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
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
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
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
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."