Sri Lanka has the second largest number of disappeared – UN
Global Campaign for Truth and Justice
We, the undersigned solemnly observe 30 August 2017, as International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearance and recall once again the tens of thousands of Tamils in Sri Lanka forcibly disappeared before, during and after the conflict and whose fate remains undiscovered by their families eight years after the end of the conflict.
The United Nations in commemorating the day observes, “The feeling of insecurity generated by this practice is not limited to the close relatives of the disappeared, but also affects their communities and society as a whole”.
The Tamil Nation in Sri Lanka and its diaspora continue to suffer the long term consequences of the enforced disappearance of so many Tamils last seen in the custody of the Sri Lankan Army comprised almost exclusively by the Sinhalese. Families of the disappeared continue to suffer the uncertainty of knowing what happened to their loved ones continue to suffer by being unable to properly mourn the disappeared and continue to be unable to resolve legal issues related to the disappeared persons.
Article 5 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CED) states that the “widespread and systematic practice of enforced disappearance constitutes a crime against humanity”.
In ratifying the CED in May 2016, Sri Lanka acknowledged its legal obligation “to hold criminally responsible” those who committed, ordered, solicited or were complicit in the enforced disappearance of persons in Sri Lanka. To this date, there have been no genuine efforts by the government to do so. Under Article 32 of CED, Sri Lanka recognized the competence of Committee on Enforced Disappearance to receive communications from other State Parties alleging CED violations. To date, no State Party has publicly called upon the Committee to consider Sri Lanka’s lack of compliance with the CED.
Before, during and after the armed conflict, the government of Sri Lanka has employed enforced disappearance as a systematic tool of Genocide against the Tamil Nation. The infamous white van abductions became a ubiquitous tool of oppression against Tamils and some Sinhalese dissidents. In addition to those Tamil civilians who were disappeared, the fate of most of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam cadres (LTTE) who surrendered at the end of the conflict also remains unknown. As observed by the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearance following a visit in November 2015, Sri Lanka has the second largest number of enforced disappearance cases currently before the Working Group.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s recorded statement in January 2016 that LTTE cadres who surrendered and were seen in detention after the conflict ended were “most probably dead” falls far short of Sri Lanka’s obligation to provide the families of those disappeared with the truth about what happened to them.
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKkhLlBRzyc). Similarly, Reginald Cooray, the present Governor of the Northern Province, said on 27 May 2017, that Sri Lanka’s response to enforced disappearances would be limited to “certificates of missing persons”. The issuance of certificates alone is wholly inadequate to meet Sri Lanka’s obligations under international law.
Sri Lanka’s assertion before the Human Rights Council in October 2016 and March 2017 that its establishment of an Office of Missing Persons (OMP) was an “achievement” is misleading. The creation of the OMP without any meaningful input from the Tamil community and without any meaningful involvement from international experts as required by HRC resolution 30/1(A/HRC/30/L.29) is a cynical attempt by Sri Lanka to mislead the international community.
In addition to the victim families of the disappeared being denied a genuine remedy under domestic law, the government of Sri Lanka has not recognized the competence of the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearance to receive complaints directly from these families as contemplated in Article 31 of the CED.
In the complete absence of any domestic or international recourse, the mothers and wives of the disappeared have staged an ongoing protest for the last 168 days in Kilinochchi, calling for the release of their family members or a credible investigation into the truth of what happened to them. These peaceful protests have been the target of violence by the government and in one instance Mrs. Mariyasuresh Easwary, an activist and wife of one of the disappeared and a mother of 3 children was beaten and sexually assaulted on her way home.
In view of the above, we the undersigned in solidarity with the victim families of the disappeared:
(1) Urge the international community to pressure Sri Lanka to release the list of all persons currently being detained by the government or its agents;
(2) Urge the international community to pressure Sri Lanka to release the list of the Surrendered LTTE Cadres;
(3) Demand that Sri Lanka allow international observers and members of the internationalcommunity unfettered access to all detention facilities;
(4) Urge the international community to pressure Sri Lanka to make a declaration under Article 31 of the Convention of Enforced Disappearance to allow the victims to file complaints directly with the Committee on Enforced Disappearance;
(5) Urge the international community to pressure Sri Lanka to include international experts in the Office of Missing Persons;
(6) Urge the international community to call upon the Committee on Enforced Disappearance (CED) to investigate Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe’s January 2016 statement that most of those detained by the government “are probably dead”; and
(7) Urge State Parties to request that the Committee on Enforced Disappearance consider Sri Lanka’s failure to fulfill its obligations under the Convention as provided for in Article