Lanka's missing persons office lacked consultations: HRW

On May 24, Sri Lanka's cabinet approved the new Office of Missing Persons without talking with the families.

Colombo: A leading human rights group today criticised Sri Lanka for setting up the 'Office of Missing Persons' without fulfilling its promise of holding consultations with families of the disappeared.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement that the government ratified the 'Convention against Enforced Disappearance' while creating an Office of Missing Persons without promised consultations with the affected families.

It called upon the government to honour its pledge to hold meaningful consultations with the families and nongovernmental representatives about the missing persons office and the other transitional justice mechanisms.

The Sri Lankan government is creating important structures to address the scourge of disappearances in the country, but it should only do this after receiving input from the families most affected, HRW Asia director Brad Adams said in a statement.

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, Adams said.

At the United Nations Human Rights Council( UNHRC) in Geneva in September last year, the Sri Lankan government had agreed to hold nationwide public consultations on all transitional justice mechanisms.

However, on May 24, Sri Lanka's cabinet approved the new Office of Missing Persons without talking with the families who have long waited for justice.

At the same time, it kept a key promise on May 25 by ratifying the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the statement said.

The government this week announced that the Cabinet of ministers had approved the move to set up the office for the missing.

Founded as a private American NGO in 1978, HRW is an international non-governmental organisation that conducts research and advocacy on human rights.