This September the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the US and the UK gave unequivocal signals that both time and international patience is running out in relation to the country’s post-war reform agenda. The US Senate Committee on Appropriations – this September – imposed stricter conditions for Sri Lanka to obtain funds under its State & Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill (2018). Accordingly, Sri Lanka would be able to obtain funding assistance only if the US Secretary of State certifies and reports to the Senate Committee on Appropriations that Sri Lanka is inter alia taking steps to fulfil its TJ commitments and is upholding civil and human rights.

Thus, the US seems to be moving away from soft diplomacy/ power to the imposition of financial pressure on Sri Lanka to compel the country to stand by its international commitments. Similarly, both the UK and the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed disappointment about the country’s slow pace of progress at this month’s UNHRC Session. Furthermore, the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ endorsement of universal jurisdiction based litigation in relation to Sri Lanka indicates a shift in policy and a strong willingness to ensure accountability for grave crimes with or without Sri Lanka’s cooperation. Despite these ominous signs, the Sri Lankan government seems intent on playing cat and mouse with the international community in relation to its commitments under Resolution 30/1. The operationalization of the Office on Missing Persons just two days before President Sirisena was due to address the UN General Assembly and the postponement of the Parliamentary Debate on the Enforced Disappearances Bill for the second time just days after the President had concluded his address to the UN General Assembly casts doubts about the President’s sincerity vis-a-vis his commitments. If the international community’s gradual shift in attitude towards the country this month is anything to go by, Sri Lanka seems to have overestimated the concept of patience in geopolitics.



‘Sri Lanka: 2 Years On, Scant Progress on UN Resolution’ by Human Rights Watch on 9/13/2017

‘The clock is ticking on reconciliation’ by Meera Sirinivasan, The Hindu on 9/16/2017

‘Extradition: An Explanation’ by Gehan Gunatilleke, Colombo Telegraph on 9/23/2017

‘Backtracking on accountability measures will harm all Sri Lankans: Tamil leader’ by P.K. Balachandran, Daily Mirror on 9/19/2017

‘Putting Sri Lanka’s Office of Missing Persons in Perspective’ by Taylor Dibbert, The Diplomat on 9/19/2017

‘Ongoing UNHRC Session: What’s in store for Sri Lanka?’ by Sunanda Deshapriya, Groundviews on 9/25/2017

‘Transitional Justice: What Is It & Where Is It Heading?’ by Pablo De Greiff, Sri Lanka Brief on 9/12/2017

‘කිම් ද බිය වන්ට කාරණ?’ by Raavaya on 9/24/2017

‘අතුරුදන් කිරීමට තේරෙන සිංහලෙන් විරුද්ධ වීම’ by Samabima on 9/1/2017


‘Civil Security Department: The Deep Militarization of the Vanni’ by Adayaalam Centre for Policy Research in September 2017


‘Office of Missing Persons - Sri Lanka’ – South Asian Centre for Legal Studies


In December 2015, the government of Sri Lanka ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED). However, the legislation giving effect to the Convention is yet to be adopted. In fact, the presentation of the Bill to Parliament was postponed twice due to political opposition. In July 2017, a day before the Bill was slated to be taken up in Parliament for debate, the heads of the three main Buddhist Nikayas of the country passed a resolution urging the government of Sri Lanka to defer the Parliamentary debate on the Bill. Subsequently, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament informed the House that the Bill would not be taken up for debate in July. More recently – in September – a Minister of the government announced that the debate on the Bill would be delayed once again. Taking advantage of this situation, many opponents of the Bill also called on the government to permanently shelve efforts to pass this Bill into law. Opposition to the Bill rests on a number of misconceptions including that the Bill would allow Sri Lankan nationals to be tried before the International Criminal Court for the crime of enforced disappearance. In addition, opponents to the Bill misrepresented the provisions requiring the government to extradite its nationals to foreign states for enforced disappearance prosecutions as an unprecedented departure from existing law.

While the debate has focused on a narrow set of provisions pertaining to the extra-territorial prosecution of the crime of enforced disappearance, it has not examined whether the Bill gives full effect to Sri Lanka’s obligations under the ICCPED and international law. However, as SACLS’s commentary on the Enforced Disappearances Bill points out, the Bill’s definition of an ‘enforced disappearance’ does not enable the prosecution of the full range of perpetrators that would, under international criminal law be responsible for the crime; neither does it expressly enable the prosecution of those responsible for the enforced disappearance of individuals who have been deprived of their liberty before the adoption of the Bill but are still unaccounted for to date. These shortcomings are a direct affront to thousands families of disappeared persons. Some of these families have been protesting silently for over two hundred days seeking both answers and anticipating justice on behalf of their disappeared loved ones. Finally, the very important provisions in the Bill aimed at preventing enforced disappearances from recurring have also received very little attention in the public debate.

It is therefore essential that the Bill be presented to Parliament without further delays and that amendments are introduced to give full effect to Sri Lanka’s obligation under the ICPPED and general international law to both prevent and punish the crime of enforced disappearance.

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