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Asia and the Pacific
Western Asia

Sri Lanka - January 2024

Parliament approves controversial Online Safety Bill

On 24 January, Parliament passed the Online Safety Bill (OSB), which seeks to combat false online statements through a commission with extensive powers. These include ordering individuals and internet service providers to remove online content deemed “prohibited statements,” further enabling legal recourse against people who publish such content. Human rights groups, industry experts and civil society organizations have called for the bill to be withdrawn, criticizing its vaguely worded definitions of offences that may be misused to silence critical voices online. Moreover, concerns have also been raised regarding the five-member commission’s lack of independence from the executive. The United Nations Human Rights Office also expressed opposition to the bill in October 2023. Civil society organizations note that the bill was passed in a rushed manner with limited consultations that left numerous of their concerns unaddressed.

Sources: International IDEA, Access Now, OHCHR, Centre for Policy Alternatives, The Diplomat

Primary categories and factors
Rights -1 Rights  (-1)
Civil Liberties
Freedom of Expression
Participation -1 Participation  (-1)
Civil Society

UN experts criticize “Yukthiya” drug raid operation

Sri Lankan authorities have arrested tens of thousands of people in a month-long crackdown on drugs through the “Yukthiya” Operation launched in December 2023. Human rights groups have expressed deep concern over alleged abuses, which include reports of ill-treatment and torture, denial of due process and fair trials, arbitrary arrests, and detention in compulsory military-run rehabilitation centres. The United Nations Human Rights Office has called for Sri Lanka to “immediately suspend and review” the anti-drug operation, noting that “irregularities in the judicial process of sending people to rehabilitation centres should also be investigated.” Public Security Minister Tiran Alles responded, saying the operation will continue and that the human rights body should identify specific instances of abuse.

Sources: OHCHR, Daily Mirror, The Associated Press, Reuters

Primary categories and factors
Rights -1 Rights  (-1)
Access to Justice
Rule of Law -1 Rule of Law  (-1)
Predictable Enforcement