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The National Action Plan for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights 2011 – 2016 as well as the full series of  Sri Lanka Rights Watch are available at the Peace & Reconciliation Website.

When I wrote about the Laws’ Delays last week, I was referring to delays in bringing forward laws or amendments that everyone agreed were essential, but which were held back because of inefficient coordinating mechanisms for all stakeholders. This factor, combined with the lethargy or perhaps diffidence that affects so many government departments, leads to protracted suffering for citizens.

But there is another area too in which the laws’ delays cause problems. This is systemic failure with regard to those in remand or indicted, which results in cases not being settled for years. I have referred to this previously, but now the Human Rights Commission has done some investigation and produced a Preliminary Study which includes some worrying statistics. It seems that 53 persons have been in remand for over 3 years with no prospect of an end to their cases. One has been in remand for over 15 years, having been arrested in 1996, while seven others have been in remand for over 10 years.

I was told about this when I met the Chairman of the Human Rights Commission, in pursuing fulfillment of the policy laid down by the President in last year’s budget speech. There he spoke of the enormous wastage in human and material resources caused by the practices of remanding practically automatically, and of indiscriminate sentencing to jail, and suggested alternative procedures. In addition to greater reliance on non-custodial sentencing, these could include much readier recourse to bail, as well as entrenching systems to ensure swift disposal of cases.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

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