Human Rights Watch (HRW) Monday alleged that Sri Lanka’s proposed Bureau of Rehabilitation Bill puts citizens at great risk of human rights abuses. The bill, submitted to Parliament on September 23, allows for the compulsory detention of any “drug dependant persons, ex-combatants, members of violent extremist groups and any other groups of persons” into military staffed “rehabilitation centres.”
The bill does not establish exact circumstances under which the Bureau would be permitted to take an individual into rehabilitation, leading human rights experts to believe the bill will lead to abusive detentions without merit. Section 17 allows President Ranil Wickremesinghe to designate any member of the armed forces to exercise the duties, powers and functions under the bill. HRW believes these provisions will be used to target “minority communities or anti-government protesters whom [Wickremesinghe] has labelled ‘extremists.'”
HRW South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly says, “[t]he Rehabilitation Bill will open the door widely to more torture, mistreatment, and endless detention.” HRW sees the bill as the latest measure in a series of laws which authorise arbitrary detention against resistance groups and dissenters in Sri Lanka.
Former Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) Ambika Satkunanathan filed a Special Determination Petition in the Supreme Court on October 3. She asserts that the provisions of the bill are inconsistent with fundamental rights and protections within the Sri Lankan Constitution.