Amidst increasing confusion about the much hyped Enforced Disappearance Bill, it appears that the extradition clause in both the Enforced Disappearance Bill and the Torture Act of 1994 is identical. The Torture Act was passed when Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga was President and Prof. G. L. Peiris was Minister of Justice.
Extradition involves the transfer of a person accused or convicted of a crime from one state to another state on the request of the latter state for the purpose of prosecution or punishment. Extradition is only permitted if a law specifically provides for it.
Section 8 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance Bill states: “Where a request is made to the Government of Sri Lanka, by or on behalf of the Government of a Convention State for the extradition of any person accused or convicted of an offence under sections 3 or 4, the Minister shall, on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka, forthwith notify the Government of the requesting State of the measures which the Government of Sri Lanka has taken, or proposes to take, for the prosecution or extradition of that person for that offence.”
The above clause is almost identical to Section 7(2) of the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Act, No. 22 of 1994: “Where a request is made to the Government of Sri Lanka, by or on behalf of the Government of any State for the extradition of any person accused or convicted of the offence of torture, the Minister in charge of the subject of Foreign Affairs shall, on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka, forthwith inform the Government of the requesting State, of the measures which the Government of Sri Lanka has taken, or proposes to take, for the prosecution or extradition of that person, for that offence.”
The Joint Opposition has mounted a campaign stating that section 8 of the Bill has changed the law on extradition. Yet it appears that the section only replicates what is already part of Sri Lankan law, which Peiris would have played a part in formulating back in 1994.
Prof. Peiris also claimed that section 13 of the proposed Bill will reduce the protection available to citizens under the Extradition Law of 1977. The 1977 law provides that extradition for “political offences” will not be permitted. Section 13 of the proposed Enforced Disappearance Bill meanwhile states that the offence of enforced disappearance does not constitute a “political offence”. However, Peiris’s argument is misleading, as an amendment to the law of 1977 was introduced in 1999 during his tenure as Justice Minister. Section 2 of the Extradition (Amendment) Act No. 48 of 1999 contained the following amendment to section 7(4) of the original Extradition Law: “an offence of a political character does not include (c) an offence within the scope of an international convention relating to the suppression of international crime to which Sri Lanka and the requesting designated commonwealth country or treaty state are contracting parties and which obliges contracting parties to prosecute or grant extradition for such offence.”
Thus the 1999 amendment covers any international convention relating to international crimes including torture and enforced disappearance. Thus it is clear that the Enforced Disappearance Bill does not alter the current law on extradition, as amended during Prof. G.L. Peiris’s term as Justice Minister. Any claim that the proposed Bill can expose Sri Lankan citizens to foreign jurisdictions beyond what Peiris himself designed in 1994 and 1999 is completely false.