The challenge facing the Government

missing-2The UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances submitting its report on Sri Lanka to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on 15 September 2016.

“The road that leads to truth and justice is long but is the right one to take, even if it may be painful at times,” said the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances presenting the report* on its visit to Sri Lanka in November 2015.

“After our visit we indicated that the challenge facing the Government of Sri Lanka was to transform its promises into a concrete, comprehensive, legitimate and participatory framework aimed at securing the rights to truth, justice, reparation and memory, and guarantees of non-recurrence for the families of the disappeared and the Sri Lankan society as a whole.”

“Some of the steps taken since then are quite encouraging,” emphasized the experts.

“The recent ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance is a very important measure as it provides the basis for the establishment of a solid legal framework in the areas of prevention, punishment, reparation and non-recurrence of enforced disappearances,” noted the experts. “This ratification should be followed immediately by implementing legislation, and, indeed, practice.”

“Equally important is also the Government’s decision to create an Office of Missing Persons (OMP), which received approval by Parliament in August 2016,” they observed, while at the same time noting some elements of concern both in the process of the drafting of the Bill for the establishment of the OMP and in some of its provisions. “We have shared our concerns on these issues with the Government,” indicated the experts, pointing inter alia to a lack of genuine and transparent consultation of the Bill with victims and civil society in general.

“We expect from the OMP that it will discharge its mandate effectively and contribute to clarify the fate and whereabouts of tens of thousands of persons which is still unknown and eventually provide a dignified, and so much awaited response from the State to the families of those disappeared,” the experts stressed.

“These initial steps are important though not sufficient yet. Sri Lanka should continue on this path, with the awareness that more and more complex steps need to be taken to accomplish the huge task it has in front of it and finally deliver truth and justice to thousands of families in despair,” emphasized the experts.

“Particularly important will be to swiftly remedy the fact that there are very few cases of judicial accountability and the vast majority of those who are responsible for the thousands of disappearances that have occurred have not yet being properly and impartially investigated, prosecuted, tried and punished,” the experts noted”. “We reiterate the recommendation contained in our report to consider the integration of international elements into the envisaged judicial accountability mechanism.”

“The Working Group stands ready to continue closely cooperating with the Government of Sri Lanka and to provide its technical assistance as appropriate,” the experts concluded. (OHCHR)

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