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Sri Lanka lawmakers approve bill expanding police power

The Sri Lankan Parliament [official website] on Tuesday voted 110-33 [press release] in favor of legislation extending the detention time for suspects arrested by police from 24 to 48 hours. Under the newly-amended law, titled, "Code of Criminal Procedure (Special Provisions) Bill," police may detain and question a person who has been arrested without a warrant for 48 hours [Colombo Page report] before producing the suspect in court. According to Cabinet Minister of Environment Anura Yapa, who also serves as a Member of Parliament, the legislation is meant to assist [AP report] in the fight against organized crime. However, many activists, including protesters demonstrating against the new law in the country's capital city of Colombo, see the extension of police power as a legalized means of suppressing dissident views amongst citizens.

The controversial new law comes on the heels of the impeachment and removal of Sri Lanka's Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake [JURIST news archive]. Last week Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa [official profile] signed the order to remove Bandaranayake from office after the parliament voted in an overwhelming majority favoring impeachment [JURIST reports]. Bandaranayake had been found guilty of three charges [JURIST report] of misconduct, including conflict of interest, failure to declare assets in official reports and bias in handling a case against her husband. Described by the UN [JURIST report] as a "calamitous setback for the rule of law in Sri Lanka," political shakeups throughout the country have proven to be a source of domestic and international criticism.

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