Sri Lanka considers ending emergency laws

Last Updated: Sun, Apr 25, 2010 21:49 hrs

Colombo: Sri Lanka may scrap the state of emergency laws that gave sweeping powers to police and troops during the island's long ethnic conflict with Tamil rebels, a newly appointed minister said on Sunday.

The government has faced international criticism over nationwide laws that were first imposed in 1983 to combat the Tamil Tiger separatists, who were finally defeated a year ago.

Parliament has continued to extend the state of emergency each month as the government argues that rebel remnants have tried to make a comeback.

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"We are actively considering it (relaxing the state of emergency). There is no timeline yet," foreign minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris told reporters on Sunday.

"Circumstances have changed. We want to do it not because of external pressures, but because it's the right thing to do now."

The laws allow the arrest and detention of suspects for long periods without trial. They also allow police and troops to carry out searches without a warrant from a magistrate.

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Opposition parties and international human rights groups have accused the government of using the laws to suppress legitimate dissent and freedom of expression.

Peiris, who was appointed on Friday after recent parliamentary elections, said he wanted to address concerns from the international community about Sri Lanka's human rights record.

Sri Lanka has often rejected calls to probe alleged war crimes in the final stages of the fighting against the Tigers.

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