Prisoners in the jails of Sri Lanka demand justice

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Although the war against the Tamil Tiger rebels in Sri Lanka is long over, some of the victims of the war continue to suffer. The Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) that was implemented during the war time gave security forces the power to detain anybody without trial, if suspected of aiding terrorism. Many people were arrested since 1997. But the government conveniently forgot that they were supposed to be released if not convicted after a period of eighteen months.

According to a report by Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, Chief of UN Human Rights wing, only 54 of the 258 men and women imprisoned by the government had been convicted. 60 of them were not yet charged and 144 of the cases were pending. These figures are upsetting considering the rumours that even more are held in secret detention centres.  Besides, their imprisonment, while unavoidable during war times, has no justification today. Thousands of other Tiger fighters have already been freed and rehabilitated.

The government has pledged to the UN Human Rights Council that the PTA will be repealed,” a Tamil legislator, M A Sumanthiran, told BBC Sinhala.

“So they should release those detained under the PTA before repealing it.”

So what is taking the government so long in deciding the fate of these people? Will their hunger strike be rewarded with a much awaited release? Or will they suffer once again the violence of prison officers as has happened before? It remains to be seen.

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