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Government Gazette

Govt refutes allegations of impunity

Notwithstanding the serious nature of the security situation prevailing in Sri Lanka resulting from a reign of terror unleashed by the most ruthless terrorist organisation in the world - the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), it is not the policy of the State to adopt and enforce extra-ordinary measures that are outside the framework of the law, Attorney General C.R. de Silva said in Geneva.

He was making a presentation during the Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights in Geneva.

"The Government has steadfastly insisted that all agents of the state should necessarily carry out arrests, detentions, and investigations including interrogations, in accordance with the due process of the law and in a manner that would not infringe human rights.

In addition to the written law, the President has also issued directives on the manner in which arrests and detentions have to be carried out. It has been expressly provided, that no transgression of the law will be tolerated and that all persons found to have violated the law would be dealt with and held accountable for their conduct," de Silva said.

He said: "As regards the issue of disappearances, I do not wish to cite figures because of the unique character of the problem and because statistics given by various sources have been found to be at variance and unreliable. For example, in a list of 355 alleged disappearances submitted to the government by a diplomatic representative of one country, initial investigations alone revealed that 12 persons in the list had left Sri Lanka through the international airport for other countries under their own name and using their own regular Passports.

If that be the case, we do not know how many of this list had left the country using false documentation and other illegal means. Upon investigations it transpired that 17 persons were found by the police to be living with their own families in their normal habitat. In other words, they had not disappeared at all.

Investigations also revealed that another 11 young persons had eloped with their partners. We are unable to verify how many may have entered the un-cleared areas in which the LTTE operates. Therefore, it is difficult to ascertain the veracity of these figures and the genuineness of the complaints.

It is also important to note, that investigations revealed that in some instances, the LTTE has influenced some people to lodge false complaints of disappearances with the view to discrediting the government.

Therefore, it is not safe to consider the nature and the magnitude of the problem on the basis of unsubstantiated statistics. However, it remains a fact that certain individuals have disappeared and as a responsible government, we are concerned about this problem.

We are therefore studying credible reports and information, so as to identify the nature of the problem, its magnitude, possible reasons and identities of those who are responsible. As said before, it is not the policy of the State to illegally and surreptitiously arrest persons and detain them in undisclosed locations or to extra-judicially eliminate arrested and detained suspects.

A Presidential Commission of Inquiry has been specially established to inquire into allegations of disappearances.

The work of this Commission supplements the inquiries being conducted by the National Human Rights Commission. We hope that material collected by these two commissions will enable the government to form reliable conclusions as to the nature and magnitude of the problem.

A special agency of the Police Department named the Disappearances Investigation Unit (DIU), has been investigating complaints into alleged disappearances. We are determined to ensure that all complaints are comprehensively and impartially investigated into, perpetrators identified, and evidence against them collected, so that such persons can be prosecuted.

During the past decade, I as well as my predecessors as Attorneys General have instituted criminal proceedings against 599 members of the security forces and the police with regard to their alleged involvement in abducting persons, detaining them unlawfully and extra-judicially eliminating persons in custody.

The process of investigation and prosecution may not be as expeditious as one would like it to be. This is associated with general resource constraints faced by the enforcement agencies and the judicial system of Sri Lanka. However, what is important is that, the due process of the law and justice has been set in motion and is moving in the correct direction.

UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Prof. Manfred Nowak who visited Sri Lanka in 2007 and examined the situation with regards to torture, concluded that the practice of torture was not systematic in Sri Lanka.

It is our government's view that unfortunately torture may be possibly occasionally used by certain overzealous investigators on certain occasions as an investigative tool to extract the truth from persons under interrogation.

Possibly this problem is not one that is unique to Sri Lanka. However much the purpose for using torture may be in the best interests of investigations, our government does not condone torture under any circumstances.

It is a violation of an important fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution and an offence under the criminal law of Sri Lanka attracting very serious penal sanctions. Where the Petitioner establishes a prima-facie case, the Attorney General does not appear in court on behalf of the alleged perpetrators who may be officers of the police or the security forces.

It is certainly not the policy of our Government to protect persons who may conduct themselves in a manner that infringes fundamental and other human rights of our citizens.

To the contrary, all allegations of the violation of human rights are and will be fully and impartially investigated and where there exists reliable and sufficient material to launch prosecutions, all alleged perpetrators of human rights violations would be prosecuted.

In view of the foregoing facts and circumstances, I submit that the Government of Sri Lanka refutes the allegation of impunity."

 

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