The Sunday Leader

Government Considers Recommendations

by Easwaran Rutnam

UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID)

The government has told the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) that it is studying the recommendations made by the Working Group with a view to their implementation.

In a statement submitted to the UN Human Rights Council to its 33rd session which begins this week, the government said that it was pleased with the visit to Sri Lanka by WGEID last November.

“The government of Sri Lanka, formed following the Presidential Elections in January 2015 and Parliamentary Elections in August 2015, is committed to the promotion and protection of human rights, strengthening democracy, good governance and the rule of law, reconciliation, and development,” the government said.

The government said that it considers its engagement with the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances as an important component of its reconciliation efforts and steps being taken to uphold the human rights of all her citizens. Accordingly, Sri Lanka will continue to stay engaged closely with the Working Group.

“The government is studying the recommendations made by the Working Group with a view to their implementation, and will continue to provide updates to the Working Group,” the government said in its submission.

WGEID has noted in its report that overall, the victims of enforced disappearances have very little faith in the justice system, the prosecution services, the police or the armed forces. The chronic pattern of impunity still exists with regard to cases of enforced disappearance and sufficient efforts now need to be made to determine the fate or whereabouts of persons who have disappeared, punish those responsible and guarantee the right to truth and reparation.

The report says any successful initiative must therefore be the result of a broad, inclusive, gendered and participatory consultative process. Any comprehensive policy should address all the enforced disappearances that took place in the country, regardless of the time of the disappearance and without any type of discrimination.

“The government will need to adopt bold steps to reach out to and create confidence in the victims. In addition, good faith measures and concrete results are needed to restore trust between the State and all sectors of society as well as between all groups and communities,” the report said.

The Working Group reiterates its willingness to continue its constructive dialogue with the Sri Lankan authorities and offers its unreserved support for the full implementation of the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

The Working Group also reaffirms its solidarity with the victims of enforced disappearance. Their continued suffering is living proof that enforced disappearance is a continuous offence and a permanent violation of their human rights so long as the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person is not clarified.

In a set of recommendations to the government, the Working Group has called for decisive actions and give clear orders at the highest level to stop surveillance, threats, intimidation, harassment — including sexual harassment — and abuses against relatives of disappeared persons and those acting on their behalf;  guarantee the safety of those who met with the Working Group and protect them against any form of reprisal, threat or intimidation and instruct all public officials that those actions will not be tolerated and will be punished accordingly.

The Working Group has also recommended that the government recognise the competence of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances to receive and consider communications from or on behalf of individuals subject to its jurisdiction, in accordance with article 31 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance; ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Protocols additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and adopt comprehensive legislation on enforced disappearances without delay.

The working group also notes the government must ensure the rights of victims to pursue truth and justice even if a certificate of absence is issued and coverage of all disappearances regardless of the time of their occurrence.

The Working Group also called on the government to swiftly make enforced disappearance a separate offence consistent with the definition contained in the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and punishable by appropriate penalties that take into account its extreme seriousness.

“The offence should also cover the various modes of criminal liability, including committing, ordering, soliciting or inducing the commission of, attempting to commit, being an accomplice to or participating in an enforced disappearance. It should also expressly provide for the sanctioning of command or superior responsibility for such crime,” the report said.

The Working Group has also called on the government to immediately repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act and replace it by legislation that is in conformity with the international obligations of the State; review the Assistance to and Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses Act of 2015 in order to incorporate better safeguards for the independence and effectiveness of the victim and witness protection programme in line with international standards. Revisions must include the establishment of a well-resourced and effective victim and witness protection programme outside the control and purview of the regular law enforcement apparatus.

In addition, the Working Group says the Government should ensure the independence and integrity of those appointed to the Witness Protection Authority and that the police and all other personnel assigned to this programme are fully vetted.

With regards to the Office on Missing Persons, The Working group urged the government to transfer the cases of the Presidential Commission on Missing Persons to a credible and independent truth-seeking institution established in close consultation with the families of the disappeared; and ensure that those involved in the process of the search for truth were not involved in any way in the commission of past disappearances.

The Working Group also urged the government to ensure that the relevant information generated through previous truth seeking mechanisms is adequately compiled and formally analysed as a starting point to determining the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared and supporting the investigation and prosecution of alleged perpetrators and make public and easily accessible all of the reports of previous truth-seeking mechanisms and commissions, including interim reports and other material that had been withheld.

The government has also been urged to guarantee that criminal investigations of enforced disappearances are conducted from the outset by a highly professional and specialized team of prosecutors and also ensure that the armed forces do not have a role nor can intervene in the investigation, prosecution and trial of these crimes.

3 Comments for “Government Considers Recommendations”

  1. raj

    All good citizens should welcome to protections of human rights and freedom of speech, and delivery of justice for the past crimes. May be only Mr. Rajapaksa oppose for unknown reason. Most people know whey Rajapaksas are opposing it.

    I hope that government is honest in their intentions and it is not simply eyewash the victims and the world.

  2. raj

    The government of Sri Lanka should go one step further than UN requesting if the government want to build good reputation and erase bad image of the Sri Lanka due the past human rights violations. If it can be done by the government, no one can command the government of Sri Lanka do this and don’t do this. Will the government dare to do so?

  3. raj

    If any war criminals from Sri Lanka travel to Briton in the future they may be arrested and punished in Briton. Read the following link for details.
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3786084/Loophole-means-135-war-crime-suspects-living-freely-UK.html

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