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6. Conclusion

It is now over 10 years since the rate of disappearances in Sri Lanka reached its peak, but it now looks likely that most perpetrators of disappearances will not be brought to book at all, and the practice of causing disappearances will continue. The three zonal commissions appointed by the President to investigate disappearances handed their reports to the President in 1997. Who knows how long it may take for the culprits they identified to be brought to book? By then, many of the complainants and witnesses may be no more and the likelihood of these cases ending in convictions becomes all the more bleak. The report of the All-Island Commission on Disappearances was handed to the President in August 2000, and is yet to be made public.

Both the government and the main opposition party have in various ways either condoned disappearances or been silent spectators while persons disappeared during their respective regimes. Consequently, there is no strong lobby in parliament to press for speedy action against the perpetrators of disappearances; perhaps this is because the practice has been so widespread and that too many people are implicated. The present government came to power in 1994 with a pledge to end disappearances and other human rights violations.  Today, however, it stands accused of hundreds of disappearances during its own time in power and has not shown itself determined to act against perpetrators and halt this practice. It lacks the will and the commitment that goes beyond mere rhetoric.

There is no substitute for swift and effective action against perpetrators irrespective of their rank or status. This will require changes in the law, administrative procedures and even the judicial structure to expedite the disposal of cases pertaining to disappearances.

The Commissions of Inquiry into Disappearances made exhaustive recommendations on the changes to law that are necessary to prevent further disappearances occurring in the future. These recommendations need to be carefully studied and implemented diligently, under the supervision of a body charged with this task.  If they are not acted upon, the reports of these Commissions will become a dead letter, confined to the archives for the use of researchers and historians.

It is left for the government to honour its election pledge and prove its commitment to the eradication of violations of human rights in general and disappearances in particular, from the face of Sri Lanka.

Posted on 2003-06-15


Cyberspace Graveyard for Disappeared Persons
Asian Human Rights Commission

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