The legal academia has noted that the need for any repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and replacement with new counter-terrorism legislation should address issues pertaining to the admission of statements and confessions made to the Police as evidence as well as prolonged detention.
Addressing the need to reform the draconian PTA, No. 48 of 1979, Attorney-at-Law Gehan Gunatilleke expressed concern regarding Section 9 and 16 of the Act.
Section 16 provides that statements made by a suspect to an Officer not below the rank of Assistant Superintendent of Police may be admissible as evidence against the suspect, he pointed out while adding that it had not only incentivized torture and made routine ill-treatment but also prompted a trend of basing convictions solely on confessions.
“This provision has come to be severely abused by law enforcement officials. A statement or ‘confession’ even to a Police Officer can be used as evidence to prosecute the suspect.
“Journalist JS Tissainayagam was sentenced to 20 years rigourous imprisonment solely on the basis of a confession he claimed was doctored,” Gunatilleke said.
“The infamous case of Nallaratnam Singarasa also involved a conviction, which according to Singarasa was based solely on a confession obtained under duress. Disturbingly, the PTA places the burden of proof in terms of establishing the non-voluntary nature of a confession on the defendant,” he explained. Section 9 sets out a framework within which a person could be held in administrative detention for up to 18 months according to Gunatilleke who said that such prolonged detainment sans charges or trial violated Articles 9 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
“As far as a sound policy and legal framework for a new law on national security is concerned, the PTA must be appropriately amended or repealed and replaced in consonance and compliance with international human rights standards and norms”, he said.