countries implementing judicial executions as well as passing death sentences is on the decline. Amnesty says there have been at least 690 executions in 20 countries in 2018, down by 31% from 2017 (at least 993 executions), representing the lowest number of executions that Amnesty International has recorded in the past decade. Amnesty had recorded at least 2,531 death sentences in 54 countries in 2018, a decrease from the total of 2,591 reported in 2017. At least 19,336 people were known to be under sentence of death globally at the end of 2018. Over 170 countries have either abolished the death penalty or taken a position in favour of ending executions by introducing moratorium in law or practice. Fewer than 40 countries continue to uphold the practice. According to the UN, as of 23rd May 2019, 87 countries had ratified 2nd Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights calling for the abolishing of the death penalty.

Religious teachings against killings

As a Catholic, a fundamental precept I believe in is “Though Shall not Kill”. Pope Francis has been forthright and taken a consistently principled position that human life is sacred and the death penalty is “an inhuman measure that humiliates human dignity, in whatever form it is carried out” and that it is “contrary to the Gospel.” However, last year, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Catholic Archbishop of Colombo, in a statement issued in July, said that he supports the implementation of the death penalty in certain cases. He said perpetrators of gruesome crimes could be considered as having forfeited their own right to life, and whatever punishment was given by courts should be implemented. Less than two weeks after Cardinal Ranjith’s statement, the Vatican issued a letter to bishops on August 1 categorically stating that the death penalty is inadmissible and unnecessary even when used to protect the life of innocent people. The Catholic Bishops Conference of Sri Lanka followed this up with a statement of their own on August 9, 2018 that quoted extensively from the Vatican’s letter and made it clear that they unequivocally oppose the death penalty. Cardinal Ranjith had reversed his earlier position and signed up to this statement.

The first precept of Buddhism in this Buddhist majority country is to abstain from killings (Pāṇātipātā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi).

The Death Penalty – or Judicial Killings – is against Sri Lanka’s international obligations and religious and spiritual values, which uphold sacredness of life. We must oppose it, demanding in the short term to maintain the moratorium, and in the long term to abolish the death penalty from domestic laws and ratify the 2nd Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that calls for the abolition of the death penalty.

Read “The Solution to Drug Trafficking in Sri Lanka“. Also read more content around the death penalty here

புதிய பயங்கரவாத எதிர்ப்புச் சட்டமூலம்: அநீதியை நடைமுறைப்படுத்தும் நவீன அனுமதிப் பத்திரமா?

First published at https://maatram.org/?p=7569 on 19th February 2019

சுமார் 40 வருடங்களுக்கு மேற்பட்ட காலம் சித்திரவதைக்கு உட்படுத்துவதற்கும், பாலியல் துன்புறுத்தல்களுக்கும், வலுக்கட்டாயமாக ஆட்களைக் காணாமல் ஆக்குவதற்கும், நீண்டகாலம் ஆட்களைத்  தடுப்புக் காவலில் வைப்பதற்கும் வழங்கப்படும் ஓர் அனுமதிப்பத்திரமாகப் பயங்கரவாதத் தடைச் சட்டம் (Prevention of Terrorism Act – PTA) பயன்படுத்தப்படுகிறது. பயங்கரவாதம் தொடர்பாக, ஒரு சாதாரண சந்தேக நபர் மாத்திரமல்லாமல் ஊடகவியலாளர்கள், சமூகச் செயற்பாட்டாளர்கள் என்போர் இச்சட்டத்தின் கீழ் கைதுசெய்யப்பட்டதோடு, அரசாங்கத்திற்கு எதிராக முன்வைக்கப்படும், விமர்சன ரீதியான கருத்துக்களை ஒடுக்குவதற்கும், இச்சட்டம் மிக மோசமாக பயன்படுத்தப்பட்டுள்ளது. குறிப்பாக தமிழ் மக்களுக்கு எதிராக, இது அநேகமான சந்தர்ப்பங்களில் தவறான முறையில் பயன்படுத்தப்பட்டுள்ளது.

தற்போதைய அரசு பதவிக்கு வந்த பின்னர், இவ்வொடுக்குமுறை ரீதியான பயங்கரவாதத் தடைச் சட்டத்தை நீக்குவதாகவும், சர்வதேச ரீதியாக சிறந்த நடைமுறைக்கு ஏற்பவும் பயங்கரவாதத்திற்கு எதிராக ஒரு சட்டத்தை சமர்ப்பிப்பதாகவே பல்வேறு சந்தர்ப்பங்களில் உறுதிமொழிகள் வழங்கப்பட்டன. இதன் விளைவாகவே, கடந்த ஆண்டு செப்டெம்பர் மாதத்தில் புதிய பயங்கரவாதத் தடைச் சட்டம் ஒன்று வரையப்பட்டது. இவ்வரைவு ஆங்கிலத்தில் பயங்கரவாதத்திற்கு எதிரான சட்டம் (Counter Terrorism Act – CTA) எனப் பெயரிடப்பட்டது. சிங்கள மொழியில் பழைய பெயரில் பயங்கரவாதத் தடைச் சட்டம் என அறிமுகப்படுத்தப்பட்டு, வர்த்தமானப் பத்திரிகையில் வெளியிடப்பிடப்பட்டுள்ளமை ஒரு வகையில் கேளிக்கூத்தாகும்.

“பயங்கரவாதம் என அறிமுகப்படுத்தப்படும் தவறுகள் சம்பந்தமாக நடவடிக்கை எடுப்பதற்கு சுமார் 14 சட்டங்கள் – தண்டனைச் சட்டக் கோவையின் 6 வாசகங்கள் உட்பட சுமார் 20 சட்டங்கள் இலங்கைச் சட்டத்தில் உள்ளடக்கப்பட்டுள்ளன. அதேசமயம், அவசரகால நிலைமையின் கீழ் செயற்படுவதற்கு ஜனாதிபதிக்கு அவசரகாலச் சட்டத்தை பிரகடனப்படுத்தும் அதிகாரமும் உண்டு. நிலைமை இவ்வாறு இருக்கையில், பயங்கரவாதம் தொடர்பாக தனியான விசேட சட்டத்தின் அவசியம், வெறுமனே சிறுபான்மை சமூகங்கள் அரசுக்கு எதிராக முன்வைக்கும் விமர்சன ரீதியான கருத்துக்களை ஒடுக்குவதாகவே அமையும். ஆகவே, பயங்கரவாதத்தை ஒடுக்குவதற்கு ஏற்கனவே உள்ள சட்டங்கள் போதுமானவை என்பது எமது கருத்தாகும்.”

முன்னைய பயங்கரவாதத் தடைச் சட்டம் பயன்படுத்தப்பட்டது போலவே, இப்புதிய சட்ட மூலமும் சாதாரண மக்களுக்கும், ஊடகவியலாளர்களுக்கும் சமூகச் செயற்பாட்டாளர்களுக்கும் எதிராக தொந்தரவுகளை மேற்கொள்ளக்கூடிய வகையில் பயன்படுத்துவதற்கு அவசியமான வாய்ப்புக்களை முறையே வழங்கியுள்ளன.

இச்சட்டத்தில் பரந்துபட்ட தெளிவின்மை காணப்படுகிறது. பயங்கரவாதம் என்பதற்கு வரைவிலக்கணமாக கருதக்கூடிய தவறுகள் பற்றி சரியான விளக்கம் வழங்கப்படவில்லை. இதன் காரணமாக இச்சட்டத்தைப் பயன்படுத்தி, அரசியலமைப்பின் மூலம் வழங்கப்பட்டுள்ள கருத்துச் சுதந்திரம், ஒன்றுகூடும் சுதந்திரம் மற்றும் ஒரு சங்கத்தை உருவாக்கும் சுதந்திரம் என்பன மட்டுப்படுத்தப்படுவதற்கான வாய்ப்பு உண்டு. அடிப்படை மனித உரிமைகள் கூட நல்லெண்ணத்தோடு அமுல்படுத்தியிருந்தால் மாத்திரமே பயங்கரவாத செயலாகக் கருதப்படமாட்டாது.

இச்சட்டத்தின் கீழ் கைதுசெய்யப்பட்ட நபர் உடல் ரீதியாக பாதிப்புக்கு உள்ளாக்கப்படாத வகையில் பேணப்படுவது கட்டாயப்படுத்தப்படவில்லை. கைது செய்யப்படும் நபர், கைது செய்யப்படுவதற்கான காரணமும் அதற்கு ஏற்புடைய ஏனைய தகவல்களையும் அறிவித்தல் கட்டாயமாக்கப்படவில்லை. பின்னர் இவ்வாறு செய்வதற்கான காலச் சட்டகம் வழங்கப்படவும் இல்லை. குடும்ப உறுப்பினர்கள் கைதுசெய்யப்படும்போது அந்த இடத்தில் பிரசன்னமாக இருந்தாலும் கைது செய்யப்பட்டமைக்கான விவரங்களை அவர்களுக்கு அறிவிப்பதற்குக் கூட 24 மணித்தியாலங்கள் வழங்கப்படவில்லை. குடும்பத்திலுள்ளோர் கைதுசெய்யப்படக்கூடிய வேறு சந்தர்ப்பங்களில் அவ்விடத்தில் இருந்தவர் அல்லது அவர்கள் கைது செய்யப்பட்டமையை அறிவிப்பது கட்டாயப்படுத்தப்படவில்லை. அதே சமயம் பெண் சந்தேக நபர்கள் பெண் பாதுகாப்பு உத்தியோகத்தர்களால் கைது செய்யப்பட வேண்டுமெனவும் அவர்கள் விசாரணைக்கு உட்படுத்தப்படும் போது கட்டாயமாக ஒரு பெண் உத்தியோகத்தர் அவ்விடத்தில்  பிரசன்னமாக இருத்தல் வேண்டுமென்பதும் அத்தியாவசியப்படுத்தப்படவில்லை.

பொலிஸார் தாக்கல் செய்த தடுத்து வைக்கும் கட்டளைக்கு நீதவானின் அங்கீகாரம் பெறல் வேண்டும். அதே சமயம், ஒரு நபர் இரண்டு வாரங்கள் வரை தடுத்து வைப்பதைத் தீர்மானிப்பவர் பொலிஸ் உத்தியோகத்தர் ஆவார். மேலும், இத்தகைய தடுத்துவைக்கும் கட்டளையை, 8 வாரங்கள் வரை நீடிப்பதை  நீதவான் அங்கீகரிக்க முடியும். பொலிஸார் கைதுசெய்தமை தொடர்பாக மனித உரிமைகள் ஆணைக்குழுவிற்கு அறிவிப்பதற்கு 22 மணித்தியாலங்கள் கால அவகாசம் வழங்கப்பட்டுள்ளது. அவருடைய வழக்கு ஒரு வருடத்தை விட அதிக காலகட்டத்திற்கு இழுபட்டுக்கொண்டு போனால் மாத்திரமே சந்தேக நபருக்கு பிணை வழங்கப்படும். தடுத்து வைக்கப்பட்டிருப்பவரின் சட்டத்தரணி மற்றும் குடும்ப அங்கத்தவர்கள் தடுத்து வைக்கப்பட்டிருக்கும் அமைவிடத்திற்கு பிரவேசிப்பதாயின் அந்த நிலையத்திற்குப் பொறுப்பான அரச அதிகாரியின் முன்னங்கீகாரத்தைப் பெறுதல் வேண்டும். அமைச்சர் ஒருவர் தீர்மானிக்கும் அமைவிடத்தில் மற்றும் நிலைமைகளின் கீழேயே முடிவு எடுக்கப்படுகிறது. இத்தகைய தடுத்து வைத்தலுக்கு எதிராக ‘மீளாய்வுக் குழுவிடம்’ மேன்முறையீடு செய்ய முடியும். எனினும் இம்மீளாய்வுக்குழு அமைச்சர், அமைச்சுச் செயலாளர், அமைச்சரினால் நியமிக்கப்படும் மேலும் இருவரை உள்ளடக்கியதாக அமையும். சமூகச் செயற்பாட்டாளர்களுக்கும் ஊடகவியலாளர்களுக்கும் எதிரணி அரசியல்வாதிகளுக்கும் எதிராக ஆட்சி அதிகாரத்தில் உள்ள அரசியல்வாதிகளும் பொலிஸாரும் பயங்கவாதத் தடைச் சட்டத்தைப் பயன்படுத்தும் எமது வரலாற்றைக் பின்னோக்கிப் பார்க்கையில், இச்சட்டத்தின் மூலம் அமைச்சருக்கும் பொலிஸாருக்கும் வழங்கப்பட்டுள்ள அதிகாரம் ஒரு நரியிடம் கோழிக் குஞ்சுகளை ஒப்படைப்பதற்கு ஈடாகும் என்ற கருத்து எமக்கு  மேலும் சந்தேகத்தை ஏற்படுத்துகிறது.

இச்சட்டத்தின் மூலம் தடுத்து வைக்கப்பட்டிருப்போரின் உடலில் ஏதாவது காயங்கள் உண்டா என பரிசீலனை செய்வதற்கு பொலிஸ் நிலையப் பொறுப்பதிகாரியிடம் அதிகாரம் ஒப்படைக்கப்பட்டுள்ளதோடு, அவர் அத்தகைய காயங்களை அவதானித்தாரேயாயின், ஒரு சட்ட வைத்திய அதிகாரியிடம் தடுப்புக் காவலில் வைத்திருப்பவரை ஒப்படைத்து, சட்ட வைத்திய அறிக்கையைப் பெற வேண்டும். நீதவான் அல்லது மனித உரிமைகள் ஆணைக்குழு உத்தியோகத்தர் ஒருவர் தடுத்து வைக்கப்பட்டிருக்கும் இடத்திற்கு வருகை தரும் சந்தர்ப்பத்தில் தடுத்து வைக்கப்பட்டவர் மனிதாபிமானம் அற்ற கவனிப்பின் கீழ் தடுத்து வைக்கப்பட்டிருப்பின், அவர்கள் சிறைச்சாலை கண்காணிப்பு உத்தியோகத்தருக்கு அல்லது பொலிஸ் மா அதிபருக்கு அறிவித்தல் வேண்டும். இது தொடர்பாக உரிய நடவடிக்கைகளை எடுத்து ஏற்புடைய மனிதாபிமான நிலைமைகளை வழங்குமாறு நிர்ப்பந்திக்க முடியாது. சந்தேக நபர்கள் தடுப்புக் காவலில் இருக்கும்போது, துன்புறுத்தல்கள் இடம்பெறுமாயின் அல்லது  பாலியல் வன்முறைகளுக்கு உட்படுத்தப்படுவார்களேயாயின், முன்னைய  பயங்கரவாதத் தடைச்சட்டத்தின் கீழ் அதற்கான ஏற்பாடுகள் இருந்தன. ஆனால்,உத்தேச புதிய சட்டம்  நிலைமைகளை மேலும் மோசமாக்கலாம்.

அமுலில்  உள்ள பயங்கரவாதத் தடைச் சட்டத்தின் கீழ் கைது செய்யப்படுதல், குறிப்பிட்ட அமைவிடங்களுக்குப் பிரவேசித்தல் மற்றும் பொருட்களை கைப்பற்றுதல் ஆகிய  நடவடிக்கைகளை பொலிஸ் உத்தியோகத்தர்கள் மாத்திரமே  மேற்கொள்ள முடியும். ஆனால், புதிய சட்டத்தின் கீழ் முப்படையினருக்கும், கரையோரப் பாதுகாப்பு பிரிவினருக்கும் இவ் அதிகாரங்கள் கிடைக்கின்றன. அதேசமயம் பொலிஸார், பாதிக்கப்பட்ட தரப்பினருக்கு அவர்களது மனக்குறைகளை எடுத்துக்கூற சந்தர்ப்பம் வழங்காமல், ஒரு கூட்டத்தை, ஒரு பேரணியை அல்லது ஒரு செயற்பாட்டை நிறுத்துவதற்கு நீதவானிடம் கோரிக்கை விடுக்கலாம். மறுபுறம் ஏதாவது ஓர் அமைப்பை, பொது அமைவிடத்தை அல்லது வேறு ஓர் இடத்தைத் தடை செய்யப்பட்ட அமைவிடமாக கால வரையறையின்றி பிரகடனப்படுத்தும், கட்டளையை விடுப்பதற்கு முன்னர், அவ்விடயத்தைச் சவாலுக்கு உட்படுத்துவதற்கு பாதிக்கப்பட்ட தரப்பினருக்கு வாய்ப்பு கிடைக்கமாட்டாது. அதேசமயம் அமைப்புக்களின் கூட்டங்கள், நடவடிக்கைகள் மற்றும் நிகழ்ச்சித்திட்டங்களை நடத்துவதைத் தடுத்தல், வங்கிக் கணக்குகள், வேறு நிதி வைப்புக்களை பயன்படுத்துதல் அல்லது அவற்றை ஈடுபடுத்துவதைத் தடை செய்தல், உடன்படிக்கைகளுக்கு வருவதை தடை செய்தல், நிதி சேகரித்தல், நிதி அளித்தல், சொத்துக்களை ஒப்படைப்பதை தடை செய்தல், நிதி அல்லது சொத்துக்களை ஒப்படைப்பதை தடை செய்தல்,  ஓர் அமைப்பின் சார்பில் அழுத்தங்களைப் பிரயோகித்தல், கோரிக்கைகளை முன்வைத்தல் என்பவற்றை தடுப்பதற்கு அமைச்சருக்கு அதிகாரம் உண்டு.

தற்போதைய பயங்கரவாதத் தடைச் சட்டத்தில் வழங்கப்படாத, புதிய சட்டமூலத்தின் மூலம் ஒப்படைக்கப்படும் மேலதிக அதிகாரங்கள் ஜனாதிபதிக்கு உண்டு. உதாரணமாக, ஊரடங்குச் சட்டத்தை பிரகடனப்படுத்துவதற்கும், பொது மக்களின் ஒழுங்கைப் பேணுவதற்கு முப்படையினரை அழைப்பதற்கும் அதிகாரம் ஜனாதிபதிக்கு  வழங்கப்பட்டுள்ளது.

அதே சமயம், புதிய சட்டத்தின் கீழ் பகிரங்கமாக மன்னிப்புக் கோருவதற்கும், புனர்வாழ்வு அளிக்கப்படுவதற்கும், சமூக சேவையில் ஈடுபடுத்துவதற்கும் அதிகாரம் உண்டு. இவற்றின் மூலம் இழைத்த குற்றத்திற்கு நஷ்ட ஈடு செலுத்துவது ஏற்றுக்கொள்ளப்படமாட்டாது. இந்நிலைமையின் கீழ் வழக்கு விசாரணைகளுக்கு நீண்டகாலம் எடுக்கப்படுவதனால், சட்டத்தரணிகளின் கட்டணம் என்பன பாதிக்கப்பட்டோர் தாங்க முடியாத அளவு உயர்ந்து செல்கின்றது. எனவே, பலர் நீதிமன்ற நடவடிக்கைகளின் மூலம் தமது குற்றமற்ற தன்மையை நிரூபிப்பதற்கு கஷ்டப்படுவதற்குப் பதிலாக, குற்ற ஒப்புதலை ஏற்றுக்கொள்வதற்கு இடமுண்டு. இத்தகைய சந்தர்ப்பங்களில் குற்றப்பகர்வு பத்திரத்தின்படி சட்டமா அதிபர் குற்றச் சாட்டுக்களை வாபஸ் பெறும் போது, தண்டனைக்காக நீதிமன்ற அங்கீகாரத்தை கோரும் மேலதிக அதிகாரமும் வழங்கப்பட்டுள்ளது.

புதிய சட்டத்தை வரைந்து வர்த்தமானி அறிவித்தலில் வெளியிட்ட பின்னர், சிவில் சமூகச் செயற்பாட்டாளர்கள் இச்சட்டத்தின் மூலம் அரசியலமைப்பின் அடிப்படை உரிமைகள் மீறப்படுவதாக பிரகடனப்படுத்தி, உயர் நீதிமன்றத்தில் மனுக்களை சமர்ப்பித்ததோடு, உயர் நீதிமன்றம் மனுக்களைப் பொருட்படுத்தாமல் மரண தண்டனையை கொண்டுவருவதன் மூலம் அனைத்தும் ஏற்கனவே இருந்ததை விட மோசமான நிலைக்கு தள்ளப்பட்டுள்ளது.

புதிய பயங்கரவாத எதிர்ப்புச் சட்டமூலம் தொடர்பாக இலங்கையின் பல்வேறு மாகாணங்களிலும் இடம்பெற்ற கலந்துரையாடல்களின்போது மதத் தலைவர்கள், ஊடகவியலாளர்கள் மற்றும் சமூகச் செயற்பாட்டாளர்கள் பலர் வருகை தந்திருந்தனர். பல பெண்களின் குழுக்களினால் இக்கலந்துரையாடல்கள் ஏற்பாடு செய்யப்பட்டன. இவற்றில் உருவாகிய முக்கியமான கருத்துக்களும் கோரிக்கைகளும் பின்வருமாறு: ஏற்கனவே அமுலில் உள்ள பயங்கரவாததத் தடைச் சட்டத்தை நீக்கவேண்டிய அதேவேளை புதியதோர் சட்டம் அவசியம் இல்லை என்பதாகும். மட்டக்களப்பில் இடம்பெற்ற ஒரு கலந்துரையாடலில் பங்குபற்றிய 3 தமிழ் நாடாளுமன்ற உறுப்பினர்கள் கூறியதாவது: இந்த வரைபை அவர்கள் எதிர்ப்பதாகக் குறிப்பிட்டனர். ஆனால், தமிழ் தேசியக் கூட்டமைப்பு இது பற்றி தெளிவான ஒரு நிலைப்பாட்டை வெளியிடவில்லை. பழைய மற்றும் புதிய பயங்கரவாதத் தடைச் சட்டத்திற்கும் தெளிவான எதிர்ப்பை சுட்டிக்காட்டிய ஒரே அரசியற் கட்சி மக்கள் விடுதலை முன்னணி மாத்திரமே என்பதை இங்கு குறிப்பிட்டேயாக வேண்டும்.

கடந்த 6ஆம் திகதி, இச்சட்டம் தொடர்பாக 20 நாடாளுமன்ற உறுப்பினர்களை உள்ளடக்கிய துறைசார் மேற்பார்வைக் குழுவின் கூட்டம் இடம்பெற்றது. இதன்போது சிவில் சமூகச் செயற்பாட்டாளர்கள் மற்றும் சுயாதீன சட்டத்தரணிகளுடன் இது பற்றிய கலந்துரையாடல் இடம்பெற்றது. அடுத்த கூட்டம் பெப்ரவரி மாதம் 20ஆம் திகதி (நாளை) இடம்பெறவுள்ளது. அன்றைய திகதிக்கு முன்னர் இது பற்றிய எழுத்து மூலமான சமர்ப்பணங்களை வழங்குமாறு வருகை தந்தோரிடம் கேட்டுக்கொள்ளப்பட்டது. பெப்ரவரி 11ஆம் திகதி இது தொடர்பாக இடம்பெற்ற கலந்துரையாடலின் போது வெளிவிவகாரஅமைச்சர் பயங்கரவாதத் தடைச் சட்டத்தை அமுல்படுத்தும்போது மனித உரிமை மீறல்கள் இடம்பெற்றதை ஏற்றுக்கொண்டாலும், அத்தகைய ஒரு புதிய சட்டத்தின் தேவையை உறுதியான நிலைப்பாடாக முன்னெடுத்தார். அரச தரப்பினரினதும் சட்டத்தரணிகளினதும் சட்டமா அதிபர் திணைக்களத்தினதும் கருத்து பின்வருமாறு அமைந்துள்ளது, “புதிய சட்டம் அத்தியாவசியமானது – தற்போது சிறு சிறு மாற்றங்களை மாத்திரமே செய்ய முடியும்.”

ஏற்கனவே, அமுலில் உள்ள பயங்கரவாதத் தடைச் சட்டம் மற்றும் புதிய வரைவு ஆகிய இரண்டின் மூலம் தடுத்து வைக்கப்படுவோரின் உயிர்வாழ்வுக்கான பாதுகாப்பு, சுதந்திரம், உடல் உள நலத்திற்கான அச்சுறுத்தல் ஏற்படும் அதேவேளை, அடிப்படை மனித உரிமைகள் மட்டுப்படுத்தப்படுகின்றன. அதேசமயம் பரந்துபட்டதும் தெளிவற்றதுமான வரைவிலக்கணங்களின் மூலம், சட்ட ரீதியாக வேறு கருத்துக்கள் முன்வைக்கப்படுகின்றன. அடிப்படை உரிமைகளை அனுபவிப்பதற்கும் ஜனநாயகப் பிரஜைகள் என்ற வகையில் செயற்படுவதும், பயங்கரவாத நடவடிக்கைகளாக மாறுகின்றன. அதேசமயம், இதன் மூலம் நீதிமன்ற மேற்பார்வையையும் தற்றுணிபையும் குறைக்கும், அமைச்சரினதும் பொலிஸாரினதும் ஆயுதப் படைகளினதும் கரையோரப் பாதுகாவலர்களினதும் தற்றுணிபுக்கு ஏற்ப நடவடிக்கைகளை மேற்கொள்வதற்கு அத்துமீறிய அதிகாரங்கள் அல்லது பாரிய அதிகாரங்கள் வழங்கப்படுகின்றன. அடிப்படையில் பொலிஸாரும் அமைச்சரும் விசாரணையாளர்களும் நீதிபதிகளும உரிய வகிபாகத்தை மேற்கொள்கின்றனர்.

தேசிய பாதுகாப்பு, பயங்கரவாதம் ஆகிய சொற்களைப் பயன்படுத்தி, நீதிமன்றம் மேற்பார்வை செய்யாமல் இருப்பதற்கும் இச்சட்டத்தில் ஏற்பாடுகள் உண்டு. இதனூடாக சிவில் சமூக வாழ்க்கை இராணுவ மயமாக்கப்பட முடியும். அதேவேளை சட்டத்தின் ஆட்சியினூடாக நிர்வகிக்கப்படும் ஜனநாயக சமூகம் அமுலில் உள்ள ஒரு நாட்டிற்குப் பதிலாக தேசிய பாதுகாப்பை முன்னுரிமைப்படுத்தி அதிகாரபூர்வமான ஓர் ஆட்சியாக சமூகம் மாறக்கூடும். இது நல்லிணக்கத்திற்கு பாதகமாகவே அமையும். இதன் மூலம் அதிகாரத்திலுள்ளோருக்கு இனத்துவம், மொழி, மதம் மற்றும் அரசியல் கருத்திற்கு ஏற்ப தம்முடன் உடன்படாத குழுக்களை ஒடுக்குவதற்கு சந்தர்ப்பம் கிடைக்கின்றது. அது எதிர்கால நெருக்கடிக்கு (பயங்கரவாத்தை தடை செய்யும் சட்டத்தின் வரலாற்றை நோக்குகையில் இடம்பெற்றது போலவே) காரணமாக அமையலாம்.

பயங்கரவாத தடைச் சட்டத்தை நீக்கி அதற்கு ஒப்பான மற்றுமோர் சட்டத்துடன் தொடர்புபடுத்துவது எந்த வகையிலும் அவசியமில்லை. நாடாளுமன்றத்தின் மூலம் கட்டாயமாக பயங்கரவாதத் தடைச் சட்டம் நீக்கப்பட வேண்டும். அதனைச் செய்ய முடியும். அமைச்சரவை புதிய சட்ட வரைவை வாபஸ் பெற வேண்டும் அல்லது நாடாளுமன்றத்தினாலேயே அது கட்டாயமாக தோல்விக்குட்படுத்தப்பட வேண்டும். தற்போது அமுலில் உள்ள சட்டங்களின் ஊடாக பயங்கரவாதம் என அடையாளப்படுத்தப்படும் தவறுகள் தொடர்பாக நடவடிக்கை எடுக்க முடியும்.

 தமித் சந்திமால் மற்றும் ருக்கி பெர்னாண்டோ

 


(17.02.2019 அனித்தா’ வாராந்திர சிங்களப் பத்திரிகையில் வெளிவந்த கட்டுரையின் தமிழாக்கம்)

නව ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත අවනීතියට අලුත් අවසරපතක්ද?

First published on Anidda newspaper of 17th February and also published at https://www.vikalpa.org/?p=34293

රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත(Prevention of Terrorism Act -PTA) වසර 40කට වැඩි කාලයක් තිස්සේ වද හිංසා පැමිණවීම, ලිංගික හිංසනය, බලහත්කාරයෙන් අතුරුදහන් කිරීම සහ දීර්ඝ කාලීන ලෙස රැඳවුම් භාරයේ තබා ගැනීම සඳහා අවසර පත්‍රයක් ලෙස භාවිතා වී ඇත. ත්‍රස්තවාදී සැකකරුවන් පමණක් නොව ජනමාධ්‍යවේදීන්, සමාජ ක්‍රියාකාරීන් මේ යටතේ අත්අඩංගුවට ගත් අතර, රජයට එරෙහි විවේචනාත්මක අදහස් මර්දනය කිරීම උදෙසා මේ පනත දැඩි සේ භාවිතා වී ඇත. විශේෂයෙන්ම දෙමළ ජනතාවට එරෙහිව මෙය බොහෝ අවස්ථාවලදී වැරදි ලෙස භාවිතා විය.

වත්මන් රජය බලයට පැමිණිමෙන් පසු, මේ මර්දනකාරී ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත ඉවත් කරන බවට සහ අන්තර්ජාතික යහපත් ව්‍යවහාරයනට අනුකූල වන ත්‍රස්ත විරෝධී පනතක් ගෙන එන බවට විවිධ අවස්ථාවල පොරොන්දු ලබා දෙන ලදී. පසුගිය වසරේ සැප්තැම්බර් මාසයේ දී නව ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනතේ කෙටුම්පතක් ඉදිරිපත් කරන ලද්දේ මෙහි ප්‍රතිඵලයක් ලෙසය. මෙම කෙටුම්පත ඉංග්‍රීසි භාෂාවෙන් ත්‍රස්ත විරෝධී පනත (Counter Terrorism Act – CTA) ලෙස නම් කර තිබුනත්, සිංහල බසින් පැරණි පනත හැඳින්වූ ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත ලෙසම ගැසට් කර තිබීම එක්තරා ආකාරයක සරදමකි.

ත්‍රස්තවාදය යැයි හැඳින්විය හැකි වැරදි සම්බන්ධයෙන් අදාළ වන පනත් 14ක් ද, දණ්ඩ නීති සංග්‍රහයේ වගන්ති 6 ක් ද ඇතුළුව නීති 20ක් පමණ ශ්‍රී ලංකා නීතිය තුළ පවතී. එසේම හදිසි තත්ත්ව තුළ දී කටයුතු කිරීමට ජනපතිවරයාට හදිසි නීතිය පැනවීමේ හැකියාව ඇත. මෙවැනි තත්වයක් තුළ ත්‍රස්තවාදය සම්බන්ධයෙන් වෙනම විශේෂ නීතියක අවශ්‍යතාවය හුදෙක් සුළුතරයන් සහ රජයට එරෙහි විවේචනාත්මක අදහස් මර්දනය කිරීමක් වන අතර, ත්‍රස්තවාදය මැඩලීමට පවතින නීති ප්‍රමාණවත් වන බව අපගේ මතයයි. පෙර ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත භාවිතා වූ පරිද්දෙන්ම, මෙම නව පනත විසින් ද සාමාන්‍ය ජනතාවට, ජනමාධ්‍යවේදීන්ට, සහ සමාජ ක්‍රියාකාරීන්ට හිරිහැර කිරීමට අවශ්‍ය ඉඩකඩ විධිමත්ව සපයා ඇත.

මේ පනත තුළ පුළුල්, අපැහැදිලි නිර්වචනයක් ත්‍රස්තවාදය ලෙස නම් කළ හැකි වැරැදි සම්බන්ධයෙන් ලබා දී ඇත. මේ හේතුව නිසා මේ නීතිය යොදා ගනිමින් ව්‍යවස්ථාව විසින් ලබා දී ඇති ප්‍රකාශනයේ නිදහස, එක්රැස්වීමේ සහ සමාගමයේ නිදහස සීමාවනට ලක් කිරීමට ඉඩ ඇත. මූලික මිනිස් අයිතිවාසිකමක් පවා “සද්භාවයෙන් ඉටු කළේ නම්” පමණක් ත්‍රස්තවාදී ක්‍රියාවක් ලෙස නොසැලකේ.

මෙම නීතිය යටතේ අත්අඩංගුවට ගත් පුද්ගලයා ශාරීරික හානියකට ලක් වීමෙන් ආරක්ෂා කර ගැනීම අනිවාර්ය නොවේ. අත්අඩංගුවට පත් වෙන පුද්ගලයාට අත්අඩංගුවට ගැනීමට හේතුව සහ ඊට අදාළ අනෙකුත් තොරතුරු දැනුම් දීම අනිවාර්ය නොවන අතර, පසුව එසේ කළ යුතු කාලරාමුවක් සපයාද නැත. පවුලේ අය අත්අඩංගුවට පත් වෙන අවස්ථාවේ එතැන සිටියද අත්අඩංගුවට පත් වීම ගැන විස්තර ඔවුන්ට දැනුම් දීමට පවා පැය 24ක කාලයක් ලබා දී ඇත. පවුලේ අය අත්අඩංගුවට පත් වෙන අවස්ථාවේ එතැන සිටියේ නැත්නම් ඔවුනට අත්අඩංගුවට පත්වීම සම්බන්ධයෙන් දැනුම් දීම අනිවාර්ය නොවේ. එසේම කාන්තා සැකකරුවන් කාන්තා නිලධාරීන් විසින් අත්අඩංගුවට ගැනීමට ප්‍රශ්න කරනු ලැබීමට හෝ කාන්තා නිලධාරිනියක් එතැන සිටීම අත්‍යවශ්‍ය නොවේ.

පොලිසිය විසින් නිකුත් කළ වලංගු රඳවා ගැනීම් නියෝගයකට අනුමැතිය මහේස්ත්‍රාත් විසින් ලබා දිය යුතු අතර, පුද්ගලයා සති දෙකක් දක්වා රඳවා තබා ගැනීම තීරණය කරන්නේ පොලිස් නිලධාරියාය. මේ රඳවා තබා ගැනීම් නියෝගයක්, සති 8ක් දක්වා මහේස්ත්‍රාත් අනුමැතිය ඇතිව කාලය දිගු කළ හැකිය. පොලිසිය විසින් අත්අඩංගුවට ගැනීම සම්බන්ධයෙන් මානව හිමිකම් කොමිසමට දැනුම් දීමට පැය 72ක කාලයක් ලබා දී ඇත. සැකකරුවාට ඇප ලැබෙන්නේ ඔහුගේ නඩුව වසරකට වඩා වැඩි කාලයක් ඇදි ඇදී ගිය හොත් පමණි. රැඳවියාගේ නීතිඥයාට සහ පවුලේ අයට රැඳවුම් ස්ථානයට පිවිසිය හැකි වන්නේ ස්ථානභාර නිලධාරියාගේ පූර්ව අවසරය සහිතවය. පුද්ගලයා රඳවා තබා ගන්නේ අමාත්‍යවරයකු විසින් තීරණය කරන ස්ථාන සහ තත්වයන් යටතේ ය. රඳවා තබා ගැනීම්වලට විරුද්ධව “සමාලෝචන මණ්ඩලය” වෙත අභියාචනය කළ හැකි නමුත් එම මණ්ඩලය සමන්විත වන්නේ ද අමාත්‍යවරයා, අමාත්‍යාංශ ලේකම්, සහ අමාත්‍යවරයා විසින් පත් කළ තවත් දෙදෙනෙකු ය. දේශපාලනඥයන් සහ පොලිසිය විසින් සමාජ ක්‍රියාකාරීන්ට, ජනමාධ්‍යවේදීන්ට සහ විරුද්ධ දේශපාලනඥයන්ට එරෙහිව ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත භාවිතා කිරීමේ ඉතිහාසය දෙස බලන විට, මේ පනත විසින් ඇමැතිවරයාට සහ පොලිසියට ලබා දී ඇති මේ බලතල නරියාට කුකුළු කොටුව භාර දීමක් ද යන සැකය අප වෙත නැගෙන්නේය.

පනත විසින් රැඳවියාගේ දැකිය හැකි තුවාල තිබේදැයි පරීක්ෂා කිරීමට ස්ථාන භාර නිලධාරීයා(OIC) වෙත බලය පවරන අතර, ඔහු විසින් එසේ දුටුවේ නම්, ඔහුට ඇත්තේ අධිකරණ වෛද්‍ය නිලධාරියකු වෙත රැඳවියා ඉදිරිපත් කර වාර්තාවක් ලබා ගැනීම පමණි. මහේස්ත්‍රාත්වරයකු හෝ මානව හිමිකම් කොමිසමේ නිලධාරියකු විසින් රැඳවුම් ස්ථානයට පැමිණි අවස්ථාවක රැඳවියා රඳවා ඇත්තේ මානුෂීය සැලකීමට ගැලපෙන පරිදි නොවන බව නිරීක්ෂණය කළේ නම්, ඔවුන්ට කළ හැක්කේ බන්ධනාගාර අධිකාරී වෙත හෝ පොලිස්පති වෙත හෝ දැනුම් දීම පමණකි. ඒ සම්බන්ධයෙන් ක්‍රියාමාර්ග ගෙන අදාළ ‘මානුෂික තත්වයන්’ සැපයීමට කටයුතු කිරීමට බල කිරීමට ඔවුනට හැකියාවක් නැත.

සැකකරුවන් රැඳවුම් භාරයේ සිටිය දී වද හිංසා පැමිණවීමට, සහ ලිංගික අතවර ආදියට ලක් වීම් ගැන සිදු වීම් ගණනාවක් පෙර ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත යටතේ වාර්තා වී ඇති අතර, මේ පනතේ ඉහත වගන්ති තුළින් එම තත්වය තවදුරටත් වැඩි විය හැකිය.

දැනට පවතින ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත යටතේ පොලිස් නිලධාරීන් විසින් පමණක් අත්අඩංගුවට ගැනීම, ස්ථානවලට ඇතුළු වීම, සහ භාණ්ඩ භාරයට ගැනීම ආදිය කළ යුතු වුවත්, නව පනත යටතේ ත්‍රිවිධ හමුදාවලට සහ වෙරළාරක්ෂකයන්ට ද මෙකී බලතල ලැබේ. එසේම පොලීසියට, වින්දිත පාර්ශ්වයට කරුණු දැක්වීමට අවස්ථාවක් නොදී, රැස්වීමක්, රැළියක්, හෝ ක්‍රියාකාරකමක් නැවැත්වීමට මහේස්ත්‍රාත්වරයාගෙන් ඉල්ලීමක් කළ හැකිය. එසේම ඇමැතිවරයකුට කිසියම් සංවිධානයක්, පොදු ස්ථානයක්, හෝ වෙනත් ස්ථානයක් තහනම් ස්ථානයක් බවට කාල නියමයක් රහිතව නියම කළ හැකි අතර, එසේ නියෝගයක් නිකුත් කිරීමට පෙර මෙය අභියෝගයට ලක් කිරීමට අනෙක් පාර්ශවයට අවස්ථාවක් ලැබෙන්නේ නැත. එසේම සංවිධානවල රැස්වීම්, ක්‍රියාකාරකම් සහ වැඩසටහන් පැවැත්වීම තහනම් කිරීම, බැංකු ගිණුම් සහ වෙනත් මූල්‍ය තැන්පතු භාවිතය හෝ යෙදවීම තහනම් කිරීම, ගිවිසුම්වලට එළඹීම තහනම් කිරීම, අරමුදල් රැස්කිරීම සහ ප්‍රදාන සහ දේපල පැවරීම් ලබා ගැනීම තහනම් කිරීම, අරමුදල් සහ වත්කම් පැවරීම තහනම් කිරීම, සහ සංවිධානයක් වෙනුවෙන් බලපෑම් කිරීම, ඉල්ලීම් සිදු කිරීම ආදිය සිදු කිරීම තහනම් කිරීමට ද ඇමැතිවරයාට බලය ලැබේ.

පවතින ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනතින් ලබා නොදෙන මේ පනත හරහා පැවරෙන අනෙකුත් අමතර බලතල වන්නේ ජනපතිට ඇඳිරි නීතිය පැනවීමටත්, මහජන සාමය පවත්වා ගැනීමට ත්‍රිවිධ හමුදා කැඳවීමටත් ලබා දෙන බලයයි.

එසේම නව නීතිය ඔස්සේ ප්‍රසිද්ධියේ සමාව ගැනීමත්, පුනරුත්ථාපනයට ලක් වීම, සහ ප්‍රජා සේවයේ යෙදීම වැනි දෑ හරහා වරදට වන්දි ගෙවීමත් පිළි ගැනේ. මේ තත්වය තුළ නඩුවලට දීර්ඝ කාලයක් ගත වෙන නිසාත්, නීතිඥ ගාස්තු ආදිය දරා ගැනීමට නොහැකි වීම නිසාත් බොහෝ දෙනෙක් අධිකරණ ක්‍රියාවලියක් තුළ තමන්ගේ නිරවද්‍යතාවය ඔප්පු කිරීමට මහන්සි වීම වෙනුවට වරද පිළි ගැනීමට බොහෝ දුරට ඉඩ ඇත. මෙවැනි අවස්ථාවල අභිචෝදකයා වන නීතිපතිවරයාට චෝදනා අස්කර ගැනීමේ දී දඩුවම් සඳහා අධිකරණ අනුමැතිය ඉල්ලීමේ අමතර බලයක් ද ලබා දී ඇත.

මේ නීතිය කෙටුම්පත් කර ගැසට් කිරීමෙන් අනතුරුව සිවිල් ක්‍රියාකාරීහු මෙම නීතිය විසින් ව්‍යවස්ථාවේ මූලික අයිතිවාසිකම් කඩ කරන බවට ප්‍රකාශ කරමින් ශ්‍රේෂ්ඨාධිකරණයේ පෙත්සම් ගොනු කරන ලද අතර, ශ්‍රේෂ්ඨාධිකරණය විසින් ඒ කිසිවක් සැලකිල්ලකට නොගෙන මරණ දඬුවම ද ගෙන ඒමෙන් සියල්ල තිබුණාට ද වඩා නරක තත්වයකට පත් කරන ලදී.

නව ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත සම්බන්ධයෙන් දිවයිනේ විවිධ පළාත්වල පැවැත්වුනු සාකච්ඡාවලට ආගමික නායකයෝ, ජනමාධ්‍යවේදීහු සහ සමාජ ක්‍රියාකාරීහු ගණනාවක් පැමිණියහ. මේවා බොහොමයක් සංවිධානය කළේ කාන්තා කණ්ඩායම් ය. මෙම සාකච්ඡාවල මතු වූ ප්‍රධාන මතය සහ ඉල්ලීම වූයේ, පවතින ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත අහෝසි කළ යුතු අතර නව පනතක් අවශ්‍ය නැති බවයි. මඩකලපුවේ පැවැති එක් සාකච්ඡාවකට සහභාගි වූ දමිළ පාර්ලිමේන්තු මන්ත්‍රීන් තිදෙනෙකුම ප්‍රකාශ කළේ මෙම කෙටුම්පතට ඔවුන් විරෝධය දක්වන බවයි.

එහෙත් දමිළ ජාතික සන්ධානය (TNA) මේ පිළිබඳ පැහැදිලි ස්ථාවරයක් ප්‍රකාශ කර නොමැත. පැරැණි සහ නව ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත් දෙකටම පැහැදිලි විරෝධයක් පළ කර ඇති එකම දේශපාලන පක්ෂය වන්නේ ජනතා විමුක්ති පෙරමුණයි.

පසුගිය 6 වැනිදා මෙම නීතිය සම්බන්ධයෙන් පාර්ලිමේන්තු මන්ත්‍රීවරු 20 දෙනෙකුගෙන් යුක්ත ආංශික අධීක්ෂණ කාරක සභාවේ රැස්වීම පැවැත්වුනි. එහිදී සිවිල් ක්‍රියාධරයන්, සහ ස්වාධීන නීතිඥයන් සමග මේ පිළිබඳව සාකච්ඡා වුනි. මීලඟ රැස්වීම පෙබරවාරි 20 වැනි දින පැවැත්වීමට එකඟ වී ඇති අතර, එදිනට පෙර මෙය පිළිබඳව ලිඛිත ඉදිරිපත් කිරීම් ලබා දෙන ලෙස පැමිණි සිටි අයගෙන් ඉල්ලා සිටින ලදී. පෙබරවාරි 11 වැනි දින මේ පිළිබඳව පැවැති සාකච්ඡාවක දී විදේශ කටයුතු ඇමැතිවරයා ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත ක්‍රියාත්මක කිරීම තුළ මානව හිමිකම් උල්ලංඝණය වීම් සිදු වූ බව පිළිගත්තත්, එවැනිම නව පනතක් අවශ්‍යය යන දැඩි ස්ථාවරයේ සිටියේය. රජයේ පාර්ශ්වයේ සිටි නීතිඥවරුන්ගේ සහ නීතිපති දෙපාර්තමේන්තුවේ මතය වී ඇත්තේ ද නව පනතක් අත්‍යවශ්‍ය බව සහ දැනට කළ හැක්කේ අවම වෙනස්කම් පමණක් බවත්ය.

පවතින ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත(PTA) සහ අලුත් කෙටුම්පත(CTA) යන දෙකින්ම රැඳවියන්ගේ ජීවිත ආරක්ෂාව, නිදහස, ශාරීරික හා මානසික යහපැවැත්මට තර්ජනයක් වන අතර, මූලික මිනිස් අයිතිවාසිකම් සීමා කරයි. එසේම පුළුල්, සහ අපැහැදිලි නිර්වචන තුළින්, නීත්‍යනුකූල ලෙස වෙනස් අදහස් ප්‍රකාශ කිරීමට, මූලික මිනිස් අයිතිවාසිකම් අත්විඳීම සහ ප්‍රජාතන්ත්‍රවාදී පුරවැසියන් ලෙස කටයුතු කිරීම ත්‍රස්තවාදී ක්‍රියා බවට පත් කරයි. එසේම එයින් අධිකරණමය අධීක්ෂණය සහ අභිමතිය අඩු කරන අතර, අමාත්‍යවරයාගේ, පොලිසියේ, හමුදාවේ, සහ වෙරළාරක්ෂකයන්ගේ අභිමතයට කටයුතු කිරීමට සුවිසල් බලතල සපයයි. මූලික වශයෙන් පොලිසිය සහ අමාත්‍යවරයා විසින් විමර්ශකයාගේ සහ විනිසුරුගේ යන දෙදෙනාගේම භූමිකාවන් ඉටු කරයි.

ජාතික ආරක්ෂාව’ සහ ‘ත්‍රස්තවාදී” යන වචන භාවිතා කරමින්, අධිකරණය අධීක්ෂණයන් නොකර සිටීමට මේ පනත තුළ ප්‍රතිපාදන ඇත. මේ හරහා සිවිල් ජීවිතය හමුදාකරණය විය හැකි අතර, නීතියේ ආධිපත්‍යය හරහා පාලනය වන ප්‍රජාතන්ත්‍රවාදී සමාජයක පවතින රටක් වෙනුවට ජාතික ආරක්ෂාව ප්‍රමුඛත්වය ගත් බලාධිකාරී රෙජීමයක් බවට පරිවර්තනය විය හැකිය.

මෙය සංහිඳියාවට හානි කර වනු ඇත්තේ, එය විසින් බලයේ සිටින අයට ජනවාර්ගිකත්වය, භාෂාව, ආගම, සහ දේශපාලනික අදහස් අනුව තමන් සමග එකඟ නොවන කණ්ඩායම් මර්දනය කිරීමට ඉඩ ලැබෙනු ඇති නිසාය. එය අනාගත අර්බුදයකට (ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනතේ ඉතිහාසය දෙස බලන කල සිදුවූවාක් මෙන්) හේතු සාධක විය හැකිය. ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත ඉවත් කිරීම එහා සමාන තවත් නීතියක් සමග සම්බන්ධ කිරීමේ කිසිදු අවශ්‍යතාවයක් ඇත්තේ නැත. පාර්ලිමේන්තුව විසින් අනිවාර්යෙන්ම ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත ඉවත් කළ යුතු අතර, එය කළ හැක්කකි. කැබිනට් මණ්ඩලය විසින් නව පනත් කෙටුම්පත අකුලා ගැනීම හෝ පාර්ලිමේන්තුව විසින් එය පරාජය කිරීම අනිවාර්යයෙන්ම සිදු විය යුත්තකි. දැනට පවතින නීතින් හරහා ත්‍රස්තවාදය යැයි හඳුන්වන වැරදි සම්බන්ධයෙන් කටයුතු කළ හැකිය.

(දමිත් චන්දිමාල් සහ රුකී ප්‍රනාන්දු)

Political prisoners and counter terror laws

First published at http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2018/09/23/news-features/political-prisoners-and-counter-terror-laws on 23rd September 2018

On 14th September, eight Tamil detainees in the Anuradhapura prison, detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) since around 2009 commenced a fast. Their cases are yet to be concluded, with a major reason for delays being the non-attendance of officials from the Attorney General’s department who are prosecuting the cases. One of the cases has not had a hearing for about 5 years. They are demanding to be released or be subjected to short term “rehabilitation” – a form of detention that doesn’t entail a judicial trial and sentence.

The term ‘Political Prisoners’ is used in relation to those detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). The Government rejects the term ‘political prisoner’, insisting that cases need to be resolved through legal than political perspective, though the crimes these detainees are suspected to have committed have a political context involving an armed struggle with political objectives. The Opposition leader, who is also the leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has stated in Parliament that “these cases have a certain political dimension and cannot be addressed as purely as a legal issue” and that “circumstances of not addressing the national question reasonably makes it obligatory to address this issue politically”.[1]

Examples of prolonged detention

Prolonged detention has been a hallmark of detention. In the last few years, men and women have been acquitted as not guilty after being detained under the PTA for as long as 15, 10 and 6 years.[2]A 2015 report indicated that as of early 2015, there were persons in detention for 18-19 years under the PTA without having their cases concluded and that it has taken up to 15 years to even file charges in some cases[3]. The National Movement to Release Political Prisoners has indicated there are 107 political prisoners as of now. A July 2018 document provides more details, such as;

* Up to 7 year’s detention without charge being filed

* Up to 13 years detention without completion of trials

* 46 against whom charges have been framed without their cases being concluded – with 16 of them being in detention for 10-13 years

* Another 13 have not even been charged – with 6 being in detention for 5-7 years

They are being held in 10 prisons in Colombo, Negombo, Mahara, Anuradhapura, Kandy, Batticaloa, Polonnaruwa and Moneragala. There are also 37 who have been convicted and 17 who have appeal cases pending. Some have been detained for 15-17 years before being sentenced. The severest sentences range from death sentence, life sentence, 600 years, 200 years and lesser sentences ranging from 1.5 years to 6 years.

Even some who had been released after going through the Government’s rehabilitation for those connected with the LTTE, have been re-arrested. In the case of two such detainees, they were re-arrested in 2010 and charges filed in 2013. After a few months, the Attorney General (AG) had withdrawn the indictment to change the charges. On Feb. 21, 2016, the three suspects had started a hunger strike. They had been brought before courts 36 times by this time. They stopped the hunger strike based on a commitment by the AG to present the amended indictment before courts within 2 weeks. But the amended indictment was only presented to courts in June 2017.

Re-arrests and transfers

Subsequently, the AG had informed them that the case will be transferred to the Anuradhapura High Court, which led to two of them, along with another accused, starting an another hunger strike, demanding the case to be brought back to Vavuniya High Court, insisting they will not be able to get a fair trial in Anuradhapura. The language of the courts in Anuradhpura is Sinhalese, while the language of the Courts in Vavuniya is Tamil. The three Tamil suspects does not understand Sinhalese. It is also very difficult to obtain legal representation for Tamil political prisoners in a Sinhalese majority area like Anuradhapura, and in this particular case, the senior counsel for the three suspects had refused to appear in Anuradhapura.

There is an ethnic bias in transfer of cases of Tamil suspects and accused from Tamil majority North and Eastern provinces to Sinhalese majority areas. When the complainants / victims were Tamils and the accused have been Sinhalese military personnel, cases were transferred on basis of security of accused. In the past, courts in Sinhalese majority areas had accepted confessions made by suspects in detention, whereas Courts in Tamil majority North have rejected such confessions.

Past protests and promises by politicians

In April this year, the “speedy release of all Tamil political prisoners” was one of the ten guarantees the TNA had reportedly sought when they had supported the Prime Minister during No Confidence Motion.[4] In July, TNA leader had promised activists to speedily resolve the problem of political prisoners. According to an activist, a Tamil Minister has not responded for a week to requests for a discussion after the latest fast had commenced. TNA MP and spokesperson Parliamentarian M A Sumanthiran had visited the detainees presently engaged in the fast and taken up the matter with the Prime Minister, but there has been no response yet.

Fasts and protests by political prisoners in Sri Lanka have been common, including in 2015, 2016, 2017 and now 2018. After the 2015 protests, bail was granted to about 40 detainees. Last year, it took a fast of more than a month by three detainees to correct an unjust transfer of cases from Vavuniya to Anuradhapura. When detainees resort to drastic steps such as fasts and protests, there is temporary interest among politicians, media, activists and international community, but momentum and interest had often been lost afterwards, until another fast or protest is initiated by desperate prisoners. The negative impacts on mental and physical health of detainees and their families due to regular fasting is likely to be high, coming on top of the inhumane and degrading treatment and torture they are usually subjected to.

Negative impacts of the PTA

The PTA had resulted in arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention without charges, long drawn out court cases and multiple cases against one suspect. Mental and physical well-being of detainees have been severely affected due to long term detention and as a result of rigorous interrogation, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and torture. Many detainees have spent most of their youth behind bars. The stigma attached to having been a “terrorist suspect” lingers even after they are acquitted or released by Courts, with society still considering them guilty.

There have been many cases of forced/coerced confessions where the detainee had not even known she/he was signing a confession as she/he could not understand the language it was written in. The detainees currently on a fast have claimed that the only evidence against them are forced confessions.

A 2018 UN report indicated that 80% of those arrested under the PTA in late 2016 had complained of torture and physical ill-treatment following their arrest, in cases which were later dealt with under ordinary criminal law.[5] The same report quoted the most senior judge responsible for PTA cases as saying that in over 90% of the cases he had dealt with in the first half of 2017, he had been forced to exclude the essential confession evidence because it had been obtained through the use or threat of force. The judge in special High Court in Colombo had been quoted as saying he had only been able to accept one out of eleven confessions as evidence, while in Anuradhapura, out of fourteen cases, twelve were said to have been based solely on unreliable confessions.

The PTA has been used against opposition politicians, journalists and rights activists to suppress dissent. I have also been arrested and detained under the PTA and along with others such as Balendran Jeyakumary, and we are considered terror suspects more than four and half years after our arrests.

Do we need a PTA or any counter-terror laws?

The present Government promised to repeal this law more than three years ago. But it is still being used and there is no date announced for it’s repeal. Instead, the Government had engaged in secret processes to draft laws that would replace the PTA. Media reports earlier this month about a draft counter – terror law approved by Cabinet indicates that problematic clauses such as admission of confessions made to Police and enabling the Defense Ministry to be the authority to implement the provisions of this bill as a piece of legislation dealing with national security will be introduced at the Parliamentary Committee stage, eliminating possibilities of judicial review of such amendments.[6]

However, a more fundamental question is whether we need any counter–terror laws. There is wide-ranging powers available under the Public Security Ordinance, the possibility of including new offences under ordinary law, powers of Magistrates to deny bail in a variety of situations etc. Counter-terror laws provides the executive and security establishment extraordinary powers with minimal checks and balances as well as discretion usually vested with the judiciary, negatively affecting life and liberty, rights and dignity of persons, often serving as a license for enforced disappearances and torture.

Comparisons have also been made to the way detainees were treated in relation to the JVP insurrections, highlighting that Sinhalese political prisoners connected to JVP insurrections were released faster or pardoned than political prisoners connected to the LTTE, the vast majority of whom are Tamil. Protests, including fasts unto death, have been held regularly across the country, including by detainees themselves and their families, and discussions have been held with politicians, but with very little results. Until solutions are found for all political prisoners, both through legal and political processes, and unless we stop resorting to counter-terror laws, reconciliation and democracy will remain distant in Sri Lanka. Most urgent, and immediate, is to respond constructively to the ongoing fast in Anuradhapura. Blurb

The term ‘Political Prisoners’ is used in relation to those detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). The Government rejects the term ‘political prisoner’, insisting that cases need to be resolved through legal than political perspective, though the crimes these detainees are suspected to have committed have a political context involving an armed struggle with political objectives.

[1] http://srilankabrief.org/2017/10/tamil-political-prisoners-in-sri-lanka-…

[2] https://twitter.com/rkguruparan/status/923671056300339200 and http://groundviews.org/2015/10/05/court-acquits-tamil-mother-after-15-ye…

[3] http://groundviews.org/2015/09/05/pta-detainees-ignored-under-yahapalanaya/

[4] http://www.dailymirror.lk/article/TNA-s-key-role-in-defeating-no-confide…

[5] https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/LK/Sri_LankaReportJuly2018.PDF

[6] http://www.dailymirror.lk/article/Cabinet-nod-for-Counter-Terrorism-Bill… Attachments area

Sri Lanka’s Stalled Reforms

First published at https://intpolicydigest.org/2018/09/12/sri-lanka-s-stalled-reforms/ on 12th September 2018

Ruki Fernando is a human rights activist based in Colombo, Sri Lanka. This interview has been edited lightly.

Three years on, what’s your broad take on the coalition government’s performance? Where does the reform agenda currently stand?

Some reforms have happened since 2015 to varying degrees, but many of the promised reforms have come to a standstill and seem unlikely to happen by next year.

The release of some lands occupied by the military after months of protests, the release and indictments of some political prisoners, more space for free expression and assembly compared to years under the previous regime, arrests of some Navy and Army personnel in relation to a couple of disappearance cases, convictions of Police and Army personnel (for torture, killing of civilians and rape), are also some positive things seen since 2015. The passing of the 19th amendment to the constitution reducing the powers of the executive president and strengthening independent institutions and checks and balances, the ratification of the International Convention Against Enforced Disappearances and making this a crime in Sri Lanka, the passing of the Right to Information Act were some progressive legislative changes – while the proactiveness and independence displayed by the leadership of the Human Rights Commission and the Right to Information Commission were also positive features.

But the reluctance of the government and lack of leadership by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to carry forward the reform agenda overshadows these gains. Much of the land occupied by the military during and after the war still remains in their hands. Releases were often due to long drawn out overnight protests and direct action by affected communities. The possibilities of reconciliation through land releases was negatively affected by the arrogance and viciousness of the military – who after benefitting from decades of occupation, called the return of lands “gifts,” organized ceremonies for themselves where military leaders were glorified and had destroyed and damaged some properties just before handing them over.

Political prisoners acquitted by courts after up to 15 years in detention have received no apology or reparations and many still languish in prison, including based on confessions made during detention, which are likely to have been under duress. The Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) has not been withdrawn despite the commitment to do so three years ago. Alternatives to the PTA were drafted in utmost secrecy from the citizenry and leaked versions contained draconian provisions. Abduction, assaults, death threats, intimidation, discrediting and surveillance of activists continues. An attempt to bring in a draconian amendment to the Voluntary Social Services Organizations Act was only withdrawn in the face of stiff opposition from civil activists and organizations. Violence against Muslims and Christians continued, including on a mass scale, such as in March this year around Kandy. Debt has reached life-threatening proportions.

Three years after ambitious promises to set up institutions to deal with wartime abuses, only one, the Office on Missing Persons (OMP) has been set up, and that too is limping forward. A draft bill was rushed through the cabinet to establish an Office for Reparations. There is not even draft legislation for the two other institutions promised – a truth commission and judicial mechanism with a special counsel. The president, prime minister and other politicians have backtracked on the promise to include foreign judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers and investigators in the judicial mechanism. 

More specifically, what do you expect to happen in terms of constitution-building?

There has been some progress, with some public consultations, six subcommittee reports and a steering committee report from the Constitutional Assembly, consisting of all the parliamentarians. However, there is a lot of uncertainty about whether a new constitution will see the light of day. Even if it does, there are serious concerns about whether it will bring substantial changes – such as the inclusion of economic, social and cultural rights as justiciable rights, doing away with ancient laws that facilitate the applicability of discriminatory laws against women and children, providing the foremost place to the majority religion and a lesser place to other religions, abolition of the executive presidency and power-sharing arrangements, which is also crucial for resolving the ethnic conflict that led to war.

How effective will the Office on Missing Persons be?

The OMP has been functioning for just over six months, but it’s too early to tell how effective it will be. OMP members tried make up for a lack of consultations before it was set up, by having a series of consultations about how it should function. It has stronger enabling legislation than previous Commissions of Inquiry and the chairperson and members have shown sensitivities in acknowledging the frustration, disappointment and anger of many families of the disappeared and missing who have approached multiple commissions, police, courts, et cetera and not received the answers they are seeking. But other than passionate appeals to give the OMP a chance and stating that they will try to do better than previous government initiatives, and publishing an interim report, I have seen nothing to indicate the OMP will be more effective than the large number of previous Commissions of Inquiry. The inclusion of a senior retired Army officer as a member of the OMP, in a context where many families believe their relatives were taken away by the Army (and where Army personnel have been convicted by courts and both Army and Navy personnel have been arrested on suspicion in relation to disappearances), has also contributed to making many families of the disappeared lose confidence in the OMP and be skeptical. It is this anger, suspicion and frustration that have led to protests against the OMP by some families of disappeared, leading to even the unacceptable situation of them blocking other families of the disappeared from engaging with the OMP. 

The first major specific public promise made by the OMP was to release an interim report on the 30th of August – the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. But instead of fulfilling this promise, the OMP postponed the release of the report – in order to hand over the report first to the president, though they have no legal obligation to do so. Though this may be a strategic decision by the OMP, it has led to concerns that the OMP is prioritizing presidential appeasement and not giving primacy to the families of the disappeared and missing. The report dated the 30th of August was presented to the president on the 5th of September and released to the public on the 6th.

Despite the history of reports and recommendations by previous Commissions of Inquiry, much of which have been ignored by successive governments, the OMP too has opted to prioritize another report with observations and recommendations. This is despite the OMP being legally empowered to provide welfare services, trace the disappeared and inform the families.

The recommendations in the report include amendments to existing laws to strengthen the legal framework in criminalizing and prosecuting enforced disappearances, that state officials including members of the armed forces and police who are named as suspects or accused in relation to abductions and enforced disappearances should be suspended and not transferred, promoted or offered any other office, publishing a list of detention centers and detainees, designating a national day for the disappeared, preserving sites of mass graves as memorial spaces and restoring a monument for Sinhalese youth that disappeared in late 1980s that was destroyed by the previous government.

Disappointingly, the OMP has not called on the government to release a list of those who surrendered to the Army at the end of the war, many of whom disappeared afterwards. The release of this list has been a central demand made to the president and also to the OMP by Tamil families who have been at continuous roadside protests for more than 550 days. The OMP has also opted to call for reform of some provisions of the draconian PTA instead of total repeal, without questioning the need for counterterrorism legislation, which has a history of abuse in Sri Lanka and across the world. 

The report also has some constructive and practical recommendations on “interim relief,” including a monthly cash payment and other facilities related to debt relief, housing, education, employment and livelihood development.

Observations and recommendations in the interim report are significant and important, but unlikely to impress families of the disappeared. What would have made a difference is if the OMP had done in the first six months or will do in the next few months what many families of disappeared have asked them to do and that they have a legal mandate to do: Establish the fate and whereabouts of a few of the disappeared and inform their families. Or at least start providing information relating to the status of investigations, on individual cases, to respective families. The interim report says the OMP started to carry out inquiries with relevant authorities on specific cases. However, even statistical and general information about progress made is not mentioned in the report.

Would you talk about some of the criticisms surrounding the creation of the Office for Reparations?

As is the usual custom of this government, the draft bill had been drafted in secret, without adequate consultations before it was approved by the cabinet. On the draft bill, there are concerns about unnecessary powers being granted to the cabinet and parliament, making the awarding of reparations a long drawn, politicized process and the office not being an independent one with decision-making powers.

What about President Sirisena’s plan to reinstate the death penalty?

This was a shock, as for more than 40 years, through civil war and insurrections, Sri Lanka was one of 29 countries that had maintained a moratorium on the death penalty. Another 106 countries had abolished it fully by 2017, and only 23 countries were known to have carried out executions in 2017. There is no evidence in Sri Lanka, or in other countries, that the death penalty has reduced crime by having a deterrent effect. In Sri Lanka, there are serious deficiencies in the criminal justice system, including a lack of easily accessible, quality legal aid. 

The death penalty is an irreversible form of punishment which grants no space to consider new evidence that may emerge after a conviction is made, for example through new technology, indicating a wrongful conviction. It has been pointed out that in countries such as America, Canada and the United Kingdom, people wrongly convicted have been released from death row decades after they were put there as new evidence has shown they were wrongfully imprisoned.

If some detainees are engaged in drug-related offences from within prison grounds, cited as a reason to reintroduce the death penalty, security in prisons must be strengthened, including by using new technology, without infringing on the rights of detainees. Prison officials responsible for such crimes from within prisons must be held accountable.

What Sri Lanka must do is ratify the 2nd Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that calls for the abolition of the death penalty and abolish the death penalty from our books, as about 85 countries had done by the end of 2017.

How concerned are you about reports of abduction and torture since Sirisena became president?

Abductions have continued since President Sirisena took office – in the war-affected North, and even in Colombo in 2017, such as the abduction of the trade union leader and attempted abduction of a student activist. However, many abducted appear to have been released, though I’m also aware of those who have disappeared under this government and not been found.

Attacks, threats, intimidation and surveillance of families of the disappeared campaigning for truth and justice have also continued under President Sirisena. Their supporters, including activists and journalists have also been attacked, threatened, obstructed and interrogated. Several such incidents were reported in July this year; I had mentioned two in an article I wrote last month.

The continuation of torture too has been a major concern under the Sirisena presidency.

Will provincial council elections be held this year?

There is no certainty when provincial elections will be held.

What’s your assessment of a possible Gotabaya Rajapaksa presidential campaign? Who do you see as viable candidates for the presidency?

Rajapaksa political forces have always been strong, even in 2015, and appear to be gaining ground in the face of failures by the present coalition government. Despite much hype beforehand, the “Jana Balaya” (People’s Power) rally in Colombo on the 5th didn’t indicate mass public support for Rajapaksa-led political forces and there didn’t even appear to be a clear and strong political message from the rally. Though Gotabaya was seen participating in the rally, he didn’t play a leading role and there is also uncertainty about whether he will be a presidential candidate for the Joint Opposition, representing Rajapaksa political forces. There is also no clear indication whether Sirisena – Wickremesinghe and their allies will contest together or separately, and if together, who might be a “common candidate.” But the rather unexpected emergence of Sirisena as a successful presidential candidate, with a broad alliance of political and civil forces’ support, makes me wonder whether there could be another person who could gain widespread support, across political and civil forces – but I only hope it would be one that will not let us down like Sirisena has done.

STF brutality against Muslims in Digana: March 5

First published at http://groundviews.org/2018/03/13/stf-brutality-against-muslims-in-digana-march-5/ on 13th March 2018

This story is based on visits to both sites and testimonies of at least 10 survivors and about 5 eyewitnesses present

As Sinhalese – Buddhist mobs were escalating violence against Muslims around Digana on March 5, the Hijrapura mosque in Digana had just finished afternoon prayers around 4 pm that day.

As usual, devotees were talking to each other outside the mosque, after the prayers. A few had continued to pray inside the mosque. Suddenly, a jeep full of uniformed, heavily armed men had arrived in a jeep and a couple of motorbikes and surrounded the mosque. Thanks to the camouflage uniform, the devotees had identified them as being from the Special Task Force (STF) of the Police. The STF had brutally beaten up the devotees and chased them as they started to run away. Numerous eyewitnesses and survivors described the brutalities unleashed by the STF in vivid detail.

When I met them on March 9, one man couldn’t walk at all, and several others were limping. At least one was reported to have been in hospital. Many showed me scars and wounds, on their back, arms and legs. Some had been injured through falls, as they were running to escape the assault and were also being chased by STF men.

The devout Muslims were horrified that the STF had rampaged through the mosque with their weapons and boots. “We can’t describe the filthy and abusive language the STF used,” said one eyewitness.

Two Moulavis were beaten up, even as they shouted identifying themselves as Moulavis. They were forced to hold a knife and iron pole (They later said they believed it was to implicate them in false charges). They were beaten when they refused. The Buddhist Monk in the nearby Temple had seen the incident on the roadside and had intervened to save the two Moulavis from the STF’s grip.

In a separate incident around 5pm also on March 5 in nearby Ambagahalanda, A. F. M. Fazil, a member of the Meda Dumbara Pradeshiya Sabawa (Local Council) was at a friend’s house. Suddenly the STF had entered the house and beaten up Fazil and his friend, and also an 18 year old boy who was there. Children, including two who were 2 and 9 years old, had witnessed the assault and had been terrified. Neighbors who had gathered and saw the incident, heard STF men saying “let’s say he tried throw a petrol bomb at us”. The politician’s friend’s hands had been tied behind his back. His feet and that of the 18-year-old boy had been tied together. They were then taken to a Police station, and the 18 year old boy was released, but the politician and his friend were detained overnight. A Deputy Inspector General (DIG) who had been at the Police station had suggested them to be taken to the hospital, but despite  head wounds, the Sinhalese doctor on duty at the Teldeniya hospital that night had refused treatment, saying those who are responsible for killing “our people” should be in prison and not hospital[1]. Both men had been produced before a Magistrate on the morning of March 6 and released on bail. Four days after the assault, on March 9, scars on their body were clearly visible. Fazil’s head was till in bandages as of March 11 and he complained of headaches and body pains. He said he had 5 cuts on his head and had suffered injuries to one leg, an arm and his back.

Since the death of a Sinhalese person on March 3, after being severely beaten by some Muslim men on  February 22, Fazil was part of a team of Muslim leaders who had been discussing with senior police officers and Buddhist monks about ensuring justice for the Sinhalese man and his family, and defusing potential tensions. Government Ministers also had been updated. According to Fazil, such discussions were held from  February 24, long before the death of the Sinhalese man, and had continued until March 3, the day he had died. Discussions had been held in Digana as well as in the deceased man’s village. Fazil suspects STF may have targeted him for his role in trying (and failing) to prevent violence against Muslims by the Sinhalese – Buddhist mobs.

In both incidents, based on actions and words of the STF, the survivors believe the STF was attempting to frame them on false charges about possession of weapons, and by extension, shift the blame towards Muslims for some of the violence that happened around Digana last week. The words of the STF had also indicated a deeply anti-Muslim, racist mindset. The attack on the Moulavis and desecration of the Mosque by entering with boots and weapons, reminded me of attacks on churches, mosques and Buddhist temples during the war by Sri Lankan military and the LTTE.

It was not clear whether the STF personnel allegedly responsible for both incidents were the same. But some of the survivors claimed they were from Kegalle.

Some of the survivors I spoke to were scared to disclose their identities, have their injuries photographed, make a formal complaint or even seek medical treatment at government hospitals, fearing reprisals. However, many were keen to have the truth exposed and justice for perpetrators in order to prevent such incidents in the future. This note is written at their request, with the hope relevant authorities will take speedy action.

Editor’s Note: A report from Verite Research on restriction to religious freedom of Christians found police were often inactive even when physically present in incidents of violence against Christians, from 1994 to 2014. Groundviews repeatedly tried to contact the police spokesman for an official comment on this story, but did not receive a response.


[1] This appears to be implying the injured to be responsible for beating and subsequent death of a Sinhalese man by some other Muslim men, who had already been arrested