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Sri Lanka imposes new terrorism laws

Associated Press / September 2, 2011

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The emergency laws that have curbed civil and political liberties for most of the past 30 years lapsed Tuesday after the government did not renew them. President Mahinda Rajapaksa said the laws were no longer needed, more than two years after Sri Lanka’s deadly civil war ended and under international pressure to lift the emergency.

But Rajapaksa approved four regulations under the powerful Prevention of Terrorism Act that became effective Tuesday on a temporary basis, Attorney General Mohan Peiris said. The government will take them to lawmakers to make them permanent law.

The first two regulations will continue to ban the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam group and the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization, which received donations to rehabilitate rebel-controlled areas and was accused of financing the rebels.

The other two regulations will allow the government to continue to hold rebel suspects and rehabilitate the rebels who have surrendered, he said.

Peiris did not say how long the suspects in custody will be held. Tamil lawmakers say there are about 900 such detainees.

The government is also holding about 3,000 former rebels in military-run rehabilitation centers. About 11,000 Tamil rebels surrendered at the end of the war, and nearly 8,000 have been freed after rehabilitation, the military says.

The United States urged Sri Lanka yesterday to either charge the detainees or release them. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the United States is still studying the new legislation, but praised Sri Lanka for letting the emergency laws lapse.

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