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UN experts call to immediately suspend ‘Yukthiya’ anti-drug operation

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A high-level group of United Nations experts have called on the Government of Sri Lanka to immediately halt Operation Yukthiya, its anti-narcotics drive that has resulted in more than 30,000 people being arrested in just over a month.

“The UN experts expressed alarm at the heavy security-driven approach of Sri Lanka’s drug response. They called on authorities to immediately suspend and review so-called Operation ‘Yukthiya’ and to focus on policies based on health and human rights,” the statement said.

“Drug users have human rights,” the experts said. “They deserve to live a life with dignity without facing further discrimination and stigmatisation.”

The experts include the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention comprising Priya Gopalan (Chair-Rapporteur), Matthew Gillett (Vice-Chair on Communications), Miriam Estrada-Castillo, and Mumba Malila; Margaret Satterthwaite, Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers; Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. 

They deplored reported cases of arbitrary arrests of thousands of drug offenders from marginalised socio-economic groups, and the detention of hundreds in compulsory military-run rehabilitation centres. Torture and ill-treatment were also reported during the security operation known as ‘Yukthiya’.

“The current context of severe repression against suspected drug offenders is deeply worrying,” the experts said.They stressed that rehabilitation must be conducted from a harm-reduction perspective, respecting the autonomy and informed consent of drug users, including the right to refuse medication.

“Compulsory rehabilitation centres should be closed immediately and replaced by voluntary, evidence-based, rights-based and community-based social services,” said the experts, who stand ready to provide technical cooperation.

They urged Sri Lankan authorities to investigate thoroughly and impartially any allegations of torture, ill-treatment and denial of due process and fair trial rights.

“Irregularities in the judicial process of sending people to rehabilitation centres should also be investigated,” the experts said.

They called on the Government to review its current legislation on drug offences and to end the involvement of armed forces in drug control and treatment activities, in line with international human rights law and standards.

(News 1st) 

(Except for the headline, this story, originally published by News1st has not been edited by SLM staff)

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School outdoor activities suspended over soaring temperatures

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The Education Ministry has instructed all respective school authorities to refrain from making students participate in strenuous outdoor activities until Friday (March 01) at schools as temperatures are expected to rise further.

Accordingly, Sports Day events, sports practices or any other scheduled outdoor activities are urged to be suspended for the time being.

Provincial and zonal authorities of education have been instructed to brief school principals about the matter, the ministry said in a press release.

In addition, school administrations are required to comply with the health guidelines issued by the Health Ministry and the Education Ministry.

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Court suspends divestiture process of SLT & Lanka Hospitals

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The Court of Appeal yesterday (27) issued an interim order preventing authorities from proceeding with the divestiture process of Sri Lanka Telecom and Lanka Hospitals Corporation PLC, until March 12.

Three Petitions were filed for Sri Lanka Telecom PLC including by Lyca Mobiles, and S.M.R. M company, while two petitions were filed for Lanka Hospitals Corporation PLC including by Lyca Leasing Holdings.

Upon the oral submissions made by President’s Counsel Kuvera De Zoysa, Court of Appeal Justice D.N. Samarakoon issued notices on respondents, returnable for March 12.

The petitioners named Minister of Finance Ranil Wickremesinghe, State Minister of Finance Shehan Semasinghe, the members of the special Cabinet-appointed negotiating committee for the purpose of selecting pre-qualified bidders for the strategic divestiture pertaining to 51.34% shares of Lanka Hospitals PLC and several others as respondents.

Kuvera De Zoysa, PC with Raslka Dissanayake, Sajana de Zoysa, Dinusha Pathirana and Shablr Huzalr instructed by Sanath Wijewardane appeared for the petitioners.

The petitioners had informed the court that they had submitted bids per the required criteria for the divestiture of the Sri Lankan Government’s shares of 50.23% in Sri Lanka Telecom PLC and 51.34% in Lanka Hospitals Corporation PLC.

The petitioners alleged that, however, the Cabinet of Ministers had rejected the bids without providing any clear explanations, adding that the decision was against the law.

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Lankan convict in Gandhi assassination case passes away

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Santhan alias T Suthendiraraja, a Sri Lankan national who was one of the six convicts released in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, died on Wednesday morning at the Rajiv Gandhi Government Hospital (RGGH) in Chennai.

Santhan, who was released by the Indian Supreme Court in November 2022, was kept at the special camp near the Tiruchirapalli Central Prison.

Last week, the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) in Chennai issued an order to deport Santhan to Sri Lanka, however, he was admitted to the RGGH for treatment for a kidney-related ailment.

Addressing the reports, E Thenirajan, Dean, RGGH, said that based on the directions of the Tiruchirapalli district collector, Santhan was admitted to the hospital on January 27.

Thenirajan said a team of doctors were treating him at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and constantly monitoring him. He said Santhan was diagnosed with cryptogenic cirrhosis or a liver disease.

“He suffered a setback to his health yesterday (Tuesday) night. He had lost consciousness and we were providing treatment. Around 4.30 am today (Wednesday), he suffered a cardiac arrest. He was revived following a CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) procedure and was on ventilator support. However, he failed to respond to further treatment and passed away at 7.50 am,” he said.

Thenirajan said they would carry out the post-mortem procedures now and take further measures to send his body to Sri Lanka.

According to court documents, Santhan is believed to have fled then strife-torn Sri Lanka in 1991 and reached India by boat, along with Sivarasan, who led the assassination team and was never caught alive, and a few others. According to the Supreme Court order, Santhan’s role in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi was direct and active.

Santhan was initially sentenced to death for his involvement in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, however, his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. He was released in November 2022, along with five other convicts, after spending over three decades in prison.

(The Indian Express)

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