SL’s Human Rights Commission wants ‘highest levels’ of Govt. support for Office of Missing Persons

Tuesday, 23 August 2016 00:05 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • HRCSL puts forward recommendations to Govt. to make OMP victim-centred and effective
  • Says members and staff should be persons of unimpeachable integrity and competence
  • Victims must not be re-traumatised: HRCSL Chairperson

DrChairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, Dr. Deepika Udagama

Commending the adoption of the Office of Missing Persons Act, Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Commission has called for the Office to be empowered with adequate resources and support from Government authorities at the “highest levels”, if it is to effectively provide redress to thousands of families searching for missing loved ones.

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka has placed several recommendations before the Government to ensure the truth-seeking mechanism to trace and investigate disappearances will be victim-centred and effective.

“Every effort should be made to avoid re-traumatisation of the victims,” the Commission emphasised in its recommendations.

Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, Dr. Deepika Udagama said the members and staff of the Office of Missing Persons should be “persons of unimpeachable integrity and competence” and had to have no prior allegations of human rights violations against them.

The recommendations by HRCSL to the Government also stressed that the membership of the OMP should reflect the pluralistic nature of Sri Lanka, including meaningful gender as well as regional representation. Adequate gender, ethnic and regional representation should be ensured as well as language proficiency since the ability to serve the various communities in a language they understand is critically important, HRCSL recommended.

“The staff should be provided training in gender sensitivity since most of the complainants are women, as well as how to deal with victims who have suffered trauma and loss,” the Commission’s recommendations to the Government noted.

Dr. Udagama emphasised that the effective functioning of the OMP is depending on financial resources that will allow the OMP to build a strong institution and hire competent, qualified and committed staff, HRCSL said in its recommendations.

The Commission also stressed on what it called an “urgent need” for a public awareness campaign to dispel rumours and counter misleading information flooding the public domain about the OMP.

“A concerted effort is required to create understanding and a sense of ownership amongst the public in this regard,” the Chairperson of the Commission noted.

HRCSL also emphasised that in order to ensure transparency, the Office of Missing Persons must formulate and widely publicise information on its methods of operations and procedures. The information should include confidentiality rules and guidance to families about how to approach the Office and their rights with regard to getting information about the progress of their complaints.

Regional offices of the OMP will be an important means of ensuring accessibility as well as creating public ownership, the HRCSL added.

The OMP should also have personnel who are qualified to provide on-site psycho-social support to those who require it, for instance, during or after making statements to the OMP, the HRCSL noted.

The Commission notes that the OMP Act envisages a Victims of Crime and Witness Assistance and Protection Division.

“When establishing the Division, given limited internal relocation options within the country whether public scepticism that they will receive protection from existing mechanisms, the OMP should find feasible alternatives that foster public trust and ensure protection to victims and witnesses,” HRCSL recommended.

In order to do this, the Office of Missing Persons will require resources and support from Government authorities at the highest levels, Dr. Udagama’s document says. (DB)