A visiting UN group has expressed concern over incidents of intimidation of relatives or organisations to their involvement in cases of enforced disappearances.
The team expressed their concern at the end of a 10 day visit to Sri Lanka where they visited most parts in the northern and eastern provinces meeting up with families who had cases of disappearances.
‘The Working Group is extremely concerned that several relatives and organisations have been harassed and intimidated in different ways due to their involvement in cases of enforced disappearances’, a report by them released during a press conference in Colombo today (November 18), said.
The report said that they were informed ‘that many relatives are constantly visited by intelligence officers, police officers or army personnel. Most of the allegations received by the Working Group, point directly to CID officers. In those visits relatives are questioned about their activities and the meetings they attend.’
The group which have been visiting Sri Lanka for the first time in 15 years were looking into disappearances during the JVP insurrection as well as during the fighting between the LTTE and the security forces.
The group called the government to ‘adopt immediately a comprehensive policy to search for all those who disappeared’.
The UN group leader Bernard Duhaime called for an impartial investigation with a view of identifying those responsible for the disappearances and imposing penalties on them.
‘Enforced disappearances have been used in a massive and systematic way in Sri Lanka for many decades to suppress political dissent, counter terrorist activities or in the context of armed internal
conflict’, he said.
The visiting team said they had seen some of the detention camps in the navy camp in Trincomalee as well as in Colombo and in the south.
“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.
“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”, they added. 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.