New Constitution to include “Right to Life” as FR

The National Action Plan for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights seeks to include the “Right to Life” as a Fundamental Right (FR) in the Fundamental Rights Chapter of the new Constitution.

Accordingly, the Action Plan denotes that there needs to be a review and consideration of the the definition and scope of the right to life adopted in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. This is to be referred to Parliament through the Steering Committee reform.

The National Action Plan for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights 2017-2021 is an important document detailing the amendments of laws and policies for the protection of human rights.

The document details changes that needs to be brought into effect where civil and political rights, prevention of torture, women’s rights, migrant worker’s rights to name a few.

The need to review and consider declaring English as an official language is also listed as a short term goal listed in the National Action Plan in which the Constitutional Assembly will be the stakeholder and executor.

Accordingly, an amendment to the Constitution is sought through ‘appropriate formulation adopted by the Steering Committee’. The National Action Plan states that steps have been taken to provide effective remedies for the violation of the Official Language Policy and that a review is being conducted to promote respect for the Official Language Policy among private institutions and associations.

Where the Constitutional Assembly is concerned, the National Action Plan seeks to include the ‘Right to Life’ in the Fundamental Rights chapter of the new Constitution. It is noted that a review and consideration of the definition and scope of right to life adopted in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is sought.

Inclusion of the Right of non-discrimination and Right to health in the Fundamental Rights Chapter of the constitution are other mandates of the National Action Plan which the Constitutional Assembly has been tasked with.

The time frame is denoted as ‘short term’ however no specific time periods have been cited.

Other activities in the plan, include the creation of a special unit within the National Police Commission to investigate and take disciplinary action for complaints on torture orchestrated by the police.

Furthermore, a revision of the time bar to review FR application in respect of Article 11 in the Constitution is sought. Accordingly, the National Plan calls for an amendment to the time bar to pursue fundamental rights be increased to 6 months. An amendment to the Constitution in pursuant to the review is to be undertaken by the Constitutional Assembly. A review is to be conducted first, followed by preparation of a Constitutional Amendment Bill and thereafter an enactment of the Constitutional Bill.

President Maithirpala Sirisena refers to the National Human Rights Action Plan for 2017-2021 as a goal-oriented document in the Human Rights arena, aimed at strengthening the national processes and mechanisms for the protection and promotion of human rights through substantial constitutional, legislative, policy and administrative frameworks.

“Expanding the Government’s commitment to human rights further, it has been decided to formulate a National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP) for 2017-2021.

The Cabinet of Ministers have reviewed the draft NHRAP.

The approved Plan contains feasible, actionable and relevant action points pertaining to ten key thematic priority areas. I am confident that the relevant government institutions and line ministries will take every necessary step to ensure the timely and successful implementation of the Plan.

I therefore call upon all stakeholders to lend this government their fullest support in implementing this Plan,” Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe noted in his message. 

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