22 September, 2020

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Families Waiting To Know The Truth

By Paul Newman

Dr. Paul Newman

Sri Lanka has the dubious record of having the second largest number of cases of Enforced Disappearances. The International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism conducted a side event in the UN premises that brought victims amongst whom there was a Sinhalese and a Muslim belonging to the families of victims and a Tamil who tries to get justice for these victims.

The panelist’s spoke of their personal tragedies and that of those of the thousands who have disappeared, there were several commissions that were established to give recommendations on the thousands of pending cases. The final reports of these commissions were never made public.  All the panelists wanted accountability. They had felt that the International community should ask for an International Investigation which was the only solution to the families of the aggrieved.

The panelists also spoke of how the Sri Lankan police did not want these people to take the issue to the UN and internationalize it, but is there any local recourse available was the question raised by the panelists.

It is a known fact that Fr.Francis and 58 others were taken into a bus as they surrendered to the army on the 18th of May 2009 and there are persons who have seen them, which was the last time these people were ever seen.

Under international law, a state commits an enforced disappearance when it takes a person into custody and denies holding them or disclosing their whereabouts. “Disappeared” persons are commonly subjected to torture or extrajudicial execution, and cause family members continued suffering.

An enforced disappearance is a continuing rights violation – it is ongoing until the fate or whereabouts of the person becomes known. In 2006 and 2007, the United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances recorded more new “disappearance” cases from Sri Lanka than from any other country in the world.

In 2009 many militants who were taken into custody after surrender and those who were taken from the Menik farm camps on suspicion of militant links are yet to return home. Many mothers, wives and sisters had handed over their loved ones to the army but there is no information available on their whereabouts.

In May 2009, the International Committee on Enforced Disappearances received more than 5,000 complaints. In many cases the families are not informed of the place of detention as they are unauthorized places.

In one of the cases a person who disappeared in 2006 resurfaced  on the 29th of January 2013. The person does not know the different places of detention he was kept. In another case a person from Kelaniya who disappeared in 2006 was released on 6/11/2012. He was severely tortured during detention and upon release; he was sent to the rehabilitation centre and finally released.

Mr. Suresh Premachandran, a Tamil National Alliance(TNA) Member of Parliament (MP) from Jaffna who was one of the panelists felt that though Jaffna was not located in the theatre of war, in 2009, 540 people were abducted and nobody knows where they are. He accused the Government of not releasing any data or independent verification of their claims of releasing 12,000 ‘reformed militants’.

During the LLRC inquiry 3,000 women gave petitions on missing persons. The government appointed a military tribunal which inquired against allegation made on its own men on disappearance cases and presented their report to the defence secretary who later announced that there were no missing persons in Sri Lanka!

The MP alleged that Enforced Disappearances are common in North and East and many cases are unreported as the police refuse to record the complaints. One of the main reasons for Enforced Disappearances was the militarization of the Tamil homeland where 15 out of the 20 divisions were housed. A large number of soldiers were moving around in civilian attire. After the war, 15 new brigade head quarters were built on A9. The situation was so bad that even Pre-School sports events were monitored by the army.

The world needs to demand accountability for these disappearances, one of the few good recommendations by the LLRC was to start a Presidential inquiry in disappearances; unfortunately it has not happened so far. The security forces continue to enjoy impunity.

Mr.Premachandran feels that before it is too late the Government would do well to do away with the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), which would go a long way in helping stop this humane problem. He also wants the demilitarization of the north and east and there should be independent international investigations into the alleged cases of disappearances.

Enforced Disappearance is the worst torture not just on the individual but on the family and the society of the individual. It causes immense damage to the disappeared person’s family’s psychology. The victim’s family undergoes the pain and agony of waiting in vain with  a hope whether the person would come back or not, whether the person is alive or not.

It is a known fact that in Sri Lanka, the first to disappear were the Sinhala youth, then the Tamils, who’s turn comes next? The government has lots of questions to answer.

*Dr.Paul Newman from the 22nd UNHRC, Geneva, Switzerland.

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Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    Oh Lanka,how do we exist if you have no heart.
    Let us at least know whether our loved ones are dead or alve.
    Now we cannot even mourn our own kith and kin.
    How many more have to disappear before you show compassion.
    Have we not suffered enough.

  • 0
    0

    What a sad situation for these families. No accountability, no acknowledgement of their pain, and most importantly no answers from their own government. The prevention by the government, of these victims attending these protests is basically unacceptable and disgusting. The people of Sri Lanka should be embarrassed that their government has this dubious rank in the world. Are we indifferent to the pain of our fellow Sri Lankans? One day one of the victims may be our own, then will we feel the same?

    The supporters of this regime should think twice and not keep buying the government lies and propaganda.
    These are facts and numbers, and every accusation from the international community is not because of LTTE sympathizers. The LTTE is now a convenient scapegoat for ALL the government crimes.

  • 0
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    The UN league table for disappeared persons is:
    Irag = 16,410
    Sri Lanka = 5,676
    Argentina = 3,721
    Algeria = 3,005

    http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session22/A.HRC.22.45_English.pdf

    Where GoSL is weakest is on those still being held in indefinite detention. It’s a disgrace that these people are being held in indefinite detention well beyond the security needs of the country. It is an outrage that these people are still being held – many for years – without any hope of release or any idea of the charges against them. The war is over and has been won. These prisoners should be released, charged or sent to Canada.

    • 0
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      There are also likely many in custody and/or in the service of the MOD, who have not been yet identified publicly. All may not be dead as presumed. This issue and that of those who are in custody without prosecution, should be resolved urgently. This is one way for the GOSL to go down the road of reconciliation and restoration of law & order. This is also a moral imperative.

      Dr. Rajasingham Narendran.

      • 0
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        Narendran,
        Who are those “disappeared” in the service of the Ministry of Defence? In what capacity?

        • 0
          0

          Where do you live?

          Dr.RN

          • 0
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            You are dodging the question because you cannot answer.

            • 0
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              If you were a die- hard LTTE supporter and are living abroad, come to the Katunayake airport and see who will identify you.

              Dr. RN

    • 0
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      You idiot stop writing stupid figures.

      If you can compare Iraq with Sri Lanka, tell us the size of Iraq.

      Do you mean that another 10,000 can be disappeared in Sri Lanka.

      As long as there Singhlese fantistic like you exists, you singhalese will prove the world that you all are killer and monsters.

      Mango, you are RACIST.

      The UN league table for disappeared persons is:

      Irag = 16,410 What is the size of Iraq?
      Sri Lanka = 5,676
      Argentina = 3,721 What is the size of Argentina?
      Algeria = 3,005 What is the size of Algeria?

      • 0
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        Thiru you idiot,
        I agree with Dr Newman. Read what I’ve written. :)

        p.s. the figures are from a UN report.

  • 0
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    For each prisoner held in detention there is a family, spouse and children, hoping and waiting for news that they are not dead, struggling to make ends meet. It is sheer cruelty and sadism to hold people in captivity and not inform their families and loved ones. Let alone that, to hold people without any charges indefinitely. Perhaps they will be bumped off like what happened at Welikada.

  • 0
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    I don’t know where all the above figures come from, but in the last count there were more than 100,000 people for which we have NO idea what has happened to them in the past 33 years since 1970.

    In a sense there are more Sinhala people on that list than Tamil and it is time that the world realizes it is not an ethnic issue, but one of acting without impunity by a state, hell bent on murder using the forces at its disposal.

    The discovery of the 150 Skeletons in Matale is a grim reminder of the past, and those add to 150 of the people we know but we don’t which of the 100,000 they are!

    Just think of the tears of Sri Lanka that have flowed down hundreds of thousands of cheeks as a result. Gallons of tears, countless heart break, many who have lost their dear one, without any knowledge have no idea, and these people amount to a lot of broken hearts, a nation still in grief and mourning.

    Only if you have lost a loved one, and you do not know what happened to him or her, will be able to understand the extent of grief. So many thousands still live in hope that one day when they turn around they may see him or her. What a trauma that is to live with and through!

    So let no person in Sri Lanka EVER have to suffer this again, and it is incumbent upon us to ensure we do not let ourselves be guided and led by a bunch of thugs whose sole aim is to ensure continuance of this state of play.

    Disappearances Continue today, and let us put a full stop. It can only be done if we just stop the person responsible for today’s disappeared first! We can then try and work out what happened to the 100,000 more.

  • 0
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    More than 99% of the disappearances could be the result of LTTE abducting citizens and either forcing them to the front line to die fighting or kill and dispose the bodies if they get injurred. Add to this, those that left the country illegally by boat and either died drowning in the ocean or received refugee status under adopted names.

    • 0
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      Raja

      “More than 99% of the disappearances could be the result of LTTE abducting citizens and either forcing them to the front line to die fighting or kill and dispose the bodies if they get injurred.”

      How did you arrive this conclusion with 100% certainty?

      Could you site me the data you collected for this statistical analysis.

      I am grateful.

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