claims the government. target protesters
Alleging that those who participated in the recent protests could be targeted, former human rights commissioner Ambika Satkunanathan filed an appeal to the Supreme Court last Friday (September 30) against the “Bureau of Rehabilitation Bill”. The prosecutor named Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, as a respondent. The fundamental rights petition was filed under Section 121(1) of the Constitution challenging the bill, titled “Office of Rehabilitation Act”. The petitioner stated that the provisions of the bill are inconsistent with the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of Sri Lanka which guarantees freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and ill-treatment, as well as unequal treatment and discrimination.
Satkunanathan served the Human Rights Commission during the Yahapalana administration when Dr. Deepika Udagama was chairman of the independent commission. who need treatment and rehabilitation”.
Notwithstanding that these categories are ill-defined and do not specify how people may qualify for rehabilitation under these categories, the bill assumes that “members of violent extremist groups” and “persons with addictions” require the same approach. in rehabilitation. The use of such vague and arbitrary classifications can therefore lead to the detention of people for rehabilitation even for having participated in demonstrations, as demonstrated by the recent arrests of demonstrators, under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
The government has already attempted to introduce a similar rehabilitation program under the “Prevention of Terrorism (Deradicalization of Possession of Violent Extremist Religious Ideology) Regulations No. 01 of 2021”. The petitioner also filed a fundamental rights complaint against these regulations in SC FR No. 107/2021, as they contained provisions contrary to the Articles of the Constitution. The Supreme Court granted leave to prosecute, issuing an interim order against the enforced settlements pending a final decision on the claim. The petitioner states that the bill in its current form is also ex facie unconstitutional and infringes on fundamental rights.
The petitioner expressed concern over the militarization of the rehabilitation process through Section 17 of the Bill, which allows the President to designate any member of the armed forces to exercise, execute and fulfill the powers, duties and functions provided for by law. The petitioner states that there is no link between the rehabilitation process and the involvement of the armed forces, and that the absence of a clear chain of command limits oversight and accountability for the actions of members of the armed forces . These concerns are exacerbated by section 25 of the bill, which prohibits Bureau officers from disclosing information about ongoing activities in the centers, which threatens the well-being of those detained for rehabilitation purposes. .
The petitioner cited other troubling provisions of the Bill, including Section 28(2) that persons employed in rehabilitation centers “to preserve order and discipline” may use any means “including the minimum force reasonably necessary to compel obedience to any lawful instruction”, which permits the use of violence against persons detained in the centres. Article 27 makes obstruction or attempt to obstruct of any person employed in a rehabilitation center in the performance of their duties an offense punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment, without defining what may constitute interference For example, symptoms of relapse and withdrawal are expected aspects of drug treatment processes, but under the aforementioned provisions, individuals engaging in such behaviors could be punished.
The petitioner asked the Supreme Court to declare several sections of the bill, as stated in the petition, inconsistent with sections 10, 11, 12(1), 12(2), 13(2), 13(4) and/or 14A of the Constitution of Sri Lanka, as they violate the fundamental rights and sovereignty of the people contrary to Articles 3 and 4 of the Constitution, and therefore cannot be enacted unless approved by the people, in a referendum, in addition to a vote in favor of two-thirds of all deputies.