December 10, 2015: Sri Lanka signed the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance
May 26, 2016: The Government ratified the international convention
February 9, 2017: The Government gazetted the Bill to give effect to the international convention
March 7, 2017: Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe presented the Bill to Parliament
July 5, 2017: The Bill was scheduled to be taken up in Parliament, but the Government announced that it would be moved at a future date
The proposed Bill for protection against enforced disappearances provides only for the future and it has nothing to do with the past incidents, Finance and Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera said.
Samaraweera made this clarification issuing a media communique yesterday to counter the allegations against the proposed legislation.
The Government presented the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance Bill in Parliament on March 7.
The Bill was to be taken up for debate last week, but the Government at the last moment announced that it would be moved at a future date.
Samaraweera was the Foreign Minister when Sri Lanka signed ‘International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance’ on December 10, 2015 ratified the same on May 26, 2016.
The Minister’s strongly worded statement came in the wake of allegations mainly by the Joint Opposition led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa that the proposed Bill was an attempt to betray the War Heroes.
“The proposed legislation is to safe guard a fundamental human right of every citizen in a just, free and civilised society. The main intention of the Bill is to ensure that every Sri Lankan citizen gets the freedom to live without fear of being a victim of enforced disappearance or abduction. All citizens must be happy about this progressive legislation that will put an end to while-van culture and the trend of enforced disappearances and abductions carried out with the connivance of the State,” he noted.
The minister, hitting hard at the Joint Opposition led by Rajapaksa, said power-hungry politicians who were architects of the infamous white-van culture were deliberately trying to mislead the public. Samaraweera asked as to how anybody could speak against the proposed move to put an end to white-van culture in the country.
“Rajapaksa loyalists, with their very claim that this Bill affects the War Heroes, admit before the world that the Security Forces during the period of their rule committed enforced disappearances, abductions and extra judicial killings. By saying so, aren’t they tagging the War Heroes as war criminals?” Samaraweera questioned.
According to the Draft Bill,any person who is found guilty of the offense of enforced disappearance can be imprisoned for a term not exceeding 20 years, and also be liable to pay a fine not exceeding Rs 1million and compensation not less than Rs 500,000 to a victim.
As of the Act, “a superior who knows, or consciously disregards information which clearly indicated, that subordinates under him were committing or about to commit an act of enforced disappearance” or “fails to take reasonable measures to prevent or repress it or submit the matter to a law enforcement authority for investigation and prosecution” is also guilty of the offense of enforced disappearance.