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Sri Lanka has faced international criticism for arrests

#Sri #Lanka #faced #international #criticism #arrests

Sri Lanka’s new government came under international criticism Monday for using tough anti-terrorism laws to detain protesters that forced Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign from the presidency last month.

Three student activists arrested last week during the first anti-government rally after the end of the state of emergency have been held under the Anti-Terrorism Act (PTA), authorities said late Sunday, including student leader Wasantha Mudalige.

The PTA allows suspects to be detained for 90 days without judicial review.

“The application of laws that are inconsistent with international human rights standards – like the PTA – undermines democracy in Sri Lanka,” said US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung.

“We encourage the government to uphold people’s right to speak their mind,” she tweeted.

The European Union expressed “concern” about the development, with the EU office in Colombo tweeting that there had been a “de facto moratorium on the use of #PTA”.

Another 13 protesters arrested at Thursday’s protests have either been released on bail or are being held under normal procedures.

The UK-based human rights group Amnesty International said the use of anti-terror laws against peaceful protesters was a sign that the authorities were “unwilling to stand up to any form of criticism and to systematically repress dissenting voices”.

“Terror allegations do not correspond to crimes allegedly committed by the protesters,” said South Asia Director Yamini Mishra.

“Time and again the law has been used as an instrument to silence government critics, journalists and minorities.”

An unprecedented economic meltdown has often sparked huge anti-government rallies in Sri Lanka this year, after the country ran out of foreign exchange to finance imports and its 22 million people suffered from chronic shortages of essential goods, power outages and rising inflation.

The government imposed a state of emergency that gave security forces sweeping powers of arrest, but the ordinance expired last week.

Sri Lanka defaulted on its $51 billion foreign debt in mid-April and is in talks with the International Monetary Fund over a possible bailout.

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