Public security should match HR obligations
“A state of Emergency should be declared only when the life of the
nation is threatened,” the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka outlines
in its recommendations to the Sub-Committee on Law and Order, appointed
by the Constitutional Assembly.
The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka insists that the country’s
public security regime should be in line with Sri Lanka’s Human Rights
obligations. In its submissions to the Sub-Committee on Law and Order
the Commission makes several recommendations highlighting the main
purpose of a public security regime is to protect the people. The
mechanism in achieving this should work around the best interest of the
The Commission sets out its recommendations congruous to the mandate
in the Human Rights Commission Act No. 21 of 1996 and bases it on
jurisprudence of the UN Human Rights Committee, the Paris Minimum
Standards of Human Norms in a State of Emergency and the Siracusa
Principles of the Limitation and Derogation provisions in the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The Recommendations to the Sub-Committee is four fold; Declaration
and extension of a state of emergency, Judicial Review, Derogation and
Amendment of Public Security Ordinance.
The commission in its recommendations outlines a tight wall around
declaration of a state of emergency and explains that such declaration
should only be resort to at ‘exceptional situation of crisis or public
danger, actual or imminent’.
In its recommendation the commissions further places checks on the
declaration of state of emergency by subjecting the same to Judicial
The report states; “Judicial review of a declaration of a state of
emergency, emergency regulations and orders must be granted.” Judicial
Review further includes the jurisdiction to seek constitutional
validity, conformity to the constitution and emergency legislation and
that it is in compliance with the rule of proportionality. Most
essentially it provides judicial redress in the event of non-compliance,
granting the judiciary to declare null and void any emergency measure.
While endorsing the provisions in the draft charter of Rights (2009)
on derogation of rights during emergency the recommendations give very
limited area while stating the derogation must not adversely impact a
particular group or community.
The commission has also recommended that the Public Security
Ordinance be reviewed for the purpose of reforming the legislative
regime applicable to public security.
The above proposals expanded on the proposals the Commission made to
the Public Representations Committee on Constitutional Reforms on 9
March 2016. The presentation was followed by a written submission sent
to the Sub-Committee on 11 August 2016.
The constitutional Assembly last May appointed the Sub-Committee on
Law and Order amongst others, chaired by Minister Sagala Ratnayake,
while W.D.J. Seneviratne, Palani Digambaran, Ameer Ali, Ajith Perera,
Douglas Devananada, Anura Dissanayake, M.S. Thawfeek, Mavei Senadhirajah,
Namal Rajapaksa and Shehan Semasinghe were appointed as its members