Govternment probing alleged disappearances

The government is investigating alleged disappearances in Sri Lanka highlighted by the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID), the UN General Assembly was told last week.

Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN Dr. Palitha Kohona told the Third Committee of the 67th Session of the UN General Assembly that a working committee has been established to respond to cases of disappearances and a Deputy Inspector General of Police appointed to conduct ground verifications of such cases to ascertain the present status.

“In this context, the Government submitted its responses in June 2012 on 59 cases of disappearances referred to in the Report (A/HRC/19/58/Rev.1) of the Working Group to the 19th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in March 2012. In addition, clarifications on 100 cases of alleged disappearances referred to the government by the Working Group were submitted in October 2012. Further investigations are being conducted on the remaining cases of alleged disappearances highlighted by the Working Group,” he said.

Dr. Kohona said that Sri Lanka needs the cooperation of countries that have received thousands of asylum seekers to enable proper comparison of the details of those reported missing.

He also said that a database of all detainees has been established, and 2,582 inquiries have been processed.

WGEID has engaged with successive Governments to clear the longstanding backlog of 5,679 cases and Dr. Kohona says an inter-agency national mechanism is being set up to clear this backlog.

“We have taken measures to strengthen law enforcement and prosecution through capacity building and language training. Sri Lanka has implemented legislative changes to prevent torture. Directives have been issued by the Police Department to ensure the physical safety of persons taken into custody and provision has been made for access to legal counsel as of right,” he added.

He also told the session that Sri Lanka wishes to underline the importance of broadening the scope of human rights to include economic, social and cultural rights consistent with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

Sri Lanka takes the view that the promotion and protection of human rights cannot be accomplished in a “vacuum” and that without improving social, economic and cultural rights, human rights would remain much less meaningful.

“In post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation efforts, such a holistic view has become central. We strongly believe that emphasis must be given to economic, social and cultural rights when addressing the root causes of the conflict,” he said.