COLOMBO: Sri Lankan authorities will be granted broad powers to detain people accused of hate crimes for up to two years for "deradicalisation" under controversial anti-terror laws, the government announced Saturday.
Anyone accused of causing "acts of violence or religious, racial or communal disharmony or feelings of ill will or hostility between different communities" may be held in "re-integration centres" for up to 24 months under the new regulations.
The rules, which take effect on Friday, are based on the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), which has been regularly requested Colombo by local and international rights groups to be repealed.
The previous government of Sri Lanka, which was defeated in elections in 2019, promised to abolish the PTA after acknowledging that it was oppressive and severely harmed individual freedoms, but failed to do so.
In a gazette notification seen by AFP Saturday, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who came to power with a promise to battle Islamic extremism, declared the "deradicalisation from keeping violent extremist religious ideology" steps.
The step comes just days before the second anniversary of the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks, which killed the lives of 279 people and injured over 500 others.
A local Islamic militant group was blamed for the coordinated suicide bombings that targeted three churches and three high-end hotels.
However, the new rules could refer to any religious group or community, not just Islamic extremism.
Both Islamic radicals and ultra-nationalist Buddhist groups were suspected of feeding off each other, according to a presidential commission investigating the attacks.
Tensions between Sri Lanka's minority Muslims and majority Buddhists have resurfaced in the aftermath of the 2019 bombings, which severely harmed the country's tourism-dependent economy.
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