Amnesty urges SL to drop baseless terror charges against detained student leaders
COLOMBO – Amnesty International (AI) on Wednesday (16) demanded the government immediately drop the baseless terror charges against two student leaders and stop any extension of the detention order.
Wasantha Mudalige, convener of Inter University Students’ Federation, and Galwewa Siridhamma Thera, convener of the Inter University Bhikku Federation, have been detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for over 90 days. The two student leaders were arrested by the Sri Lankan authorities on August 18, 2022 amidst an ongoing crackdown on protesters by the authorities, and their family members and lawyers have raised concerns about their safety and deteriorating health while in detention
The London based human rights organization, adding its voice to the mounting demands calling for the release of the two student leaders and the repeal of the PTA, said the continued targeted persecution of student leaders in Sri Lanka has a chilling effect on civil society and the right to protest.
Thyagi Ruwanpathirana, Amnesty International’s South Asia Regional Researcher, said the baseless terror charges against Wasantha Mudalige and Galwewa Siridhamma Thera must be immediately dropped, demanding that any extension of the detention order must also be stopped.
“The use of counterterrorism charges against protesters is excessive and disproportionate yet they have time and again been used by the Sri Lankan authorities against critics and minorities to silence dissent,” Ruwanpathirana said.
“Detaining protesters under counterterrorism charges is a clear violation of the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly guaranteed by the Constitution of Sri Lanka and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sri Lanka is a state party,” she pointed out, noting that international human rights law requires that counterterrorism laws must not be used to criminalize those who either organize or participate in peaceful assemblies.
Demanding that the Sri Lankan authorities repeal the PTA, which does not meet international human rights standards, she said Sri Lanka must uphold their already stated commitment to end its use.
She also called on the authorities to immediately review the detention of all those held under the PTA, ensuring adequate access to fair bail hearings. They should also release all protesters facing similar charges that do not meet international standards, she added.
Amnesty International has previously issued an Urgent Action on the arbitrary detention of the student leaders, and also documented the crackdown by the Sri Lankan authorities on protesters who now face intimidation, harassment and arrest. It has also called on the government to stop the suppression of protest, and protect the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, movement and expression and the right to protest.