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Enact Enforced Disappearances protection Bill

The Human Rights Commission in a letter to President Maithripala Sirisena last week urged him to give leadership to enact the proposed Bill for Protection Against Enforced Disappearances that was postponed twice in Parliament.

The Government presented the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance Bill in Parliament on March 7.

The Bill was scheduled to be taken up for debate on July 5 and September 19, but the Government had to defer it amidst the objections of various groups.

The Government clarified that the Bill is not retrospective and its main intention is to ensure that every Sri Lankan citizen gets the freedom to live without fear of being a victim of enforced disappearance or abduction.

The HRC letter signed by its Chairperson Dr Deepika Udagama observed that the legislation 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. Enforced disappearances have taken place in the Northern, Eastern as well as the Southern parts (during two insurrections) in the country, and affected all communities,” the HRC said in its letter to the President.

“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,” the letter said while adding that the proposed 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. It is in this context and spirit, the Commission urges your Excellency, 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 letter concluded.