COLOMBO (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s president pardoned 16 men linked to the Tamil Tiger rebels yesterday, as the country faced renewed pressure from the United Nations (UN) over detentions without charge under an anti-terrorism law.
The pardon is a first for people linked to the Tigers since Gotabaya Rajapaksa came to power in 2019 on a nationalist agenda, which included a promise that troops who crushed the rebels would not be prosecuted.
The men were convicted under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) that gives security forces sweeping powers to arrest and detain suspects.
The UN Human Rights Council and other international rights groups have called for it to be repealed.
“The 16 Tamil detainees are among 94 prisoners who received a presidential pardon,” prison superintendent Chandana Ekanayake said about the release that came on the festival of Poson.
The men had been behind bars for at least a decade, he added.
Government officials said the release was the first phase of a plan to free all those held or charged under the PTA.
Another 78 people arrested under the law on suspicion of supporting the separatist Tamil Tigers have been in custody for decades, political sources from the Tamil community told AFP.