The Sri Lankan government ratified the Convention against Enforced Disappearance but in the same week created an Office of Missing Persons without promised consultations with families of the disappeared, the Human Rights Watch said today.
In a statement published on its website, the HRC said the government should honor its pledge to hold meaningful consultations with the affected families and nongovernmental representatives about the missing persons’ office and the other transitional justice mechanisms.
“At the UNHRC in Geneva last year, the government agreed to hold nationwide public consultations on all transitional justice mechanisms. However, on May 24, Sri Lanka’s cabinet approved the new Office of Missing Persons without talking with the families who have long waited for justice. At the same time, it kept a key promise on May 25 by ratifying the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance,” it said.
Brad Adams, HRW Asia director said the Sri Lankan government is creating important structures to address the scourge of disappearances in the country “But it should only do this after receiving input from the families most affected,” he said.
The Office of Missing Persons is one of four transitional justice mechanisms Sri Lanka agreed to establish during the September 2015 Human Rights Council session in Geneva. In line with this promise, the government established a task force on public consultations in January 2016. The task force has been receiving public submissions with the final deadline for submissions extended until June 24, after which it will submit a full report.
The government will submit a report on its progress on transitional justice issues at the June session of the UN Human Rights Council.
“The government deserves high marks for ratifying the Convention against Enforced Disappearance, but it needs to take urgent steps to build confidence with affected communities,” Adams said. “The government should ensure communication, transparency, and dialogue in all its transitional justice mechanisms.”