Sri Lanka Set to Lift Emergency Laws

Posted August 30th, 2011 at 6:35 pm (UTC-5)
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Sri Lankan is set to lift the country's strict wartime emergency laws, which have been in place for 28 years.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced the move in a speech to Parliament last week. He said he made the decision not to renew a state of emergency at the end of August because there was no longer a need for such laws since the country's civil war ended in May 2009 with the defeat of Tamil Tiger rebels. He said abolishing the restrictions would help the country move ahead in a democratic way.

Supporters of scrapping the laws say that ending the emergency has symbolic significance for Sri Lanka where an entire generation has grown up with tough wartime regulations. They also insist that it is a positive first step in restoring a sense of normalcy after nearly three decades of conflict.

But critics doubt whether the move will restore political and civil rights in a country where the human rights record has been under international scrutiny. They say it is meant to placate international opinion just weeks before the U.N. Human Rights Council discusses the rights situation in Sri Lanka.

The emergency orders gave security forces sweeping powers of arrest and detention.

Rights groups have long criticized the laws, saying authorities used them to censor and crack down on opposition activists, journalists and trade unionists. They also charge that tens of thousands of Tamil civilians disappeared in the last weeks of the war and that the government continues to discriminate against the Tamil minority and stifles dissent. The government denies the charges.