HRW writes to Mano, defends concerns raised on missing persons office

letterNew York based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has written to the Secretary General of the Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms (SCRM) Mano Tittawella and defended the concerns raised on the proposed missing persons office.

The letter was sent as a response to a letter sent to Human Rights Watch by Tittawella where he had raised concerns over a press release from HRW after the Government had announced that cabinet had approved creating a missing persons office.

In the letter sent to Tittawella, seen by Colombo Gazette, the Asia Director of HRW Brad Adams said that HRW listened closely to a broad range of Sri Lankans before drafting the statement.

While thanking Tittawella for his detailed letter on the consultation process surrounding the establishment of an office of missing persons, Adams said the voice of the victims cannot, at this crucial stage, be sidelined or ignored before key decisions are made.

He said that Human Rights Watch has a long history of working on the issue of disappearances and accountability for violations committed by both sides in Sri Lanka’s decades long conflict.

“We are keenly aware of the challenges as your Government sets up the four transitional justice mechanisms. Our press release was in no way intended to diminish the very real efforts that your Government is undertaking to fulfil its commitments to the Human Rights Council in Geneva in October 2015. We do, however, stand by our concerns at the lack of adequate consultations on the Office of Missing Persons. We listened closely to a broad range of Sri Lankans before drafting our statement. Our conclusions and recommendations are based on our findings. We appreciate the need to balance timely justice mechanisms against a time-consuming consultation process. The victims of Sri Lanka’s many disappearances and other atrocities have already waited too long. However, the voice of the victims cannot, at this crucial stage, be sidelined or ignored before key decisions are made,” Adams said in the letter.

He also said that HRW looks forward to further discussions with SCRM and proposed having a meeting between HRW and SCRM in Geneva on the sidelines of the UN Human Rights Council sessions which begins next week. (Colombo Gazette)

Report by Easwaran Rutnam

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