Bill for protection against enforced disappearances passed without amendments | Daily News

Bill for protection against enforced disappearances passed without amendments

The Bill for the protection against enforced disappearances was passed without amendments in Parliament yesterday amidst disturbances from the Joint Opposition.

The Bill was passed with a majority of 37 votes, obtaining 53 votes in favour and 16 votes against following a division called by JO Parliamentary Group Leader Dinesh Gunawardena.

The JO members voted against while the JVP members walked out of the chamber at the time of voting. A total of 156 members were absent.

Earlier in the day, Foreign Affairs Minister Tilak Marapana moving the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance Bill for debate proposed to amend the Clause on extradition in the Bill for clarity that it does not apply to Sri Lankan citizens.

However, as the debate concluded the Joint Opposition opposed to moving the said amendment stating that they had not received a copy of the document for their perusal.

National Freedom Front Leader Wimal Weerawansa agitated in the House asking the Government to postpone the debate.

MPs Dinesh Gunawardena and JVP MP Sunil Handunnetti spoke on the same lines.

Intervening at this point, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told the House that the Government withdraws the said amendment and puts the Bill for vote without amendments.

Minister Marapana also observed that the amendment was proposed as per the JO’s request and if it does not want it the Government would go ahead without it.

The minister said that he wished to include a phrase “excluding Sri Lankans” in Section 8 of the Bill to expel the doubts held by some that the legislation allows a foreign state to try a Sri Lankan, who is found to have committed an offense, in a court of law in that respective state. He made this statement when Joint Opposition members requested to postpone the debate on the Bill which had already been deferred twice in Parliament due to various objections.

Section 8 establishes that the Government of Sri Lanka will notify any State making an extradition request of the steps already taken or steps to be taken in respect of the prosecution or extradition of the person accused of offenses under the Act.

“This was the only concern raised by JO MPs when the Bill was discussed at the Sectoral Oversight Committee. This amendment is redundant as this legislation does not anyway obligate us to extradite that person, but proposed it for clarity. What is mentioned in the International Convention is not the law of Sri Lanka and what becomes law here is what is mentioned in this Act,” he clarified.

The minister pointed out nothing in the Bill is retrospective and its content applies only to the offences committed in the future. “All the offences mentioned in this Bill are already considered offences according to the Penal Code and other laws in Sri Lanka.

“Under Section 3 of the Bill, a person guilty of the offence of enforced disappearance can be imprisoned for a term not exceeding 20 years, and be liable to pay a fine not exceeding Rs 1million and compensation not less than Rs 500,000 to a victim,” Minister Marapana said.

Sri Lankan Government ratified the UN International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances (ICPPED) in December 2015 and the bill is to satisfy its obligations under the ICPPED.

The main intention of the bill is to ensure that every Sri Lankan citizen gets the freedom to live without fear of being a victim of enforced disappearance or abduction.

The Second Reading of the Bill received 53 votes in favour and 19 votes against, and the number of votes against the Bill reduced further at the Third Reading vote.


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