Disappearances bill to have no retrospective effect

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has said the proposed ratification of a bill that criminalises enforced disappearance in the country will have no retrospective effect.

Wickremesinghe was responding to Opposition’s accusations that the real aim of the Office of Missing Person (OMP) was to target the security forces personnel who defeated the LTTE after a three-decade-long civil war.

He said on Wednesday the proposed ratification in Sri Lankan parliament of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances (ICPAPED) will have no retrospective effect.

“It will be in effect only for the future. We can’t pass laws to have retrospective effect,” Wickremesinghe said. He said under the Sri Lankan constitution it was not possible to do so.

However, Joint Opposition spokesperson G L Peiris said the government is attempting to ratify the ICPAPED as soon as possible and its background has been created with the approval of the Office of Missing Persons (OMP).

International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances (ICPAPED) is an human rights instrument of the UN that intends to prevent forced disappearance.

The Joint Opposition had claimed that they would not permit the debating of ICPAPED in parliament on September 21.

He also said that under the OMP Act, its officials were empowered to investigate any place and inquire any person anywhere and added that they had the sole authority to take any document to their custody.

He said that accordingly the people were abided by the Act to answer them and otherwise legal actions could be taken against them by considering it as a contempt of court.

“The legal protection given to the people by the law governing in the country will be nullified as a result of this Act,” he added.

Peiris said that President Maithripala Sirisena had delayed approving this Act for the past seven months, and he had recently approved it due to claims made by the UN representatives’ condemning the court procedure in Sri Lanka.

A disappearance panel appointed by Rajapaksa in 2013 has reported that around 19,000 have disappeared since the 1990s

The International Committee of the Red Cross has put the figure over 24,000 since the late 1980s.

Sri Lanka faced criticism at the UN Human Rights Council for its rights record under Rajapaksa regime. Three resolutions since 2013 have resulted in a demand to have an international probe on alleged war crimes committed by both government troops and the LTTE.

The Rajapaksa-led opposition has dubbed the bill as a betrayal to the government troops which defeated the LTTE, ending their separatist campaign in 2009. (Outlook India)

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