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UN Special Rapporteur meets Tamil political prisoners

Ben Emmerson, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, met with Tamil political prisoners detained under Sri Lanka’s Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) in Vavuniya today, as he embarked on an official visit of the island.

Mr Emmerson’s visit comes as Tamil prisoners remain detained under the PTA, despite repeated calls for their release.

The Sri Lankan government has also stalled on repealing the PTA, a piece of legislation that has been roundly criticised by human rights organisations as “draconian” for decades.

The Sri Lankan government committed itself to repealing, reviewing and replacing the PTA with “anti-terrorism legislation in line with contemporary international best practices” in a UN Human Rights Council in 2015. However, a replacement Counter Terrorism Act raised concerns about serious restrictions to fundamental rights and was widely criticised.

In recent weeks, Sri Lanka’s Sinhala Buddhist monks have called on the Sri Lankan government not to abolish the PTA.