17 April, 2024


When Will The EU, US, UK, UN & UNHRC Take Action To Find The Missing? 

By Kumarathasan Rasingam

Kumarathasan Rasingam

The mothers, fathers, relatives of the missing are on the streets for more than 1340 days on sit-in protest demanding to know the whereabouts of their loved ones. They are holding EU, US & UN Flags and the pictures of their loved ones missing. The successive Governments have failed to take any action and the most expected Office of the Missing Persons [OMP] is now defunct after the new regime of Rajapaksas, although the OMP is toothless with no powers to prosecute charge or punish the culprit some people registered their names hoping for some sort of justice. 

It is very unfortunate that the very old mothers, fathers and relatives are still pinning their hopes and trusting the UNHRC, UN and the International community to find justice and thee seems to be no progress or action to the burning problem affecting the elderly people.

At least the Government can come out with the truth whether they are dead or alive so that they can perform their last rights and move on. If they are alive the Government can at least release them if they have not committed any crime. Even if they have committed crime the Government can bring them to justice and sort out the problem. 

Thousands of people have disappeared in Sri Lanka since the 1980s. A 1999 study by the United Nations found that Sri Lanka had the second highest number of disappearances in the world. Sri Lanka will not break its violent past until it reckons with the clear history of enforced disappearances and delivers justice to as many as 100,000 families who have spent years waiting for justice. Until the justice is delivered to these victims the country cannot begin to heal.

In June 2016, former President Chandrika Kumaratunga, who was in office [Chairperson of the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation from 1994-2005], acknowledged receiving at least 65,000 complaints of disappearance.

Sri Lanka, having ratified the Convention has an obligation to investigate all allegations of disappearances and, where sufficient evidence exists, to prosecute those suspected of the crimes at all levels in proceedings which should be fair and without recourse to the death penalty. The Government must ensure that victims and their families are told the truth and that they are provided with full and effective reparation to address the harm they have suffered.

It is to be noted that one of the emblematic cases is the disappeared person Pregeeth Ekneligoda. He went missing after leaving his work on January 24, 2010.

The new Rajapaksa administration has halted legal proceedings initiated by the previous government against a Navy Officer accused of the enforced disappearances and allegedly killing of 11 youth in 2008 and 2009.

Given Sri Lanka’s long history of enforced disappearances, it is vitally important not to allow the government to simply dismiss these cases. UN member states and the Human Rights Council should call upon Sri Lanka to comply with its international legal obligations, protect victims and witnesses, and keep its UN pledges in a time-bound manner.

Should the government fail to do so, the UNHRC should take the initiative and adopt accountability measures leading towards international investigation and prosecutions.

1. The Sri Lankan government must release information, including the names, of those who surrendered to government forces in 2008-2009, and if any continue to be detained, must release these individuals as well.

2. The Sri Lankan government must provide information on all currently detained political prisoners, and release them in due haste.

3. The Sri Lankan government must provide information on all those who were kidnapped into or kept in refugee camps both before and after the war.

4. All ex-cadres who are currently being detained or rehabilitated must be released.

5. The ongoing Sinhala colonisation and land-grabs of Tamil lands must cease immediately.

The political and ethnic divisions in Sri Lanka are a maze that makes the advancement of truth and accountability difficult. Victims who stand up for their rights are labelled by their ethnic or religious identities. Tamil families of the disappeared are ignored by the Sinhalese Buddhist majority government and government officials.

For more than 1340 days, Tamil women, most of them of their ripe age are protesting [sit-in] protest on the streets demanding the list of those who surrendered, abducted, but the Government has denied having such lists, or the secret detention camps where prisoners could still be kept.

Sri Lankan Security Forces and intelligence agencies along with the Police have intensified surveillance and threats against families of victims of enforced disappearances and activists supporting them since Gotabaya Rajapaksa became President in November 2019.

“The families of Sri Lanka’s disappeared have spent years waiting for answers, but with Rajapaksas back to power, security forces are threatening them to drop their demands for truth and accountability,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director of Human rights Watch. “The Government needs to stop the harassment immediately and abide by the pledges to uncover the fate of the ‘disappeared’ and provide justice to victims’ families,” she said.

The United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres raised concerns over the Sri Lankan Governments intimidation of human rights activists including those that have travelled to the UN Human Rights Council earlier this year labelling such activities as ‘ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE’

‘OHCHR received continued allegations of surveillance of civil society organisations, Human Rights defenders and families of victims of violations, including repeated visits by police and intelligence services, questioning organisations about, inter alia their staff and activities related to the UN’

The report comes as Tamil journalists and human rights activists, including families of the disappeared have come under increasing intimidation from Sri Lankan security forces in recent months, several activists have faced harassment and even arrests.

It is to be noted that under Sri Lankan law, not having a death certificate means that families cannot access property deeds, bank accounts or inheritances left by those missing relatives.

The questions raised by the relative of the disappeared are;

Why can’t you find our missing?

Why does it take so long to find our loved ones?

What happened to Father Francis who escorted the surrendering people?

The UN and other right groups have pressed the Sri Lankan government to establish a war crimes tribunal to investigate allegations of human rights abuses. Successive Sri Lankan governments have resisted such attempts, saying it is a domestic issue and the allegations should be investigated internally.

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Latest comments

  • 4

    Hmm They are dead as are many of the Soldiers so quit this facade

  • 20

    Dear Mr. Rasingam:
    It is not fair to ask the Rajapaksas to address the agony of the family members of the missing. They have their own agony: they have a big fat family of not the smartest people to take care. Rajapaksas’ children, nephews & nieces, cousins, uncles & aunties, and in-laws – they all have to be found jobs in the parliament, ministries, state corporations, embassies, or the forces. Because they are not the smartest people that you come across, I already told you. They even need help in buying their houses, apartments, vehicles, land, jewellery, degrees, designer clothes and even flight tickets & hotel accommodation. Can you see? So please try to understand their plight. Have patience, they’ll look into your problems once they make sure their big fat family is okay. Remember, in Sri Lanka the family comes first – I mean your own family.

    • 0

      People are locked up in the USA. States Prisons 1,291,000, Local Jails 631,00, Federal Prisons and Jails 226,000 google and see.Mr. Rasingham doesn’t fool the people. You can fool the all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool the all the time.

  • 4

    Mr Rajasingham,
    Do you mean the thousands innocent Sinhalese that were killed by LTTE?

    • 4

      Are we discriminating between the unlawfully killed and disappeared by race and religion?
      The government is now answerable for ALL MISSING PERSONS as there is no LTTE to answer.

  • 2

    When? Never. Realpolitik.

  • 5

    EU, US, UK, UN or UNHRC never asked Tamils to fight against Sri Lankan Government. Nobody asked you to distort history of this country and to kill thousands of people here, or to chase away Sinhalese & Muslims from North & East. You did not published anywhere about the full list of names of LTTE carders participated in several wars. At the final stage of war Government repeatedly announced to surrender to LTTE, otherwise all will be killed . Most civilians escaped from war Zone & came to Government control areas. Last moment some LTTE members thought to surrender at the mid night. That is very good time for that no?

    • 6

      You must have been fast asleep in July 1983, and nodding off on other occasions when the minorities were attacked by state-backed ruffians.

  • 13

    The international community aided and abetted Srilanka to commit the murder of the Tamils, during the war. How can you expect them to find a solution? India, China, Pakistan, Britain, USA. participated in the massacre.

    • 2

      India participated in the war.
      The US & India provided strategic information to the GOSL.
      The others were only suppliers of arms.
      The LTTE’s act of driving the people into a death trap was just as criminal.

    • 1


      Well said. This was after they helped a rage tag army to become a monster

  • 3

    You people’s lamenting about discrimination is also not working. Standardization is a civilized act which do justice to children of under developed areas of the country who don’t have teachers, labs, tuition classes, no roads, no buses so they have to walk long distance to school etc.

    No government can make English, French or German as official languages here on minorities request. So our native language Sinhala made the official language. Later Tamil was given same status.

    Since Buddhism arrived in this country it is considered as the state religion. It is so in other Buddhist countries. There are Muslim, Hindu & Christian countries.

    When Europeans brought thousands of slaves here from India we have the right to ask them to take back at least some of them.

    • 4

      “Standardization is a civilized act which do justice to children of under developed areas of the country who don’t have teachers, labs, tuition classes, no roads, no buses so they have to walk long distance to school etc.”
      Did it do that?
      Check who the beneficiaries were.
      The District Quota system helped the elite of backward districts but mostly those who sent their children out of home town for private tutoring.

  • 14

    When Will The EU, US, UK, UN & UNHRC Take Action To Find The Missing?
    Dream on…..

    • 1

      When the EU, US, UK, UN & UNHRC take Action to find the missing of innocent Vietnamese, Koreans, Libyans, Iraqis etc.

    • 1

      You are right.
      Tamil nationalists leaders should stop asking the “International Community” to deliver anything for them.
      But they keep promising to the Tamil public that they can persuade the International Community to act.

  • 0

    The author states that the OMP is now defunct or exists only in name. How was it during the “Yahapalana” times? The EU, US, UN will not raise its little finger except when it is advantageous for them to nibble into the affairs of Sri Lanka. In fact the author reminds me to voice my opinion calling upon the OMP to account for all its millions spent in all these years with tangible results. The role of the OMP must be fulfilled to find out what happened to these people. Are they dead? Or are they living in a different part of the country or world in a different identity? If they are dead then how did they die? etc.

  • 4

    When Will The EU, US, UK, UN & UNHRC Take Action To Find The Missing?
    Only when it suits their geo-politics.

  • 2

    Aristotle, Plato, Confucius, Kauthilya, Thiruvalluvar are all tried to define the king and ruling. By super intelligent human being born in a county or guiding a king, the advancement of that country kept growing. Time to time a king or a country has been riding high. But if you look at the contemporary situation, you don’t see any one of them have archived a conclusive upper hand. All of them ended up as Rabbit in their race. What we see in the real world is growth is not depended on all out advantage, but one advantage and one disadvantage. There is no winning world all others, but only a dependent world on each other. This reality is said in a Tamil proverb. The “termite thinks, if there has been no rain to disturb it work then it would have built its hill to sky high”. Disappointingly, if it has not been raining the termite would not have got the clay it needed. Though time to time rabbit fell asleep, other times it kept running its lonely race against itself.

  • 3

    So the world has now advanced to liberal Democracy, people ruling themselves. But the Sinhala Buddhists Intellectuals, the tortoise, are guessing that there is a crowd, (the rabbit) not up to their level in ruling, so they want to rule the world. In that process they are seeing Tamils & other liberal democratic countries, who don’t want to be ruled by Sinhala Intellectuals, as disadvantage for them. But unfortunately, the truth is, it was Tamils & Britain brought the country, Ceylon to the high end. Sinhala Government saw Tamil & British Business organizations as disadvantage for them and wanted to have them extradited. As result of that foolishness, the Sinhala Intellectuals are sending the Sinhala Buddhist to work hard to bring up the Middle East. Still now, they didn’t feel happy with that income. So they are selling the properties to China. The Up country Tamil came to Ceylon seeing it was a developed country than TN of that time. Now all are reserved. Politics mean what can be achieved. I believe that is what the Royal government is too doing; they are doing whatever within their intelligence.

  • 1

    Last January President Gota has told in an interview with US resident co ordinator that ” war crime allegations are baseless, these missing persons are actually dead and death certificate will be issued ” . Ranil and Sitisena too have expressed the same views previously, except Fonseka and Rambukwela who said that those missing persons had gone abroad and live there. Tamils including Rasingham should know that none of the southern politicians will confirm that those missing / enforced disappeared Tamils had been KILLED. No one would like to hang himself or face war crime prosecution. This is the stark truth and TNA is aware of it. But TNA need some burning issues for them to win the next election. So they are happy if those poor mothers continue their protests indefinitely. No UN or any other foreign govt will interfere unless they have a benefit for themselves. Those poor mothers should be told of this fact and to guide them in a different direction that will bring relief to them. Tamils need to find alternative methods instead of continue to bang their heads against solid brick walls built by southern politicians.

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