“Sri Lanka has the opportunity to once and for all meet the rights and legitimate expectations of thousands of families of disappeared,” a delegation of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances said today. “Families have waited too long – the time for action has come.”
“The widespread use of enforced disappearances for many decades has left profound wounds in the society and a deep sense of mistrust among the relatives,” stressed the Group’s Vice-Chair Bernard Duhaime, Tae-Ung Baik, and Ariel Dulitzky at the end of an official visit* to the country.
The experts noted an almost complete lack of accountability and decisive and sustained efforts to search for the truth – in particular the determination of the fate or whereabouts of those who disappeared – as well as the absence of a comprehensive and effective reparation program and social, psychological and economic support for the relatives.
“We welcome, however, the commitments made by the new Government of Sri Lanka to embark on comprehensive measures to ensure truth, justice and reparation for victims, as well as prevent any recurrence of disappearances in the future,” they indicated.
“Finally there is a positive environment to seriously address these issues,” the experts said. “We note encouraging steps such as the official invitation for the Working Group to visit the country, the excellent cooperation received during the visit and the Government’s increasing openness.” The Working Group also highlighted the commitments expressed by various authorities they met, including to establish a dedicated Office for Missing Persons and to carry out broad consultations on future measures to be taken.
“These promises and commitments must now be followed by concrete efforts and tangible results,” they emphasized. “This is the only way to regain the trust of victims for past failures to address their rights. The Government will need to adopt bold steps to reach out to and create confidence in the victims.”
“Sri Lanka must seize this historic opportunity and adopt urgent and profound measures to satisfy the rights of the victims as a fundamental step which will help lay the ground for a sincere reconciliation process,” they said. “Reconciliation, however – while extremely necessary in Sri Lanka – cannot be achieved at the expense of the rights of the victims.”