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Sunday, 14 August 2016





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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 people.

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 Review.

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


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