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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.

generatorI have been deeply disturbed by some reactions to what seems a spate of criminality relating to the abuse of children. The argument is that we should respond to this by reintroducing capital punishment.

This is absurd, and not only because punishment should always fit the crime. Capital punishment for murder is another question, but that we already have, and the simple fact that it has not been implemented indicates the deep disquiet felt in general about the process. What we certainly should not do is introduce capital punishment for other offences, and then go through the horrors of either implementing it or else keeping people indefinitely on what is termed death row.

The Chairman of the Human Rights Commission was deeply moved during our recent visit to the prisons by the plight of those incarcerated in this manner, and I trust he will urge a review of policy in this respect. Equally disturbing however was the evidence that emerged there of injustices related to protracted sentencing, in a case that also made clear the perversities that can affect our judicial system when dealing with emotionally charged issues. Putting in place mechanisms to avoid these, or to provide remedies when they occur, is also part of protecting Human Rights.

Unfortunately we have no coherent system of checking on the judiciary. At the recent seminar on contemporary issues in South Asia arranged at the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies, a bright young lady from the Law Faculty pointed out that we had no mechanism for review of judgments of the Supreme Court, and that it was up to Parliament to fine tune legislation to deal with instances in which the Courts subverted the clear intention of the legislature – as for instance with judgments concerning mandatory sentences for statutory rape, or the provisions designed to prevent crossing over with impunity by Parliamentarians.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

December 2012
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