The Bar Council of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) has called upon the Sri Lankan Government to immediately withdraw the Anti-Terrorism Bill and the Online Safety Bill, which were published in the Gazettes issued on 15 and 18 September, respectively, and not proceed with these Bills.
At a meeting of the Bar Council held on Saturday (23), it was unanimously resolved that both Bills seriously impinge on the liberty and freedom of the people and will have a serious impact on democracy and the rule of law in the country, the BASL said in a statement.
The Anti-Terrorism Bill and the Online Safety Bill in Sri Lanka have been met with widespread criticism from lawyers and human rights groups. The Bar Council of Sri Lanka (BASL) has called on the government to withdraw the bills, arguing that they seriously impinge on the liberty and freedom of the people and will have a serious impact on democracy and the rule of law in the country.
The BASL’s concerns are shared by many international observers. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed concern that the bills could be used to target minorities and dissenters. Amnesty International has also criticized the bills, saying that they “contain provisions that give the authorities excessive powers and could be used to suppress dissent and freedom of expression.”
The international experience suggests that laws that give the authorities excessive powers to combat terrorism can be abused. For example, in countries such as India and the Philippines, anti-terrorism laws have been used to target human rights defenders, journalists, and other critics of the government.