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Operationalize the Office on Missing Persons says ICJ

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) on Thursday called on the Sri Lankan government to "swiftly operationalise" the Office on Missing Persons.

The statement which came on the one year anniversary of the enactment of the OMP bill said, the ICJ "also urged the Government to set up other transitional justice mechanisms it committed to in the context of a key 2015 UN Human Rights Council resolution, without further delay." 

The ICJ said: 

"On 23 August 2016, the OMP Act received the Speaker’s assent and became law. Even after one year, however, the Office has not been operationalized.

Organizations have reportedly made the claim that the President has unconstitutionally allocated the subject of the OMP to himself.

The Government’s failure to follow Constitutional provisions when setting up an important office such as the OMP, which has a permanent mandate to search and trace the whereabouts of “missing persons”, leaves the office exposed to future uncertainty- a move that affected communities can ill afford after a long and unjustifiable delay in setting up the OMP."

Frederick Rawski, ICJ’s Asia and Pacific Director said, “The delay has already resulted in affected communities losing hope and faith in the Government’s transitional justice agenda, as is evident by continuous protests in the North." 

“The Government of Sri Lanka should make public its plans and drafts for the proposed mechanisms based on consultations, as well as a timeline for when it hopes to establish them, in order to stop further erosion of faith by the affected communities,” he added. 

“The Government must act, and act now, to stop the disconnect between the hopes of affected communities and the lack of substantive progress of the transitional justice agenda from growing further, and deliver on its commitments before the opportunity for progressive reform is lost for good."