Colombo Telegraph

Ensure Enforced Disappearances Bill Enacted: Human Rights Commission Tells President

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) urged the President, in his capacity as Minister of National Integration and Reconciliation, to provide leadership to ensure that the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances Bill is enacted and Sri Lanka sets an example not only for the region but globally on how to humanely respond to the grievances and pain of those who have suffered due to serious human rights violations.

We publish below the letter in full:

His Excellency Maithripala Sirisena
President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka Presidential Secretariat
Colombo 1.

Your Excellency,

The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances Bill

The Human Rights Commission is writing to place before your Excellency its observations on the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances Bill (hereinafter the Bill).

The Commission believes the Bill is a positive step towards addressing the long history of disappearances in Sri Lanka and stemming impunity for gross violations of human rights. The Commission is of the view that enforced disappearance of a person is one of the most serious of human rights violations bringing untold sorrow to loved ones. As your Excellency is well aware, enforced disappearances have taken place in the Northern and Eastern as well as the Southern parts (during two insurrections) of the country, and affected all communities in Sri Lanka. It cannot be denied that these disappearances have had a devastating impact on families, sometimes resulting in families being torn apart following the enforced disappearance of the sole breadwinner.

Enforced disappearances have created thousands of women headed households in Sri Lanka that have struggled to meet the basic needs of their children, including access to education. Further, the emotional impact of not only losing a loved one but also of languishing for many years, even decades, not knowing the fate of the disappeared person has had a devastating psychological impact on family members. We have also witnessed many parents falling ill or passing away due to their inability to withstand the continuing sorrow and pain.

Hence, enforced disappearances is not only a legal and human rights issue but also a social issue that has devastated the lives of thousands of Sri Lankans. More importantly, the Bill would send the message that citizens are protected from this most cruel and inhumane crime. Enacting the Bill would most certainly contribute immensely towards re-building ethnic relations damaged by the ethnic conflict and strengthen the journey towards reconciliation.

Addressing this issue and enabling families to learn the truth about their disappeared loved ones is an important, courageous step Sri Lanka will be taking to re-affirm values of humanity, empathy and respect for the rule of law as a country. It would address the wounds caused by conflict in the country, including those caused by the recent civil war.

It is in this context and spirit, the Commission urges your Excellency, particularly in your capacity as Minister of National Integration and Reconciliation, to provide leadership to ensure that the Bill is enacted and Sri Lanka sets an example not only for the region but globally on how to humanely respond to the grievances and pain of those who have suffered due to serious human rights violations.

The Commission’s observations on specific provisions of the Bill are attached.

Dr. Deepika Udagama

Chairperson

To read the observations click here

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