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Unlawful PTA Allows For Detention Up To 18 Months Without Trial Or Charge In Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Updates
1. Government Amplifies Prevention Of Terrorism Act In Sri Lanka
2. Under New PTA Regulations, 11 Muslim Groups Banned in Sri Lanka
3. Government Begins Framework For Anti-Conversion Laws
4. Unlawful PTA Allows For Detention Up To 18 Months Without Trial Or Charge In Sri Lanka
5. U.S. Congress Introduces Bipartisan Resolution On Sri Lanka To Seek Justice And Accountability 
6. Government Moves Forward With Burqa And Niqab Ban
7. Res 413 Has Been Sent To The U.S House Foreign Affairs Committee
8. European Parliament Threatens To Pull GSP+ Status If PTA Not Repealed
9. UNHRC Chief Says Government Policies Have Targeted Muslims
10. Sri Lankan President Pardons 94, Including Convicted Murderer
11. China’s Oppression Of Muslims Could Be Influencing Srilanka
12. PTA Detainee Hejaaz Hizbullah Has Been Declared A Prisoner Of Conscience
13. Threat Of Intergovernmental Militarization Looms
14. Right To Protest Under Threat As 42 Arrested
15. Rapporteur Says That De-radicalization Regulations Could Lead To Silence Of Those Who Criticize Government
16. Covid Burial Site Already Reaching Capacity As Additional Space Confirmed
17. Opposition Party Accuses President Of Becoming Authoritarian
18. UN Special Rapporteur Says PTA Detainee Hejaaz Hizbullah Has Been Wrongfully Connected To Easter 2019
19. Prison Conditions Poor, Overcrowded; Detainees Tell Stories Of Sexual Assault And Torture
20. President Rajapaksa meets with UN Secretary General Antony Guterres
21. BBS Monk Thero Makes Hateful Comments About Muslims On Television
22. India, China, And Sri Lanka Are Connected In Targeted Oppression
23. Justice Minister Sabry Says PTA Is Unlikely To Ever Be Abolished

On Tuesday, May 4, the International Religious Freedom Roundtable wrote to United States Secretary of State Anthony Blinken expressing their concerns in regards to the framework of anti-conversion laws in Sri Lanka. The country’s Ministry of Buddhasasana, Religious, and Cultural Affairs is in the midst of creating framework which would allow for future anti-conversion laws. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa had also announced plans for this in the past. The Roundtable argues that anti-conversion laws deny people their freedoms of speech and conscience as they would be unable to make their own decisions. These laws are in contrast to the freedoms of religion and belief.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has claimed that religious freedom stimulates social and economic growth as well as the personal. 

Anti-conversion laws are generally written vaguely, leaving room for interpretation which in turn can create false accusations and intolerance. 

The Roundtable asked the State Department to use its influence to aid in the abandonment of the anti-conversion framework, allow all minorities in Sri Lanka the freedom of religion, and by upholding religious tolerance and pluralism. 

In Prime Minister Rajapaksa’s March 2020 anti-conversion proposal, those convicted could face a seven year prison sentence and a €2,400 fine. 

This isn’t the first time the Sri Lankan government has attempted to introduce this legislation. In 2009, the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) party, founded by Buddhist monks, had been a main backer of a similar bill. Then, its reasoning was to stop forced conversions or for economic advantage reasons via trade. Then Catholic leader and Senior Parliament Member Joseph Michael Perera said such a law would affect all religious groups, many organizations and political parties, and negatively impact relations among the country.

Even in 2004 the same bill had been deemed unconstitutional by Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court and was met with backlash from Protestant churches and Catholic groups. Article 10 of the Sri Lankan Constitution states that “Every person is entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.”

Buddhism is the largest religion in the country, holding nearly 70 percent. 

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