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3.6 Anti-Harassment Committee.

Following numerous complaints made to the President concerning illegal arrests and detentions of Tamil people in Colombo by the armed forces and the police, a special presidential committee of Ministers and senior Members of Parliament headed by the Minister of Cultural Affairs was appointed in July 1998. At first this was called the Anti-Harassment Committee, but later its name was changed to The Committee of Inquiry into Undue Arrests and Harassment.  The function of this Committee was to examine representations regarding illegal arrests, detentions, or harassment so that prompt action could be taken to grant relief. The Committee was serviced by the Public Complaints Unit of the Ministry of Justice, which passed appropriate complaints on to the Committee for action. The Committee was expected to submit weekly reports to the President and help prevent the rights of persons taken into custody being violated.

The Committee consists of seven members, all of whom are Members of Parliament, and some of whom are Cabinet Members. The Committee was empowered not only to inquire into complaints but also to give appropriate directions to any head of the armed forces and the police with regard to any illegal arrest or undue harassment. Since, by definition, every case of disappearance is preceded by the arrest or taking into custody of an individual by the army, police or other person, this Committee potentially plays a key role in checking disappearances.  However, its effectiveness has been questioned, partly because it is not accessible to people living outside Colombo, and because even within Colombo many do not know its existence as it has not been adequately publicised. 

Another problem is that the functions of the Committee overlap with those of the HRC. People with knowledge of these matters would rather complain to the HRC than to the Committee, as the latter’s powers do not compare favourably with those of the HRC.

Posted on 2003-06-15


Cyberspace Graveyard for Disappeared Persons
Asian Human Rights Commission

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