UN experts criticise SL’s security-driven drug response
January 23, Colombo (LNW): United Nations experts expressed serious concern on Monday (22) over Sri Lanka’s aggressive security-centric approach to its drug response, calling for the immediate suspension and review of Operation ‘Yukthiya’ and urging authorities to adopt policies grounded in health and human rights.
The above concerns appear amidst the surfacing of allegations of human rights violations in the Yukthiya Operation, which was commenced in December last year to crack down illicit activities across the island.
The experts pointed out the fundamental human rights of drug users, emphasising their right to a life of dignity without encountering discrimination and stigmatisation.
They decried instances of arbitrary arrests affecting thousands of drug offenders from marginalised socio-economic backgrounds, with hundreds detained in mandatory military-operated rehabilitation centres.
Reports of torture and ill-treatment during Operation ‘Yukthiya’ were also noted.
“The current environment of severe repression against suspected drug offenders is deeply troubling,” the experts asserted.
They underscored the importance of rehabilitation being approached from a harm reduction perspective, respecting the autonomy and informed consent of drug users, including their right to refuse medication.
The experts recommended the immediate closure of compulsory rehabilitation centres, advocating for their replacement with voluntary, evidence-based, rights-oriented, and community-based social services.
They further expressed readiness to offer technical cooperation in this regard.
Calling for a thorough and impartial investigation into allegations of torture, ill-treatment, and violations of due process and fair trial rights, the experts stressed the need to probe irregularities in the judicial process leading individuals to rehabilitation centres.
Furthermore, the UN experts urged the government of Sri Lanka to reassess its current legislation on drug offences and cease the involvement of armed forces in drug control and treatment activities, aligning practices with international human rights law and standards.
Concerns about Sri Lanka’s legislation on the treatment of suspected drug offenders were previously communicated to the government in a letter sent in 2023. The UN experts include Priya Gopalan (Chair-Rapporteur), Matthew Gillett (Vice-Chair on Communications), Miriam Estrada-Castillo, and Mumba Malila from the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Margaret Satterthwaite, Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers; and Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the Right of Everyone to the Enjoyment of the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health.