Sri Lanka Supreme Court blocks ‘de-radicalization’ bill

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Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court blocked the country’s parliament from approving a bill that would have allowed the state to arbitrarily detain suspects for up to two years for “de-radicalization,” MPs were told Thursday.

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The bill was put forward last month by the government of President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was brought to power earlier this year after mass protests over an economic crisis forced his predecessor Gotabaya Rajapaksa out of office.

It would have enabled authorities to crack down on dissidents by forcing them into “de-radicalization and rehabilitation,” without recourse to judicial relief.

But speaker Mahinda Abeywardana announced that the country’s highest court had ruled it was unconstitutional and could only become law if it was approved in a nationwide referendum.

The Supreme Court -- which is empowered to scrutinize proposed legislation before it becomes law -- held that only medically confirmed drug addicts should be rehabilitated, and no one else.

Parliamentary officials said the bill was now likely to be scrapped.

“Today there was a good determination by the Supreme Court,” said opposition legislator M.A. Sumanthiran.

“The cabinet which approved this bill must be rehabilitated.”

Critics accuse Wickremesinghe of being too close to the ousted Rajapaksa, who had put forward similar legislation last year and returned to Sri Lanka from exile in Thailand last month.

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