Sri Lanka’s Anti-Narcotics Drive: Nearly 15,000 Arrests Amid Controversy

Sun Dec 24 2023
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COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s police announced the arrest of almost 15,000 individuals during a week-long military-backed anti-narcotics operation, code-named “Yuktiya” or “Justice.”

Despite the successful seizure of approximately 440 kilograms (970 pounds) of narcotics, including 272 kg of cannabis, 35 kg of hashish, and nine kilograms of heroin, the crackdown has faced criticism from rights activists.

The Indian Ocean island is believed to be a transit point for drug trafficking, prompting authorities to intensify efforts. The police operation resulted in the arrest of 13,666 suspects, while nearly 1,100 addicts were detained and sent for compulsory rehabilitation at a military-run facility. Raids, however, will pause for Christmas holidays, resuming after Tuesday, a Buddhist holiday.

Critics, including human rights lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah and activist Ambika Satkunanathan, challenge the legality of the police raids, alleging they were conducted without search warrants. Hizbullah urges victims to gather details for potential legal action, while Satkunanathan claims the searches unfairly target poor areas. Concerns also arise regarding the focus on small-scale arrests rather than addressing large-scale traffickers.

Sri Lanka’s history with narcotics enforcement includes its biggest drug haul in December 2016, seizing 800 kilograms of cocaine.

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