Sri Lanka

Overview:  The Sri Lankan government prioritizes increasing CT capabilities and in 2022 continued judicial proceedings regarding the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks.  The ISIS-inspired Easter Sunday attacks continue to shape national politics.  The Supreme Court is expected in 2023 to issue a decision on whether to take punitive action on former President Maithripala Sirisena and other high-ranking former defense officials for their alleged failure to act on intelligence that could have prevented the attacks.  The country’s economic and political crisis affected funding for key security services, such as the police, but there were no terrorist incidents during the reporting period.  Sri Lankan authorities cooperated with Treasury Department sanctions imposed in November against Mohamad Irshad Mohamed Haris Nizar, a Sri Lanka-based business executive who had links to an al-Qa’ida financial facilitator.  Sri Lankan officials face ongoing challenges in monitoring social media and preventing violent extremism.

Media reported links between perpetrators of the Easter Sunday attacks and ISIS-inspired cells in the nearby southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.  Law enforcement officers acknowledged difficulties in addressing cross-border terrorism but reported cooperating closely with Indian security services.  Sri Lankan officials participated in numerous U.S.-funded workshops and trainings and sought additional assistance, including to improve technical capabilities.

2022 Terrorist Incidents:  There were no terrorist incidents reported in Sri Lanka in 2022.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:  The Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) of 1979 remained Sri Lanka’s primary law on terrorism in 2022.  The PTA received widespread criticism over its longstanding arbitrary use, including against members of ethnic and religious minority groups and protesters critical of the government.  The Sri Lankan parliament passed minor amendments to the PTA in 2022 but had not yet taken steps to adopt new terrorism legislation in 2022.

The Sri Lanka Police Counterterrorism Investigation Division (CTID) and the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) are the primary law enforcement agencies tasked with CT.  The CTID cooperates closely with the State Intelligence Service on intelligence-sharing for terrorism investigations.  The Department of Immigration and Emigration Border Surveillance Unit is the lead agency for border security and actively uses INTERPOL’s nominal and stolen and lost travel documents databases, including MIND/FIND for biographic and biometric screening.  Sri Lanka established the Border Risk Assessment Center in 2018 with IOM support to increase interagency cooperation on border security activities, including CT.

The Ministry of Defense is concerned about the risk of separatist ideology from Tamil diaspora groups, often characterizing these groups’ political or non-violent advocacy activities as CT concerns, as well as about Islamic “extremism.”

Countering the Financing of Terrorism:  Sri Lanka is a member of the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, and its FIU is a member of the Egmont Group.  The FIU faced challenges monitoring informal Islamic financing networks and saw a rise in real estate-based money laundering in 2022.

Countering Violent Extremism:  No FTFs or associated family members were repatriated in 2022.  The government identified 27 Sri Lankan nationals as FTFs and associated family members in northeast Syria, four of whom were allegedly killed there.  Sri Lanka receives funding for CVE programming from the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund and cooperates with NGOs such as Helvetas on community-level CVE programs.  Sri Lanka conducts CVE campaigns through Religious Councils, which collaborate with the Department of Muslim Religious and Cultural Affairs and the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation.

International and Regional Cooperation:  Sri Lanka is an active member of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multisectoral, Technical, and Economic Cooperation and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, both of which aim to increase law enforcement and security coordination.  Sri Lanka is also a member of the South Asian Network of Prevention of Violent Extremism and the GCTF.  Sri Lankan security officials participated in counterterrorism and border security trainings held by the U.S., Australian, and Canadian governments, and maintains close coordination with the UNODC.

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