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Sri Lanka’s ‘Office of Missing Persons’ lacks victim consultations – HRW

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has criticised the Sri Lankan government’s newly announced Office of Missing Persons’ (OMP), stating that the authorities had failed to sufficiently consult with victims in establishing the new mechanism.

“At the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva last year, the government had agreed to hold nationwide public consultations on all transitional justice mechanisms,” said a press release on Friday. “However, on May 24, 2016, Sri Lanka’s cabinet approved the new Office of Missing Persons without talking with the families who have long waited for justice.”

Sri Lanka’s OMP has already come under fire from Tamil organisations across the North-East who said the government had not shown any “genuine willingness to consult the victims”.

Noting that Sri Lanka’s long history of government appointed commissions into the issue of disappearances, HRW  went on to state that “various commissions of inquiry established by successive Sri Lankan governments in response to pressure from victims’ groups and others have produced reports that have largely remained unpublished and have not resulted in criminal prosecutions of those responsible”.

“The government deserves high marks for ratifying the Convention against Enforced Disappearance, but it needs to take urgent steps to build confidence with affected communities,” said Brad Adams Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The government should ensure communication, transparency, and dialogue in all its transitional justice mechanisms.”

“The Sri Lankan government is creating important structures to address the scourge of disappearances in the country,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “But it should only do this after receiving input from the families most affected.”

The press release concluded by saying,

“The government should honour its pledge to hold meaningful consultations with the affected families and nongovernmental representatives about the missing persons’ office and the other transitional justice mechanisms”.

See our earlier post: Sri Lanka announces yet another mechanism to probe disappearances (26 May 2016)