En­forced Dis­ap­pear­ances Bill will not ap­ply to past in­ci­dents, says Ranil

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - NEWS -

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.

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