Enforced Disappearances Bill will not apply to past incidents, says Ranil
The Enforced Disappearances Bill will apply only in the future and will not cover past incidents, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday.
Speaking at an event in Polpithigama yesterday, Mr. Wickremesinghe claimed no one can be charged in courts under the bill for incidents such as Prageeth Eknaligoda’s disappearance or the murder of Wasim Thajudeen. “Civil society organisations questioned us as to why these incidents were not included in the bill, but we can’t change the laws when implementing the Constitution. There are separate laws for those cases,” he stressed.
Pointing out that enforced disappearances had been taking place since 1983, the Premier noted that several commissions had already been appointed to inquire into those disappearances.
He said even after the war ended the LTTE carried out many abductions while security forces were also accused of abductions. Some individual groups also carried out abductions.
“As the war has now ended, we have taken necessary measures to investigate those abductions,” he added. There is an international convention on enforced disappearances, known as the “International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances,” and ratifying the convention will allow enforced disappearances to be designated a crime and legal action be taken against this, he explained.
The Premier remarked that he had been asked about the convention in 2005 and 2006 but had maintained that Sri Lanka could not be a party to the convention as long as there was a war in the country. He said he explained his stance to former Presidents Chandrika Kumaratunga and Mahinda Rajapaksa as well.
The war ended in 2009. As such, the Government signed the agreement for the convention in December 2015 and approved a draft bill in Parliament. The bill’s first clause states that as per Ar t i cle 70 of the Constitution, it becomes effective from the date it is ratified, the premier claimed.
Accordingly, this international convention is effective from the date it is signed by the Speaker, which is December 2015. It will not apply to the past.
The PM scoffed at claims made by former minister Prof. G. L. Peiris that the bill will apply to past incidents, pointing out that as per Article 13 ( 6) of the Constitution under Fundamental Rights, “No person shall be held guilty of an offence on account of any act or omission which did not, at the time of such act or omission, constitute such an offence.”
The Bill cannot be applied to past incidents as they were not considered a crime at the time.
In signing the Bill, the Government has done nothing wrong and was simply acting on its obligation to prevent crime, he added.
“Nevertheless, we will initiate probes regarding enforced disappearances only after October 2017. The President and I have decided on this. Both of us have stated we have no intention of filing legal action against those who took part in the war. Whatever is right or wrong, we can resolve within the country. We will not break our promises. Also, as we promised, we will work to ensure that enforced disappearances don’t occur in the future,” the premier told the gathering.