EU takes up 20A, judicial independence, separation of powers and independent institutions

Govt. promises to bring PTA in line with int’l norms

The government has again reiterated its commitment to bringing the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) in line with international norms and standards. The assurance was given at the 5th Meeting of the European Union – Sri Lanka Working Group on Good Governance, Rule of Law and Human Rights held recently.

The Working Group was co-chaired by Manisha Gunasekera, Director General Europe, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka and Ioannis Giogkarakis-Argyropoulos, Head of South Asia Division, European External Action Service.

 In a joint statement issued, the Foreign Ministry and the EU stated Sri Lanka, having provided an update on the action in process to review the PTA, reiterated its commitment to bring it in line with international norms and standards within a time bound process. “The EU and Sri Lanka agreed to take stock of progress in this regard by the next meeting of the EU-Sri Lanka Joint Commission in early 2022. The need to uphold international norms and standards of human rights while countering terrorism and violent extremism was also underlined,” the joint communiqué quoted the two delegations as having said.

The EU reiterated its opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances. Welcoming the continued moratorium, the EU encouraged Sri Lanka to take steps towards the formal abolition of capital punishment.

 They reaffirmed their commitment to good governance, adherence to the rule of law, and protection of human rights. They discussed common interests pertaining to the protection and promotion of fundamental rights and freedoms, and agreed to continue cooperation on issues of relevance.

The EU and Sri Lanka exchanged experiences in managing the COVID-19 pandemic. Sri Lanka appreciated the EU’s contribution to COVAX which supports vaccine equity and benefits developing countries.

The EU stressed the importance of fostering social, economic and political inclusion through justice, reconciliation and accountability. The two sides discussed the 20th Amendment, independence of the judiciary, separation of powers and the ongoing work of independent institutions. The two sides reiterated the importance of the effective functioning of independent institutions.

Sri Lanka briefed the EU on the extensive legal reform programme undertaken by the Ministry of Justice, through consultative processes that brought together officials, sector experts and members of the official and unofficial Bars. The EU encouraged Sri Lanka to consider a broad consultation process in this undertaking.

The EU and Sri Lanka agreed on the importance of engaging civil society and giving it the necessary space to function in all its diversity. The EU expressed its readiness to continue supporting Sri Lanka in these efforts.

The Working Group discussed matters related to minorities and measures to address hate speech. Sri Lanka highlighted the pluralistic composition of the country where the rights of all communities are equally guaranteed by the Constitution.

The delegations discussed cooperation with the Human Rights Council, including treaty bodies, special procedures and universal periodic review. They agreed to work towards enhancing cooperation in multilateral fora, including in the achievement of the SDGs by 2030 in the United Nations framework.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris welcomed the constructive, cordial and regular engagement between Sri Lanka and the EU in a separate meeting with the visiting delegation. The EU mission to Sri Lanka was led by Senior Advisor, Directorate General for Trade of the European Commission Nikolaos Zaimis, and Head of Division for South Asia of the European External Action Service (EEAS) Ioannis Giogkarakis-Argyropoulos. The meeting entailed discussion on EU – Sri Lanka cooperation and Sri Lanka’s engagement with the EU on matters of relevance.

In the discussion, Foreign Minister Peiris appraised the EU delegation, inter alia, on progress in reconciliation, review of Prevention of Terrorism Act, engagement with civil society, SDG 16 initiative, and Sri Lanka’s cooperation in the Human Rights Council.

The Foreign Minister observed that Sri Lanka’s relations with the EU are wide ranging and mutually beneficial, including in the spheres of economic and development cooperation. The EU being Sri Lanka’s second largest export destination (in 2020), the Foreign Minister highlighted the positive contribution of EU GSP plus benefits in upgrading the livelihoods of communities in the country.

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