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MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION on the situation in Sri Lanka, in particular the arrests under the Prevention of Terrorism Act

8.6.2021 - (2021/2748(RSP))

with request for inclusion in the agenda for a debate on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law
pursuant to Rule 144 of the Rules of Procedure

Marisa Matias
on behalf of The Left Group

See also joint motion for a resolution RC-B9-0355/2021

Proċedura : 2021/2748(RSP)
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European Parliament resolution on the situation in Sri Lanka, in particular the arrests under the Prevention of Terrorism Act


The European Parliament,

-  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948;

-  having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) of 16 December 1966;

-  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Geneva Convention of 1951 and its Additional Protocol;

-  having regard to the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders of 1998;

-  having regard to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights of 2011;


-  having regard to Article 2 (4) of the Charter of the United Nations;


-  having regard to the ILO conventions notably the n°98 on Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention and n°87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention


-  having regard to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment of 1987,


-  having regard to the Human Rights Council report of the 22 February-19 March 2021 on Promotion reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka;


-  Having regard the European Parliament resolution of 10 March 2021 with recommendations to the Commission on corporate due diligence and corporate accountability (2020/2129(INL))


-  having regard to its previous resolutions on the situation in Sri Lanka, in particular those of 12 of December 2013, 12 May 2011, 22 October 2009, 12 March 2009 and of 5 February 2009,

-  having regard to Rule 144 of its Rules of Procedure;

A.  whereas Sri Lanka’s armed conflict emerged against the backdrop of deepening discrimination and marginalization of the countrys minorities, particularly the Tamils; whereas the 30-year war between the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), as well as earlier insurgencies in the south, were marked by persistent and grave human rights violations and abuses, including murders and killing, widespread enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, torture and sexual violence that affected Sri Lankans from all communities;

B. Whereas there is an estimated 89,000 war widows in the former conflict areas and  reports from NGOs have documented a significant increase in sexual assaults and other abuses of women, in large parts due to the heavy militarization of Tamil areas;

C. Whereas in June 2010, the Secretary-General appointed a Panel of Experts to advise him on accountability issues in Sri Lanka; whereas Given the failure of domestic mechanisms to conduct credible investigations, in March 2014, the Human Rights Council requested OHCHR in resolution 25/1 to undertake a comprehensive investigation; whereas the report of the OHCHR investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL), released in September 2015, found credible evidence that both Sri Lankan security forces and LTTE were responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity; whereas it documented the “total failure of domestic mechanisms”, including past presidential commissions of inquiry, to ensure accountability and examined the deeply-entrenched barriers to justice in the domestic criminal justice system, particularly for international crimes; whereas the Council resolution 30/1, provided a comprehensive roadmap of measures to ensure justice, provide redress to victims, achieve reconciliation and undertake important legal and institutional reforms to prevent the recurrence of violations;

D. whereas nearly 12 years on from the end of the war, domestic initiatives for accountability and reconciliation have repeatedly failed to produce results, more deeply entrenching impunity, and exacerbating victims’ distrust in the system; whereas Sri Lanka remains in a state of denial about the past, with truth-seeking efforts aborted and the highest State officials refusing to make any acknowledgement of past crimes.

E. whereas in its report of March 2021 the UN High Commissioner “is deeply concerned by the trends emerging over the past year, which may represent early warning signs of a deteriorating human rights situation”. whereas the report highlights that developments over the past year have fundamentally changed the environment for advancing reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka, eroded democratic checks and balances and civic space, and reprised a dangerous exclusionary and majoritarian discourse; whereas these trends threaten to reverse the limited gains made in recent years and risk the recurrence of the policies and practices that gave rise to the grave violations of the past;

F. whereas according to UN “The 2015 reforms that offered more checks and balances on executive power have been rolled back, eroding the independence of the judiciary and other key institutions further. The beginnings of a more inclusive national discourse that promised greater recognition and respect of and reconciliation with minority communities have been reversed.  Far from achieving the guarantees of non-recurrence” promised by resolution 30/1, Sri Lankas current trajectory sets the scene for the  recurrence of the policies and practices that gave rise to grave human rights violations”;

G. whereas in April 2019 258 persons died in terrorist attacks in  the country and 496 were injured; whereas the emergency security deployments that followed the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks in 2019 have evolved into an increased militarization of the State; whereas the Government has appointed active and former military personnel, including those credibly implicated in war crimes to key positions in the civilian administration, and created parallel task forces and commissions that encroach on civilian functions;

H. whereas the Prevention of Terrorism (De-radicalization from holding violent extremist religious ideology) Regulations No. 01 of 2021, issued on March 9, 2021, expands the draconian and abusive Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA); whereas this new act allows two-years of detention without trial for causing “religious, racial, or communal disharmony”;

I. whereas the Prevention of Terrorism (Proscription of Extremist Organizations) Regulations No. 2 of 2021, published by way of Gazette notification on the 13 April 2021, outlaw 11 organizations identified as ‘extremistand provides criminal penalties for those accused of various kinds of associations with these and other organizations that may be similarly disfavored.

J. whereas on 16 May 2020 Ahnaf Jazeem a 26-year-old poet and teacher has been arrested under Sri Lanka’s the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) for a Tamil-language poetry anthology called Navarasam (நவரசம்), which he wrote and published in July 2017, as well as other unsubstantiated claims of exposing his students to extremistcontent with the intention of turning them into followers of extremist ideology; whereas he has been detained since then; whereas his lawyer claimed that he is detained in squalid conditions which may amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, that have contributed to his deteriorated health;

K. whereas the PTA has been used against Sri Lanka’s ethnic and religious minority communities, with a disproportionate number of Tamils and Muslims in detention under the Act; whereas the use of torture and other forms of ill treatment to obtain forced confessions is a widespread practice used by the Counter-Terrorism and Terrorism Investigation Division against detainees;

L. whereas according to different sources including local NGO’s, the situation in the prisons in Sri Lanka is dramatic and has been worsen since the beginning of the pandemic; whereas  prison authorities are not providing professional support and care and not putting in place adequate mechanisms to prevent suicides; whereas there are also concerns about the lack of nutritious food, the restricting of visits from family members without adequate alternative communication facilities and the deployment of Special Commandos trained for armed conflict to prisons;

M. whereas In Sri Lanka the apparel and footwear sector employs around 1 million workers and represents 40% of exports; whereas the country is one of the world's largest garment manufacturers producing for major brands including European ones;

N. whereas workers do not have access to remedy in cases of anti-union retaliation; whereas the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR) has repeatedly observed, including in 2020, that national law in Sri Lanka leaves a gap in compliance with ILO Convention 98 because only the Department of Labor can bring cases concerning anti-union discrimination before the courts;

O. whereas the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated the difficult situation for the workers; whereas the pandemic caused a major crisis in the garment sector with brands cancelling orders and refusing to pay for work already in production. Factories closed, laying off workers without severance. Brands denied any responsibility, manufacturers rolled back protection and benefits to workers;

P. whereas the workers' rights situation is most arduous in the Export

Processing Zones  (EPZs), where freedom of association remains an illusion for most; whereas the ILO has found the Sri Lanka Board of Investments (BOI) at high risk of violating international legal standards on freedom of association, namely ILO Convention 87 and decisions of the ILO's Committee on Freedom of Association; whereas the BOI Labor Standard and Employment Relation Manual limits trade unions access to the EPZs, except in limited circumstances namely with the consent of the employer;


1. Is alarmed by the growing repression and degradation of human rights in the country notably reported harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders, journalists, trade union activists and people involved in the political opposition in Sri Lanka and by the fact that the space for civil society, including independent media, which had widened in recent years, is rapidly shrinking;  urges the authorities to immediately end all forms of surveillance, including intimidating visits by State agents and harassment against human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, trade unionists and victims of human rights violations and their families, and to refrain from imposing further restrictive legal measures on legitimate civil society activity.


2. Condemns once again the Sri Lankan army's brutal killings of up to mainly Tamil-speaking, civilians in the last weeks of the civil war in Sri Lanka and supports the repeated plea for justice by victims and their families; underlines the urgent need for all perpetrators, including responsible government and military officials, to be brought to justice without further delay; highlights the fact that the failure to deal with the past continues to have devastating effects on tens of thousands of survivors from all communities;


3. Condemns the systematic sexual torture, rape, and trafficking for sex slavery of Tamil speaking women and girls living in the North and East of Sri Lanka, both during the conflict, and continuing after its brutal end in 2009; believes that the government is actively contributing to the insecurity of Tamil speaking women through the militarization of the North and East and by maintaining a climate of impunity where human rights violations continue;


4. Condemns the inability and unwillingness of the authorities to pursue a meaningful path towards accountability for international crimes and serious human rights violations, which threatens to deny victims their rights to truth and justice and further entrench impunity;


5. Supports the criticisms made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in relation to the Sri Lankan government's failure to investigate the allegations of war crimes against military officers and government officials and is extremely concerned about reports of on-going and continuing impunity that prevails in Sri Lanka; shares the UN High Commissioner's concern that Sri Lanka shows ever greater signs of authoritarian rule;


6. Supports the recommendations of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights toward Sri Lanka; regrets that the Sri Lanka authorities withdrawned their support for resolution 30/1 and related measures and urges them to fully collaborate with the Human Rights Council and other UN bodies;



7. Calls on the Sri Lankan authorities for an immediate release  all the persons abusively imprisoned under the PTA, notably  Ahnaf Jazeem; stresses the need to guarantee a fair trial to all persons arrested and to comply with international justice standards;


8. Calls for the immediate abolition of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), which has facilitated human rights violations especially of Sri Lankan minorities;


9. Expresses its deep concern about the increasing militarization of Sri Lankan society, particularly in the north and east of the island, with the military encroaching on civilian matters such as education, agriculture, and tourism and therefore calls for an immediate end of military acquisition of land ("land grabbing") in order to prevent and end the building of permanent army camps which is seen as a possible first step towards building Sinhala dominated settlements, representing a conscious attempt by the Sri Lankan government to cut across any attempts of genuine reconciliation between the two communities;


10. Supports the call for  an end to all military operations in Sri Lanka and the withdrawal of the army from the North and the East of the island; insists that the right to freedom of movement must be upheld for all citizens;


11. Is alarmed by the situation of workers in the country; calls on Sri Lanka authorities to adapt the BOI Labor Standard and Employment Relation Manual in order to bring it in line with international standards notably ILO conventions n°98 on Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention and n°87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention; supports the demands for full trade union rights, including the right to join and form independent trade unions, free from intimidation and state interference; supports the right of all trade unions to organize all working-class people, regardless of ethnic or religious backgrounds;


12. Concludes that the creation of free trade zones in Sri Lanka, especially in the textile and clothing sector, has had disastrous consequences for workers in Sri Lanka; is of the opinion that it is becoming increasingly apparent that the factories in these free trade areas fail to respect basic labor rights and have led to job insecurity, declining working conditions and downward pressure on wages; Highlights the fact that GSP+ agreement didn't lead to an improvement of human rights and that the trade policy of the EU toward the country had on the contrary bad consequences notably regarding social rights;


13. Reiterates that European companies present in third countries must take responsibility, due diligence and be liable for their supply chains in terms of labour and human rights violations, including forced labor and child labor, environmental damage, land grabbing, and corruption; calls, therefore, on the Member States to ensure that companies which come under their national law do not disregard human rights or the social, health and environmental standards which apply to them when moving to, or doing business in, a third country; calls on the Commission and Member States to take the requisite action against European companies which do not comply with those standards or which do not adequately compensate victims of human rights violations for which they are directly or indirectly responsible;


14. Condemns those Member States and UK that have authorized the sale of arms and military equipment to the Sri Lankan government; demands a complete end to the sales of arms and military equipment;


15. Condemns those Member States  or former Member State that have deported or attempted to deport Tamil speaking people and anti-government activists back to Sri Lanka; Calls for an immediate end to deportations and attempted deportations to Sri Lanka and for asylum seekers from Sri Lanka to be given permanent residency in the Europe;


16. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign affairs and Security Policy, the Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Government and National Assembly of Sri Lanka, and the Secretary-General of the United Nations.



Aġġornata l-aħħar: 8 ta' Ġunju 2021
Avviż legali - Politika tal-privatezza