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Motion for a resolution - B9-0358/2021Motion for a resolution

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

Pedro Marques, Andrea Cozzolino, Isabel Santos
on behalf of the S&D Group

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

Procedure : 2021/2748(RSP)
Document stages in plenary
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Texts adopted :


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 its previous resolutions on Sri Lanka,


- having regard to resolution 30/1 and 34/01 and 46/01 of the UN Human Rights Council promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka,


- having regard to the 2018 Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism in Sri Lanka,


- having regard to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights report on promotion reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka of January 2021,


- having regard to the Statement on Sri Lanka by Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights of 24 February 2021


- having regard to the Statement by the Chair of the European Parliament South Asia Delegation on the reintroduction the death penalty in Sri Lanka of 27 June 2019,


- having regard to the final report of the European Union Election Observation Mission to the Sri Lanka Presidential Election of 2019,


- having regard to the EU-Sri Lanka Joint Commission’s Joint Press Release of 25 January 2021,


- having regard to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime programme, supported by the EU, to train and support Sri Lankan security forces in counterterrorism,


- having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Sri Lanka is party,


- having regard to the EU Generalised System of Preferences scheme, of which Sri Lanka is a beneficiary of the special incentive programme GSP+, 



  1. whereas the human rights situation in Sri Lanka has been steadily deteriorating, with the new government rapidly backtracking on the limited progress secured under previous administrations; whereas the space in which civil society and an independent media operate in the country is rapidly shrinking;


  1. whereas in 2015 the Government of Sri Lanka co-sponsored UN Human Rights Council resolution 30/01 which sought to promote reconciliation, accountability and human rights in the country through the creation of a judicial mechanism to investigate allegations of human rights abuses; whereas in February 2020 Sri Lanka withdrew its commitment from the resolution; whereas the judicial mechanism has not been created and little progress has been made on wider commitments to transitional justice;


  1. whereas Sri Lanka’s Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) contains deeply flawed provisions including enabling warrantless arrests and 18-month detentions with limited court oversight; whereas the Act has been strongly criticised by the international community and human rights actors, including UN Special Rapporteurs;


  1.  whereas, in its dialogue with the EU, the Government of Sri Lanka committed to review and repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act; whereas the Act is still being used to arrest suspects; whereas a number of individuals are still detained, awaiting trial, or serving long sentences under the legislation;


  1. whereas on 12 March 2021 the Sri Lankan government published the “Prevention of Terrorism (Deradicalisation from holding violent extremist religious ideology) regulation” under the PTA; whereas this regulation authorises the creation of ‘reintegration centres’ for so-called deradicalisation and rehabilitation of those who intend to cause acts of violence, disharmony or hostility;


  1. whereas the provisions of the regulation, including the definition of “rehabilitation” are vague and ill-defined; whereas there is little to no judicial oversight or safeguards included in the regulation;


  1. whereas there is routine and systemic use of torture and ill-treatment of detainees held under the PTA; whereas prisoners are reported to have been killed and injured after violent outbreaks; whereas there has been a high number of suicides of prisoners reported;


  1. whereas the PTA has been systematically used for the mass arrest and detention of Muslims in Sri Lanka; whereas there is widespread concern that the new regulation will be used to target and incarcerate Muslims;


  1. whereas current laws are weaponized against minorities and dissenters; whereas Muslims, Tamils, and other minorities face discrimination, threats and stigmatization; whereas Tamils are severely underrepresented in all institutions, particularly in the security sector and the judiciary, despite the importance of ensuring that all institutions adequately reflect the ethnic, linguistic and religious make-up of the State;


  1. whereas on 16 May 2020 Muhammadhu Jazeem Muhammadhu Ahnaf, a 26-year-old Muslim and teacher from Northern Sri Lanka was arrested by the Counter Terrorism Investigation Division (CTID) of the police; whereas he was accused of promoting “extremist ideas” in a book of poetry he published in 2017; whereas he has been detained for a year without trial;


  1. whereas Ahnaf has been denied meaningful and confidential access to lawyers; whereas after many requests and nearly 10 months after the arrest, he has had only minimal contact with his legal counsel; whereas he has had limited contact with his family;  whereas Ahnaf has been reportedly subjected to torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment;


  1. whereas Hejaaz Hizbullah, a well-known lawyer for minority rights and the rule of law, was arrested in April 2020 for alleged involvement in the 2019 ‘Easter Sunday attacks’; whereas he faces allegations on preaching “extremism” and has been charged and detained under both the PTA and national International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Act;  


  1. whereas in 2020 Ramzy Razeek, a Muslim social media commentator, was detained for 5 months under the ICCPR Act before being released on bail by a High Court Judge, whereas he was denied access to a lawyer, and the case against him still continues; whereas he was detained in an overcrowded prison and is suffering from ill health;


  1. whereas in 2019, Shakthika Sathkumara, an award-winning writer, was arrested and held in detention for five months, accused of violating the ICCPR Act for the content of a short story he wrote; whereas he was released on bail by a High Court Judge and eventually discharged early this year, nearly two years after the arrest;


  1. whereas the EU suspended GSP+ preferences from Sri Lanka in 2010 due to a failure to uphold human rights requirements; whereas GSP+ was restored in 2017, following improvements in the human rights situation; whereas Sri Lanka pledged to repeal the PTA in this context;


  1. whereas the next periodic GSP+ review of Sri Lanka will take place in November 2021, a process designed to ensure that members implement their human rights and other commitments; 


  1. whereas Sri Lanka reintroduced the death penalty in 2019 after over four decades without capital punishment; whereas authorities have subsequently handed down capital punishment sentences for drug-related offences;


  1. Expresses serious concern at the rapid deterioration of human rights in Sri Lanka; notes with concern the increasing restriction of civic space, the widespread arbitrary arrests and detention without due process, the targeting of minorities and the increasing militarisation of the government;


  1. Is extremely alarmed at the findings of the UN Human Rights Council 2021 report on Sri Lanka which warned the country is on a path towards the recurrence of policies and practices which previously gave rise to grave human rights violations;


  1. Reiterates its strong opposition to the continued application of the Prevention of Terrorism Act; urges Sri Lanka to fulfil its pledge to review and repeal the Act, and to replace it with anti-terrorism legislation in accordance with international best practices; further calls for the immediate suspension of the deradicalisation regulation;


  1. Urges the government to cease the surveillance and intimidation of members of civil society and human rights defenders using the terrorism division of the police force and state intelligence services; urges the government to refrain from using allegations of “terrorist financing” to deny civil society organizations access to legitimate sources of funding;


  1. Calls on the Commission to consider suspending its funding of training support for Sri Lankan security forces in counterterrorism until the Sri Lankan government fulfils its commitment to repeal the abusive and draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act;


  1. Calls for the release of human rights lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah, poet Ahnaf Jazeem, and others unjustly detained under the PTA; calls on the Attorney General to grant bail to all those who qualify for it under the law; insists that all detainees must be granted meaningful access to lawyers, contact with family and cooperation with unannounced visits by the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka;


  1. Deplores the continuing discrimination against and violence towards religious minorities in Sri Lanka, including Muslims, Tamils and Christians; calls on the Government of Sri Lanka to unequivocally condemn hate speech, incitement to violence and discrimination against religions minorities in the country, and to hold to account those who advance such divisions, including within the government and military;


  1. Strongly condemns the new legislation and regulations which discriminate against ethnic and religious minorities; calls on the Government to fully respect and uphold  freedom of religion for minority religious communities, and to issue clear instructions to security forces to cease the targeting of minority groups; 


  1. Urges Sri Lanka to intensify its cooperation with international human rights bodies including the UN Human Rights Committee to implement all relevant recommendations and to improve monitoring and reporting of progress towards achieving international benchmarks;


  1. Is extremely concerned at increasing attacks and arrests of journalists, academics, and civil society activists urges the Government to take immediate steps to ensure their right of freedom of expression are upheld; urges the EEAS and Commission to intensify support for civil society and human rights defenders on the ground;


  1. Notes with concern the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the deteriorating labour rights’ situation in the country; urges Sri Lanka to cooperate fully with the ILO to strengthen labour rights of factory workers including the health and safety conditions for garment workers in Special Trade Zones;


  1. Recalls that ongoing impunity and lack of justice for crimes committed during the civil war is a barrier to reconciliation, and risks perpetuating a cycle of violence; calls for investigations of members of the security forces accused of recent and historic serious human rights abuses, and for those found guilty to be held to account;



  1. Calls for a rigorous, impartial and complete investigation into the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings, and promptly bring to trial conforming to international legal standards those against whom there is evidence of responsibility, and release those for whom there is insufficient evidence;


  1. Reiterates the European Union’s strong opposition to the death penalty, in all cases and without exception; urges Sri Lanka not to carry out any executions and to abolish the use of capital punishment in the country;


  1. Urges the Council to consider targeted sanctions against individuals holding senior government positions who are implicated in grave human rights abuses and war crimes during the Sri Lankan civil war and who remain protected from investigation by the Sri Lankan authorities;


  1. Recalls that the EU will rigorously assess Sri Lanka’s implementation of its international human rights obligations during the forthcoming GSP+ review; urges the Commission to engage thoroughly with civil society organisations, trade unions and human rights defenders operating in Sri Lanka in its review; calls on the Commission to suspend the GSP+ preferences to Sri Lanka if its assessment finds that the human rights obligations have not been respected;


  1. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, and the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and the President and Parliament of Sri Lanka.



Last updated: 8 June 2021
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